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WORKPLACE SAFETY

COVID-19 delta variant: What managers need to do

By Lynne Curry

You’ve heard. Now you need to act.

If you had hoped the pandemic had faded away, you need to buckle down once more. The highly contagious Delta variant has caused illness and hospitalizations to rise. While it spreads primarily among the unvaccinated, no one is immune. Further, new variants could prove even more threatening.

What does that mean to you as an manager? To you as an employee? What do offices need to do to provide their employees and clients with safe workplaces?

Keep infections out of the workplace

If you’ve let yourself relax your safety precautions, you need to tighten them again to keep infections out of your workplace.

Encourage vaccination.

Vaccination remains your and your employees’ best method for staying COVID-free.

If you’re an employer, remove any barriers that prevent your employees from getting vaccinated. Provide them time off for vaccination and for any vaccination side effects. Consider onsite vaccination clinics or work out an arrangement with a nearby pharmacy or medical provider. If your employees have been swallowing misinformation, provide accurate information to them.

If you’ve put off getting a vaccination, contact your own medical provider and ask them the questions you need to reassure yourself that it makes sense to get one without delay.

Consider mandating vaccination

Many employers, among them Facebook, Google, Tyson Foods, the Walt Disney Company, Houston Methodist Medical Center, United Airlines, Cisco, Walgreens, DoorDash, the Washington Post and Frontier Airlines now require that all U.S. onsite employees secure vaccinations by September.1 The Pentagon will require all active-duty troops to attain vaccinations by Sept. 15.2 Your office may want to join their ranks.

Increasing numbers of employers will require that all onsite employees become vaccinated once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves one or more Covid-19 vaccines.

Monitor Local Transmission Rates

If local transmission rates accelerate, many employers may change their return-to-the-office plans. When the weekly infection rates exceed 50 per 100,000, it becomes likely that employees may bring COVID-19 into the workplace.

“I love you from six feet away.”

Employers need to use every method, including remote work, flexible schedules, temperature checks and mandated social distancing to prevent an infected employee from infecting others. Employees need to do their part for their own safety and that of their coworkers and customers.

Recommend or require masks

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that any unvaccinated individual (employee or customer) wear a mask indoors when with others.

Masks serve two purposes. They protect you and other employees from becoming infected. They enable you and other employees to not infect coworkers and customers. If you’re a business, you can ask all customers or vendors to wear masks once their enter.

Employers may additionally need to schedule when unvaccinated employees occupy breakrooms or cafeterias in which mask-wearing is difficult. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines can help employers avoid complaints under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Any immune-compromised employee needs to wear a well-fitting mask.

If your workplace experiences a Covid-19 infection

Employers need to instruct employees to stay home when ill and to accommodate employees who lack sufficient sick leave. Employers need to respect the medical privacy of employees who report they have COVID-19 and let other employees know that someone in their workplace has contracted COVID-19 so coworkers can make wise choices. According to the CDC, vaccinated employees exposed to COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if asymptomatic.3

Improve ventilation

Open your workplace windows when and if you can. When you increase the amount of air exchanged indoors, you decrease the rate of infection. Most workplaces can add more air exchanges and improve filtration systems by modifying existing air-handling systems.

Testing

Employers may want to let employees know the employer will pay for employees to test themselves for COVID-19 so that employees can learn if they asymptomatically carry COVID-19 into the workplace.

Business travel

With videoconferencing as a reasonable alternative, employers need to be cautious about asking employees to travel to sites in which COVID-19 infection risks are high.

Finally, while it’s tempting to think we’ve emerged from the pandemic tunnel, recent infection and hospitalization rates prove that’s not the case.

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2021-08-07/list-employers-with-covid-19-vaccine-mandates

2https://www.adn.com/nation-world/2021/08/09/pentagon-to-require-covid-vaccine-for-all-active-duty-troops-by-sept-15/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html

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