As businesses reenter the workplace, they need to understand how they can confidently control the spread of COVID-19 to their employees and clients. There is no silver bullet to contain or prevent the spread of the virus; however, it’s critical to control what you can.
Cue, COVID-19 hierarchy of controls.
Businesses must implement a hierarchy of preventative measures that, when combined, will best limit the spread of the virus.
While we don’t yet understand everything about COVID-19 or have a vaccine to prevent infection, COVID-19 hierarchy of controls will help you protect your business, your employees, and your clients.
The cost of inaction – not implementing any precautions in your workplace – can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 between employees and clients. Learn how FormulaMed can protect your company.
As we learn more about the virus and receive guidance from medical professionals about the spread of COVID-19, this hierarchy of controls approach will be updated and/or modified. The more your company’s management remains aware of the changes in guidance, the more you can reduce the risk of individuals becoming infected.
Why Companies Need a COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls
As with many things, it’s all about mindset.
In the workplace, everyone (you, your employees, and your clients) is responsible for protecting themselves and others against COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a spherical virus that relies on a live host – a human host – to survive. The virus does not care who it infects. It doesn’t know any status, race, or gender. It’s simply looking for a live host to live in.
That’s why companies need a COVID-19 hierarchy of controls to limit the potential spread of the virus.
The COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls
Although we cannot contain the virus, we can control our exposure to the virus. This 5-stage control methodology limits the hazards starting with the easiest to control to the most difficult.
Elimination: Physically Remove High-Touch Points
When you reopen your business, it should not and will not look the same. Activities that were common pre-COVID-19 are now unsafe and may result in fueling the spread of COVID-19.
So what should you do?
Adopt a minimalist approach. Keep it simple.
Physically remove anything that is a high-touch point or in places we call “hot zones”. Think about the shared coffee creamer dispenser or cushions on a couch. Those are unnecessary items that could be hard to properly disinfect, hold virus particles, and transfer the virus from one person to another.
Some other examples of high-touch items that your office could remove include:
- Fabric reusable towels
- Shared items in the kitchen / break room (e.g. reusable mugs or glasses)
Depending on your office layout, the high-touch points may vary.
Substitution: Replace Items for Safer Alternatives
It’s no secret that businesses are itching to get back to normal. The second control is to substitute or replace items for safer alternatives.
Remember those high-touch points?
If you cannot eliminate them, then substitute them.
Feel free to get creative on this! It may be the innovation that your business has needed. To identify those substitutable items, evaluate whether they need sanitizing after every use.
Here are a few examples to get started:
- Replace water fountains or coolers with bottled water
- Consider a touchless way to clock time instead of using an actual time clock machine
- Substitute fabric towels in the restrooms with paper towels
- Encourage employees to bring food that doesn’t require refrigeration
For more ideas on how to substitute high-touch points in your workplace, schedule a consultation with your FormulaMed team.
Engineering Controls: Isolate People from the Hazard
Having eliminated some risk with changed workplace habits, there are some core activities that may not be possible to change or eliminate.
Now, you have to engineer protective measures to protect your workforce.
Protect your employees and clients by isolating them from the hazard.
A few engineering controls companies can put into place include:
- Place a mail and/or package receiving bin near the main entrance area
- Placing hand sanitizer stations on both sides of an entrance
- Removing any shared desks or workstations
- Putting plexiglass between the front desk and the visitor
- Blocking air dryers in the restrooms
Administrative Controls: Control How People Work
Employees and clients need to be continually trained with the precautions your business has put into place. These communications could be delivered through posters or comprehensive emails. You would be surprised at how many times an individual needs to see or read a process to understand it and implement it in their day-to-day habits.
- Creating one-way pathways to eliminate cross-traffic
- Taping floors to promote social distancing
- How to properly wash hands – with soap and water or hand sanitizer
- Reminders to not touch their faces or glasses, or rub their eyes
- How to don or doff (i.e. put on or take off) personal protective equipment (e.g. masks, shields, and gloves)
Another administrative control your company can use to control the spread of the virus is investing in contactless payment systems or equipment. You could also have one person opening the doors or pressing elevator buttons to limit cross-contamination.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment): Protect Your Employees
If your employees are on the front line and have a high risk for exposure, personal protective equipment, or PPE, is critical to implement. This particular control is the most resisted and least effective when protocols aren’t followed. It is critical that your employees are properly trained on appropriate use of PPE to ensure they are protected.
For example, front desk receptionists interact with various employees and visitors throughout the day and are at a higher risk for infection. Due to high traffic, receptionists are particularly vulnerable for droplets as individuals inquire at their workstation. Those in front desk support need to understand how to properly wear and store their PPE for their safety and also the safety of those that they interact with.
Consider requiring your employees and clients to wear masks, especially when they are interacting or meeting with another person.
Implementing Controls in Your Business
Although there are a variety of measures that you can put into place, COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls are a great starting point to begin outlining your return to the office.
If you need help implementing controls in your business, schedule a call with FormulaMed to assess your unique workplace needs.