When the pandemic began, many workplaces that were not open to the public applied a simple solution to the issue of visitors: no visitors allowed. But as the pandemic persists, this strategy may no longer be sustainable. For instance, an equipment breakdown or process change may require on-site technical support.
“With all the health and safety precautions we follow in our work and personal lives during this pandemic, it’s understandable to have a bit of hesitation before allowing visitors into our workplace,” says Priya Sookdeo, WSPS’ OHS Management Systems Lead. “By streamlining the COVID-19 protocols such as a visitor screening process, employers can safely allow essential visitors in their workplace.” Here are five things you should do.
1. Establish or update your existing visitor policy
Identify who qualifies as an essential visitor. Typically, this would include people with skills required for the business to continue operating safely and efficiently, such as technical consultants, suppliers and service providers.
Develop or update your current visitor screening process, outlining the safety protocols to be followed by staff and visitors. Limit visitor access to essential visitors only. Clearly identify roles and responsibilities of each workplace party. Establish a team of staff or a designated staff member responsible for triaging, approving and managing visitor access.
Set parameters for which areas of the workplace may be accessible or off limits. Would visitors be allowed to navigate the workplace on their own? Would they be accompanied by staff? Will there be a separate entrance for visitors?
Add the visitor policy to your COVID-19 safety plan. Inform all employees of the policy, and provide clear instructions to anyone who would authorize, receive or interact with a visitor.
2. Establish a screening protocol
As the pandemic progressed, many workplaces began screening employees for symptoms and risk factors of COVID-19. Effective September 26, employers in Ontario must proactively screen all employees and visitors using questions set out in a Ministry of Health screening tool.
Add any questions that would satisfy your workplace’s record keeping and tracking requirements. For more on employee and visitor screening protocols, check out WSPS’ Post-Pandemic Business Playbook (PDF)
3. Share key information beforehand
Advise prospective visitors that their visits must be scheduled and that they will be required to complete your visitor screening prior to their arrival - in addition to any screening practices their own employer has in place. Send your screening instructions in advance. Keep a record of each visitor screening and their contact information (refer to step 5 for tips on this).
Inform visitors of on-site preventive measures and protocols, such as
- physical distancing and use of masks
- sanitizing practices for hands, tools and equipment brought into the workplace
- limits on physical contact - no handshakes, no sharing of tools or devices without sanitizing
4. Minimize physical contact with visitors
“Since the pandemic has taught us to minimize any close physical contact,” says Priya, “have visitors complete and submit an online screening form before they arrive.” If this is not possible or practical, consider a phone-in process. Be prepared to accommodate disabilities or language barriers.
To minimize contact on arrival, look at implementing a touchless check-in or sign-in process so that visitors don’t have to touch equipment or surfaces when entering your facility. For example, provide QR codes that allow access to specific areas of your building.
5. Retain visitor details for contact tracing
Collect such information as the person’s name, phone number, and date and time of visit. Store the information and keep it confidential and secure. Share it if requested by a public health authority for reasons such as contact tracing.
“Policies and procedures are living documents,” says Priya. “They should be continually reviewed and assessed for any gaps and or improvements. Update as needed and communicate the changes to employees.”
How WSPS can help
We have created an extensive library of online COVID-19 resources. Among them
- a template for developing a COVID-19 workplace safety plan, including employee and visitor screening. Start by watching a short video on the same topic.
- sector-specific best practices and hazard controls for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Choose from more than 100 guidance documents.
These and many other resources appear on WSPS’ COVID-19 Hub. Explore the hub today.