A re-opened economy free of COVID restrictions is almost in reach. Time to celebrate? Soon, but not yet. New variants may create havoc for business owners, managers and employees.
"Workplaces are still experiencing outbreaks," warns Trevor Beauchamp, WSPS' Director, Field Logistics, "but the good news is that the stronger your health and safety program, the more nimble your workplace will be in responding to any threat, COVID or otherwise."
This is one of the findings of the WSPS 2021 Health & Safety Leadership Survey. The survey also found that leading organizations attributed low COVID-19 infection rates to a strong safety culture.
Here's more good news: provincial offences officers and health and safety inspectors have conducted 75,000 COVID-19-related inspections and investigations since the pandemic began. Recent results indicate many workplaces are following pandemic prevention requirements.
As Ontario begins to re-open, Trevor offers seven options to help you keep your COVID-19 prevention program strong.
- Implement a COVID-19 safety plan if you haven't already done so. Even though having a plan is a legal requirement, provincial offences officers and health and safety inspectors encountered a number of workplaces without a plan. "Creating a plan is simple and straightforward," says Trevor. "The province has a downloadable template that can be completed by answering six questions, and WSPS has sample plans that offer sector-specific insights into COVID hazards and solutions."
- Double down on prevention. Knowing the employer takes COVID-19 seriously encourages buy-in and gives employees confidence that you’re looking out for them. Customers too. Recent research conducted by a U.S. business school indicates most customers prefer businesses that enforce mask wearing. The research also found that managers significantly underestimate consumers' preference for a stricter compliance policy.
- Continue screening employees and visitors. Single doses of the current vaccines appear to provide less protection against newer, more infectious variants such as Delta, and scientists still haven't determined whether people who have been vaccinated could still spread the virus.
- Conduct on-site rapid (antigen) testing. It could help detect asymptomatic employees early and reduce the risk of a shutdown. Check your eligibility for free tests. Understand your responsibilities, as set out in COVID-19 Guidance: Considerations for Privately Initiated Testing
- Make it easy for employees to get vaccinated. For example,
- check your local public health unit for current information on who's eligible for vaccination and how to register
- explore with your public health unit the possibility of vaccinating groups of employees at public vaccination locations
- consider conducting an on-site vaccination program.
- Counter misinformation with facts. Research indicates that the more often people encounter misinformation - even if they know it's false - the more likely they are to share it and intuitively feel it's true. Provide trusted sources of information on your intranet or corporate social network, and update it regularly. Ensure correct information is included in employee briefings.
- Encourage employees to stay safe all day - during breaks, while commuting, at home, and out in the community. For example, maintain physical distancing in all settings, travel by car, bike or walk, where possible, and sanitize your hands when returning home. These precautions increasingly important as new variants begin to circulate since they may require a lower virus load to infect us.
How WSPS can help
- Alice G. Walton, "Stricter mask-wearing rules are good business," Chicago Booth Review, March 15, 2021; https://review.chicagobooth.edu/marketing/2021/article/stricter-mask-wearing-rules-are-good-business
- Daniel A. Effron and Medha Raj, "Misinformation and Morality: Encountering Fake-News Headlines Makes Them Seem Less Unethical to Publish and Share," Psychological Science, November 21, 2019; https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797619887896
- Prevention and Management of COVID-19, Public Health Ontario; www.publichealthontario.ca/en/diseases-and-conditions/infectious-diseases/respiratory-diseases/novel-coronavirus/prevention-management
The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.