Practical steps for pandemic preparedness "COVID-19 Response Plan"
Public authorities in Canada and internationally are taking actions to respond to this emerging public health threat. The pandemic is challenging the way we socialize, work, communicate and interact in our communities...
The COVID-19 escalating threat has led businesses to consider their preparedness measures, no question that adapting to these challenging times can be difficult, and we are collectively at risk of spreading the disease.
Following public health officials’ guidelines is a crucial step to help us navigate these muddy waters as well as adopting a response plan to the pandemic. The following steps are a summary of elements while consider developing a Covid-19 Response Plan.
1. Assess organizational exposure.
Identify which people and job specifics are at risk of exposure. Ask the following questions:
If the disease enters, how will it spread there? Who at your workplace is at risk of workplace exposure? Who at your site has regular personal contact with others working side-by-side, are they keeping a distance of at least 2 meters? Who is at higher risk?
2. Identify General Measures to Prevent the Spread of Disease at Work.
Plan how you will prevent virus exposure in the entire workforce and site. Describe in your plan how you will keep illness away from your workforce by educating employees about the virus, symptoms of illness and how to maintain healthy immune systems (through rest, hydration, good nutrition and exercise).
Instruct employees to monitor themselves, report illness and infection, report exposures to infected people and stay home from work if sick (until they are symptom-free for 24 hours).
The plan should limit the possible spread by educating, training and frequently reminding everyone about good hygiene.
- Wash hands regularly and thoroughly.
- Don't shake hands.
- Avoid direct personal contact, especially with those who are sick.
- The plan should limit the possible spread by educating, training and frequently reminding everyone about good hygiene.
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Maintain a personal space of at least 2 meters.
- Cough into elbows.
- Don't touch the eyes, mouth or nose.
- Use and discard tissues.
- Cancel unnecessary travel and visitors.
- Hold meetings by phone or video calls (even if you're all at the same site).
- Plan to sanitize high-touch surfaces regularly.
- Re-stock and distribute sanitary supplies, such as tissues and disinfecting wipes.
- Re-stock and distribute personal protective equipment – PPE.
3. Identify Job-Specific Modifications and Responsibilities.
Describe the particular steps that will apply to certain jobs or tasks. Ask yourself, how will you change work duties or workplace configurations in times of rampant disease? Can you move workstations farther apart? Can you stagger schedules to minimize contact?
-Can employees be assigned their own tools, workstations?. Moreover, some people will have additional duties caused by pandemic. Who will fill in for absent co-workers? Who will take on extra housekeeping and sanitation duties? Who will coordinate your response efforts overall? Include as much of this detail as possible in your plan.
4. Establish Response Protocols.
Assume that someone infected has or will come to your site or will be in contact with one of the employees. Your plan should describe how you will react.
-What if one of your team members – or someone who visited your workplace – tests positive for COVID-19? What if an employee's immediate family member has the virus?
You want people who have been exposed to the virus to stay away from your site. If exposure occurred at work, you'd need to determine which people and areas were exposed, isolate affected employees until you can send them to medical care or home and decontaminate the environment safely. Don't forget to determine what PPE will be needed to accomplish the isolation and sterilization.
Upon testing positive or being exposed, an employee should stay home and self-isolate for at least 14 days. Make sure to stay in touch and monitor progress.
5. Plan for Business Continuity in Severe Conditions.
Include contingency measures for when the virus starts to limit operations.
Can you reduce certain processes, work off surplus inventory, hire temps and or cross-train employees to fill the void? Are there added stresses or health-and-safety risks to consider and mitigate?
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has a set of guidelines for establishing a comprehensive emergency preparedness program at your workplace https://www.ccohs.ca/outbreaks/
As stated before, is important to prepare because it shows how proactive and prepared organizations while remaining pragmatic as the situation continues to evolve quickly.