New Occupational Health And Safety Rules In The Workplace

A new article in the Washington Post says the ground rules of workplace safety are changing fast.



Imagine you are tested for your temperature before you enter the elevator alone to go to work. You’re given an app for your phone that records your vital measurements like temperature, and which connects to the phones of your coworkers who pass by. Your office has put in plexiglass sneeze guards, and your open office space is staggered with workstations that give you distance from your closest co-worker. You wear a mask because it’s now mandated. Welcome to the post-covid office where new rules around occupational health and safety are taking effect. Workplace safety will include new office rules, like elevator safe zones, contact tracing via apps, temperature taking with infrared scanners, and more.

Companies are being forced to re-imagine the office and the safety of co-workers, the likes of which we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.

If you’ve been out at all lately, you will see many people in the public domain wearing facemasks. Stores now have partitions between you and the cashier. Some places like Starbucks won’t take cash, and some establishments have even taken to sanitizing the money you give them before they add it to the cash register. Of the stores that are still open, everyone wears some kind of rubber or plastic glove. These same kinds of precautions are looking to be the norm for the post-covid business across industries.

Companies bringing people back to work are looking for ways to keep their people safe while reducing the fear factor of coming back to work.

WAPO quotes Tom Puthiyamadam, leader of Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Digital practice, who is heading up the deployment of a contact tracing application for its clients. Puthiyamadam says, “Not every enterprise is going to command and control mode, but I think right now some of these practices are warranted. I don’t think many employees are going to say no, because a lot of [them] are actually scared to come back in.”

Companies from Amazon to Goldman Sachs to IBM are innovating to keep workforces safe, from employee covid test kits to on-site health specialists to health tracking apps.

The WAPO article notes that some Asian companies might be ahead of the curve with innovative health strategies that could be adopted in other regions.

IBM, as an example, is staggering their return-to-workforce, bringing those back who need access to specialized equipment and labs for work. Arrival times to work are staggered so the elevators aren’t filled to the brim. Workplace buffet-style serving is gone, so are shared serving tools for food service. On-site gyms are closed. Plastic covers for keyboards are distributed with masks, and on-site cleaning is done with more frequency and done visibly so that workers also have a visual sense of the safety measures put in place. Some companies are removing doors from offices so to reduce the number of touches on door handles. Cushman Wakefield in Amsterdam is laying office tile to demark a circle around every desk to show where you should stand to be socially distanced. Some companies are considering one-way hallway traffic flows. Each strategy is as unique as the companies undertaking them, and each is looking to others for what amounts to an evolving and new best-practice.

Every company is looking for ways to get people safely back to work, when the time is right for them, and in ways that provide safety and peace of mind to their workforce. One question remains: Will workers begin to see this as a necessary new normal, or will some of these new innovations, like tracking apps, feel like an invasion of personal privacy beyond the need for personal and workplace safety? It’s a question that remains unanswered, yet.

What are some of the ways you’re now innovating your health and safety policies because of covid-19? Do you agree with some of the measures companies you know about are taking related to new rules for occupational health and safety? Let us know here.

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