Cook explains that it’s important for companies to have a methodology to determine the work-relatedness of COVID-19 cases.

Safety remains as critical as ever amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Michael Cook, director of corporate safety for Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope® (OBE) shared some safety tips in his session, “Safety Awareness in the Pandemic,” during the second day of the Fenestration & Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA) 2020 Virtual Fall Conference.

Cook explained how companies operated in January prior to the global COVID-19 outbreak and how that changed as U.S. companies reacted to the crisis in March. Now, more than six months since lockdowns first began in the U.S., Cook said that safety is as important as ever. He pointed out that now, at the end of the third quarter of 2020, people are feeling distracted and overloaded.

Cook said his company is still taking temperatures and asking health questions to prevent the spread of the virus. However, it’s important to allow them to clock in prior to the health screening, as that process is part of the work day. He said that while these screenings aren’t catching many cases, there are still important proactive and preventative measures that help reassure employees.

“It shows that you actively care. People are nervous and overloaded but by going through these things it shows them that you do care about them,” he said.

These steps also protect against potential occupational events, OSHA enforcement activities and civil liability.

“By doing all of these pandemic safety procedures and following guidelines from the CDC, OSHA and state medical professionals, it protects in regard to civil liability,” he said.

Cook explained that it’s important for companies to have a methodology to determine if a COVID-19 case is related to work. He said a company must make a reasonable effort to make this determination. At OBE, the company asks five questions suggested by OSHA:

  1. Did the employee work in close proximity on a frequent basis with a co-worker diagnosed with COVID-19?
  2. Did the employee have frequent and close exposure to someone from the general public within their work environment who was diagnosed with COVID-19 (such as in will call)?
  3. Did the employee’s job duties have frequent and close exposure to the general public in an area with a COVID-19 outbreak?
  4. Was the employee the only one in their immediate work area to contract COVID-19?
  5. Did the employee associate with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 outside of their work environment?

Cook said companies also must document the responses to the questions in some way.

He emphasized that 100% of a company’s employees need to be engaged in safety. Some activities that Cook recommended considering or modifying for COVID-19 include:

  • Monthly leadership safety meetings and safety committee meetings;
  • Toolbox talks;
  • Visual and verbal communication;
  • Facility inspections/behavior observations;
  • Safety standard work practices; and
  • One-on-one leadership/employee communications.

He also recommended that meetings be held in small groups with social distancing and face coverings. Holding meetings outside can also mitigate the virus’ spread. Facility inspections also can be performed with social distancing and masks.

“A lot of this is using common sense and following CDC guidelines,” said Cook.

Finally, he explained that, during this time of uncertainty, people need reassurance, someone to communicate with, to feel safe, a sense of normalcy and to earn a paycheck.