As an employee health tech company, My Occ Health Record works with customers every day to help them create safer, more efficient and more effective workplace health solutions, with the ultimate goal of keeping people healthy and safe while at work. Along with many other industries, our work lately has focused on helping employers to create COVIDSafe workplaces.
While there are many facets of a COVIDSafe plan (shift planning, temperature screening, environmental cleaning, the list goes on) for many businesses the first thing that they are looking to do is stop COVID-19 from entering their workplace, with the goal of ensuring business continuity.
Whilst this may sound simple and clear cut, the reality is quite the contrary, which is why it’s important to have multiple barriers and risk mitigation tools in place. On top of this, it’s essential that businesses have a rapid response plan in place and the data to bounce back as quickly as possible should anything happen. In other words, it’s about business resiliency, too.
As an example, one of our clients had two separate outbreaks at one of their facilities – one before working with us, and one after. The first time, the entire facility was shut for 14 days with hundreds of people being placed into isolation and a complete deep clean conducted on their workplace. The second time, they had the processes and the data to prove to DHHS that the necessary measures had been put in place and the risk contained, resulting in only a small portion of the business briefly being shut, and quickly re-opened: business continuity AND business resilience.
So, how does technology assist in creating a COVIDSafe Workplace?
Creating a safe place for employees is about much more than just dropping in technology. Of course, we believe that technology is crucial to creating a scalable, reliable and secure system that keeps people safe. But we believe that technology is there to support, streamline and improve existing programs by removing management burden and the time associated with monitoring compliance; improve communication so that decisions can be made in a timely manner; and enhance organisations’ ability to capture data that could result in them remaining open should an outbreak occur. Here’s how we believe that technology can assist:
- Safety at home
- Safety at the gate
- Safety on site
Safety at Home
‘Safety at Home’ – or perhaps, more specifically, safety when not at work – begins with encouraging your employees to make good decisions about their behaviours and their health.
One of the key elements, to successfully achieving ‘safety at home’ is to build behaviours and routines that encourage employees to complete a daily self-check on themselves. Before heading the work, each employee should ask themselves, “Is it okay for me to go onsite?” In the past, many employees would head to work with a sniffle or a cough, and not think twice about it. In the new environment, that behaviour can be dangerous, not just for the individual but also for those around them.
One way of building this daily habit is to put in place a tool such as the Daily Health Check. The Daily Health Check is a simple app that asks employees to respond to a few health questions before they head off to work each day. It’s a way of asking your team to stop and consciously assess how they are feeling each and every day. If they pass the questions, they are cleared to head to work. If they don’t, notifications are fired off in the background to relevant managers and leaders and the employee is advised to stay home – and this becomes our first layer of risk mitigation.
Interestingly, recent research into COVID indicates that the existence of symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat and fatigue is a much stronger predictor of infections than we previously thought. So, the simple act of consciously checking in on our health each day before leaving for work could have a very powerful return and can play a significant role in keeping people safe while at work.
Safety at the Gate
The goal of ‘Safety at the Gate’ is to stop risks from coming onto your premises. If level one, above, is put in place, you have stopped a significant number of high risk employees from even leaving their home. The next challenge is to have a second layer of protection that can be used to control access to your workplace, again with the goal of keeping any potential risks outside the gate.
For example, one of our clients uses the Daily Health Check at their facility gate, far away from the building entrances and even before the carpark. Team members must show their Green Health Boarding Pass to staff through their car window before they are allowed in.
“Ticks out, thumbs up!” is the cheerful cry from security, as people show their app and drive through.
An additional way of ensuring ‘safety at the gate’ is to deploy additional checks. The most common one, and a very effective one at that, is temperature testing. Those who did not appear to be showing symptoms at home might not be aware that they have a temperature, and a high temperature remains a good predictor of potential COVID-19 infections. Temperature testing at the gate stops those slipping through.
Some organisations have opted for temperature testing onsite, with people manually taking temperatures, while others have opted to use automated temperature checking technology such a facial recognition thermometers.
Whatever your approach, the gold standard here is to ensure that it is all integrated. As we have mentioned before, when an outbreak occurs, it’s imperative that you have the necessary data on hand to support DHHS with their investigations.
For example, another of our clients have deployed facial recognition thermometers that recognises the individual, takes their temperature, and automatically inserts the temperature data into that person’s Daily Health Check digital record. This type of integration not only removes the need for data entry but also considerably enhances the information that they have on hand should an outbreak or incident occur.
The most important outcome at this stage is to ensure that people who have high temperatures are not allowed through the door, or the gate, to interact with other employees or with the physical space inside.
Safety on Site
Level three safety starts with thinking about how your workplace is arranged and whether it encourages appropriate distancing. It’s important to look at bottlenecks where employees might be closer together than needed, areas where employees like to linger and even production situations that might currently be close, but needn’t be.
In trying to keep two employee groups as safely separated as possible, one client has different toilets and break areas for the groups. The separation continues to the extent where team members are required to book in space and time in the lunchroom – if their desired time is booked, they need to find a different available slot.
In the office context, business leaders have found that instituting a “one-way” plan inside the office is a way to reduce the interactions between staff and encourage correct social distancing. If everyone in a particular hallway is only heading one direction, there is much less interaction. A variation on this theme can be a “clockwise only” configuration, which can be useful if your office wraps around an inner lift lobby.
All of this can be supported with an amazing array of technology, to help you to identify problem areas, to help employees self-correct their behaviours, and to allow you the insight and data you need to respond to a potential onsite COVID situation.
Simple tracking technology can help you to reveal where employees gather, busy or crowded areas, and even where close contact situations are occurring. Many clients use this approach as the first step in their onsite safety strategy so that they can start with data and then build a strategy for how to improve the situation, including rearranging the physical space, signage, etc.
Technology also exists to warn employees if they are in a close contact situation. If employees are all wearing a special wristband, for instance, it might vibrate as a warning, or a light on a lanyard might glow red. These approaches are a powerful real-time reminder to employees that they need to adjust their behaviour, if possible.
The data captured by these various systems can be used to trigger real-time alerts to managers. More powerfully, though, detailed reporting can help you to learn and improve the onsite set-up. Finally, if there is a COVID event, these technologies can identify who has had contact with whom and allow you to kick off contact tracing activities. This means that you can lock down the right people as quickly as possible, enhance continuity and improve resilience.
While safety on site is incredibly powerful, and very important, to be successful the technology must be rolled out with care. In some situations, the use of “tracking” technology can make employees nervous, so it is important to engage them in the process and the conversation. We recommend that you “Start with the Why,” to emphasise the intention of the program – keeping the site open and the employees at work. It may be useful to engage an Employee Champion as part of the process.
A safe workplace is one where leaders have thought through multiple levels of keeping their employees safe: at home, at the gate and onsite. But it is equally important to think beyond just the technology to think about the systems and processes in place to support it.
Best practice relies on integrated, people-centred thinking from the whole system.
If you would like to learn more about our COVID-19 support services contact our friendly team today to discuss what options are best for your organisation.