California is set to reopen on June 15, 2021, however, the strict requirements on employers regarding COVID-19 cases in the workplace have not changed. This law (AB-685) adds new employer notification requirements and gives Cal-OSHA expansive authority to close workplaces based on the threat of COVID-19. They have started issuing citations ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 for serious Covid-19-related violations. With the new statute, Cal/OSHA does not have to notify employers fifteen days before issuing the citation.
The law includes three key provisions:
Requirement for Employee notification of COVID-19 in the workplace: Under AB 685, the requirement to notify employees who may have been exposed to an infected employee is now mandatory under new Labor Code section 6409.6. Section 6409.6(a) requires an employer who receives notice of potential exposure to COVID-19 to notify any potentially exposed employees within one business day. Employers are required under the new law to keep records of the written notices provided to employees for at least three years.
Notification of the local public health agency of outbreaks within 48 hours: If an outbreak occurs in its workplace, an employer must notify the local public health officials of the names and worksite of “qualifying individuals” within 48 hours. An “outbreak” is currently defined as: “at least three probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period in people who are linked in the setting, are from different households, and are not identified as close contacts of each other in any other case investigation.”
Authority for Cal-OSHA to close workplaces that constitute an “imminent hazard to employees”: AB 685 amends Labor Code section 6325 to permit Cal-OSHA to close workplaces that “constitute an imminent hazard to employees” due to COVID-19. Some of the notice provisions that Cal-OSHA usually must comply with before making this determination have been removed so employers must be prepared to act immediately if they receive notice.
To meet these new requirements, public and private employers will need a solution purpose-built to fight infectious disease. ReturnSafe’s platform provides human resources administrators with risk mitigation insights to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the worksite. Our automated end-to-end solution provides a full view of employee health status, contact tracing efforts needed, and allows administrators to manage notification workflows.
We provide a comprehensive set of services to enable you to create a healthier workplace. Screening, testing, contact tracing, vaccine management, and case management information is integrated into one data set so administrators can take swift and effective action to prevent outbreaks.
Mobile app or web app with a daily screening survey based upon CDC guidelines with the ability to customize screening questions for a location or industry-specific need. The survey screens for symptoms, exposure, travel, testing and vaccine status and provides an employee with a “green” building access pass or a “red” stay at home recommendation.
Ensures only employees who meet the “come to work” criteria are at the workplace. HR has a centralized dashboard of each employees health status.
During the workday, employee contacts can be logged using both an in-app logbook and automated tracking via Bluetooth wearables. A pre-populated list of contacts is created on an ongoing basis and is immediately available if someone tests positive or has been exposed to COVID-19.
Employee exposure notifications can begin in minutes of the positive case notification.
We collected a few pieces this month to highlight key features and best practices for screening, testing, and contact tracing. These tools can help you prevent outbreaks as we wait for the vaccines and prepare for variants to surge in March.
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Best Practices and Options for Employee COVID-19 Testing
HR leaders should consider implementing a COVID-19 testing program to prevent outbreaks. Check out our blog to learn more about employee testing options and best practices. Read more
What to Include in Employee Screening for COVID-19?
Employee screening is essential for keeping high risk individuals out of the workplace. Take a look at our blog to learn more about COVID-19 screening requirements, guidelines, and key components. Read more
Easily Comply with Cal/OSHA AB 685
An Infectious Disease Management platform should give employees a sense of ease knowing that their employer is taking their health seriously. Use this checklist to evaluate each option. Download here
Are you looking for screening, contact tracing, testing, and vaccine management tools for your organization? Book a demo to try them out!
Like most organizations, you probably have a daily health screening solution to ensure that only employees that meet your return to work criteria have access to the facility. However, screening alone does not protect your community from the silent spread of infection. Employees infected with COVID-19 but are pre-symptomatic and those that are infected but are asymptomatic may unintentionally spread the virus at your workplace.
An employee COVID-19 testing program is a vital addition to preventing outbreaks. Even though a vaccine rollout is underway, the new highly transmissible variants on the rise threaten workplace safety. Given these circumstances, you should update your safety protocols to include a broad-based testing program to ease the concerns of staff and patrons.
There are three different methods organizations can utilize for employee COVID-19 testing: at home tests, on-site testing, and off-site testing. This blog evaluates each option and reviews overall best practices for testing in the workplace.
Can You Mandate Employee COVID-19 Testing?
Yes, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commision (EEOC) states that employers may administer COVID-19 tests to keep workplaces safe. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) requires that mandatory medical tests of employees are “job related and consistent with business necessity”. According to the ADA, if employers administer tests according to current CDC guidance then this meets the “business necessity” standard.
PCR versus Antigen
You should evaluate which type of COVID-19 test would work best for your organization. Currently there are two types of diagnostic tests for COVID-19, PCR and Antigen. PCR tests are the gold standard in terms of accuracy. However, these tests are generally more expensive and take longer to deliver results than Antigen.
Antigen tests are more accurate if the operator is someone already experienced with the testing system. Organizations can use theBD Veritor System to improve accuracy. Due to demand for this system by the federal government this system is not always accessible.
Another option is to use both Antigen and PCR Tests. You can use Antigen as your primary test and PCR as the secondary test if you suspect a false positive. In this case, you can use PCR to verify the result, so you don’t lose employee productivity.
You should evaluate which diagnostic test works best for your organization. Once you have decided, the next step is to decide on the best testing method.
Type of test
What it detects
Level of Accuracy
Time to Results
Detects specific proteins from the active virus
$5 – $35
Detects active virus genetic material
$65 – $150
At Home Testing
Employees can order and self-administer at home tests. This can be a benefit for companies that wish not to be directly involved in employee COVID-19 testing. The turnaround time for at home tests ranges from a few minutes to a few days. Employees and human resource administrators should ensure these testing providers have obtained anFDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
A drawback of at-home tests is that administrators cannot verify the designated employee self-administered a COVID-19 test. These tests also vary greatly in terms of accessibility. For example, theBinaxNOW™ test by Abbot is hard to access given the demand for these tests by the federal government.
The test’s accuracy is also dependent on the employee’s administration. Administrators concerned about accuracy and compliance should choose tests that are relatively easy to use.
Experienced professionals administer on-site tests to employees at a work site. As opposed to at-home tests, human resources can verify that the operators administered COVID-19 tests to the right employee. On-site testing encourages compliance since employees can access the resource at work.
Companies that test on-site create a positive and trusting work environment. Employees feel supported when businesses are proactive about health and safety.
On-site testing is a great option for essential businesses and other high-risk organizations. In these industries, administrators must confirm employees received the right test and react immediately to positive test results. On-site testing is also the best option for businesses with a large number of employees.
A disadvantage of on-site testing is that businesses are taking on the responsibility of testing. When on-site testing, you must ensure that your labs are following the appropriate sanitation and privacy protocol. Additionally, you must adhere to federal guidelines regarding on-site testing.
If your company wishes to do on-site testing, you must adhere to federal mandates for employee COVID-19 testing. Businesses must obtain aCLIA license or hire an organization with a mobileCLIA lab certificate to do on-site testing.
External testing providers, outside of an organization’s worksite, provide off-site testing for employees. Similar to on-site tests, professionals can confirm that the right employees received the COVID-19 test. Off-site testing centers often have better equipment than those on-site, which can improve the accuracy of test results. Best of breed off-site testing centers assess employee COVID-19 tests as soon as possible.
There are some issues that can arise with off-site testing. For example, an employee COVID-19 testing location separate from your worksite may be inaccessible. If employees have to travel outside of work for a test this might diminish compliance. Additionally, off-site testing is less effective if there is a slow turnaround time.
When evaluating a solution, you should consider which testing options are best fit for your organization in the long-term.
No matter which option you choose, employers need a solution for managing the entire testing process. TheCDC’s guidance encourages testing employees with COVID-19 symptoms or potential exposure.
You should encourage all employees reporting symptoms or exposure to seek testing. In addition, you should consider establishing a broad-based testing program for everyone’s safety. This program should allow you to see positive test results immediately.
An effective test management system should also integrate with a contact tracing solution. This solution should provide a list of the close contacts of employees infected with COVID-19 and their contact information. Once you have this information, your team should send the appropriate advisories to these employees as soon as possible to prevent further infection.
Beyond a strong diagnostic testing system, employers should use testing as a risk mitigation tool. Companies can regularly test all or a sample of employees to identify high-risk areas of infection at the workplace. This process is known as surveillance testing. Surveillance testing also allows employers to capture potentially asymptomatic employees.
As an HR leader, you should have one centralized and secure location where you can store important testing information and manage risk. The solution should be scalable, customizable, and integrate with other health safety tools. Our platform provides holistic screening, testing, and contact tracing tools to help employers prevent outbreaks.
Book a demo to learn more about our COVID-19 testing, screening, and contact tracing tools!
As you return to physical workspaces, are you confident in your employee safety program? Does it need to evolve as the new strains and vaccines arrive? Can you make vaccines a requirement? Our resources can help you stay ahead of COVID-19 in 2021
Vaccine Program Management Resources for Employers
We curated resources to help you create a COVID-19 vaccine program. Read more
Evaluation Guide for Contact Tracing in the Workplace
Having the right tools to quickly identify positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts reduces transmission and prevents shutdowns. Find out which contact tracing solution is best fit for your organization. Read more
Easily Comply with Cal/OSHA AB 685
Effective January 1, per AB-685, Cal/OSHA can issue orders for the closure of workplaces based on the threat of COVID-19. Keep your doors open with tools to make compliance easy. Read more
Are you looking for screening, contact tracing, testing, and vaccine management tools for your organization? Book a demo with someone on our team to try our tools!
The objective of this piece is to help employers and administrators find a solution that’s right for their organization. We’ve done the research to help you evaluate the leading contact tracing devices.
Why do you need contact tracing software?
Businesses are faced with an unprecedented level of responsibility when it comes to employee safety and well-being due to COVID-19. Contact tracing is the process of identifying, monitoring, and supporting individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Contact tracing is often done manually, but is most effective when partnered with technology. Technology ensures the highest level of accuracy and fastest response to a positive test result.
Having the right tools to quickly identify close contacts stops forward transmission and prevents shutdowns. Minimizing tracing and testing delays are imperative for practical contact tracing in the workplace. When you start contact tracing the day that a positive test result is identified you can decrease forward transmission by 80%.
In addition to helping employers prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, digital contract tracing makes it easy to meet state guidelines and requirements. Certain states recommend or require that organizations such as businesses and schools keep record of close contacts to aid public health departments with their contact tracing efforts.
How does contact tracing help stop the spread of COVID-19?
Once an administrator identifies that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, their case needs to be managed. Case Management is utilizing contact tracing data to inform Level 1 and 2 contacts of potential exposure and providing quarantine instructions. Level 1 contacts are people that have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Level 2 contacts are people who have been in close contact with level 1 contacts. Close contact is defined as exposure to a positive COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or longer in a 48 hour time period during their infectious period.
The Center for Disease Control recommends exposed employees monitor their symptoms until 14 days after the exposure took place. If a potentially infected individual develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 they should be advised to isolate and stay home.
How does contact tracing work?
The first step to prevent transmission is identifying who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. A successful workplace contact tracing solution should allow administrators to:
Monitor employees health status and take action when needed
See who has been tested for COVID-19 and their results
Contact tracing is only effective if you are logging each interaction that could be a potential exposure event. There are many different types of digital contact tracing, from manual to automated with hardware wearables. All these contact tracing tools should be easily managed via the administrators digital platform.
Bluetooth peer to peer, bluetooth triangulation, and bluetooth phone tracking are automated contact tracing methods. They are constantly tracking who is coming into contact with whom throughout the day. Automated contact tracing methods lessens the burden to maintain a record of these interactions. However, there is also the option for employees to manually log contacts via the digital logbook app in our app.
By implementing a digital process, the need for staff to manage the contact tracing process is reduced, while increasing accuracy.
Compare the Contact Tracing Methods
Each method has its strengths, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when integrated effectively.
All four contact tracing tools ensure your team is safe and healthy. A holistic approach empowers your team to be confident that they are protected when they come to work.
Automated Contact Tracing
Bluetooth peer to peer, bluetooth triangulation, and bluetooth phone tracking all automated contact tracing tools. These tools track who employees are coming into contact with while on premises throughout the day. These processes are secure, private, and automated. Compliance with contact tracing is extremely high with our customers because we integrate hardware technology with an easy to use app.
To enable automatic contact tracing in the workplace, your solution should integrate best of breed bluetooth wearables. These operate via either peer to peer or bluetooth triangulation tracking. Our wearables are available as badges, cards, or lanyards.
Bluetooth Hardware Types and Features
Manual Contact Logging
Finally, our fourth method of contact tracing is the digital log book in the employee facing app. In a log book employees can mark who they met with and for how long each day. These manually logged interactions will be pulled into the contact tracing sequence if a positive case is found in your workplace.
Which contact tracing method should I use?
The method to use depends on: the use case, the type of workplace, accuracy, reliability, and cost.
Some of the use cases to consider are:
Do my employees have personal smartphones or employer-supplied smartphones? With personal smartphones, the employee will likely be unwilling to use the smartphone app based approach for contact tracing.
Do I need a solution for both employees and contractors? Bluetooth hardware is preferred for contractors as users can be temporarily assigned a tag that is re-assigned later.
Type of Workplace
Some workplaces are very large but have a very few entrance and exit points. In these workplaces peer-to-peer Bluetooth method is preferred over Bluetooth triangulation.
Similarly if the workplace is very large, it will require a lot of Bluetooth gateways making it cost prohibitive.
Workplaces that have special validation requirements (certain factories, clean rooms, labs) require hardware. Any hardware that has to be installed in the area has to undergo a lengthy, expensive validation process. These workplaces are not a good fit for Bluetooth triangulation.
In terms of accuracy and reliability, the hardware approaches are better than a smartphone app based tracing. However the app-based tracing does not require installation and management of any new hardware. The log book approach can be very reliable if users adopt and use it consistently and require no new hardware
The log book and smartphone app approaches are cheaper than the Bluetooth hardware. There are other more expensive hardware approaches like Ultra WideBand (UWB) that are more reliable and accurate than Bluetooth.
Our Sales and Customer Success team can help you choose the best solution for your situation based on the above factors.
Interested in learning more about our contact tracing software? Book a demo to try our screening, contact tracing, and vaccine management tools!
The new CDC guidelines provide options to reduce COVD-19 quarantine in an effort to increase community compliance (1). This guidance relies on organizations integrating daily health screening and diagnostic testing with their quarantine management program. The CDC recommends a quarantine period of 14 days. The options for reducing quarantine are accepted by the CDC, however, they do carry a risk of post-quarantine transmission.
CDC Quarantine Alternative Options Recap
The CDC has accepted two options for reduced quarantine of 7 or 10 days. Both options include the continued adoption of preventive health measures. These measures include daily health screening and wearing masks throughout the 14 day quarantine period.
Option #1: 10 Day Quarantine
Employees can complete quarantine after 10 days without getting tested if the following criteria is met:
They have no symptoms of COVID-19 which they monitor and report on a daily basis.
Like any alternative option that offers to shorten the quarantine period there’s a risk. Residual post-quarantine transmission risk is about 1% with an upper limit of about 10%.
Option #2: 7 Day Quarantine
Employees can complete quarantine after 7 days if the following criteria are met:
They test negative for COVID-19 AND They have no symptoms of COVID-19 which they monitor and report on a daily basis.
This strategy has an increased level of risk. The residual post-quarantine transmission risk is estimated to be about 5% with an upper limit of about 12%.
What tools do you need for effective quarantine management?
Employers considering changing their quarantine protocol as a result of the CDC guidance should be mindful of the risk. An effective quarantine management solution should equip administrations with tools to evaluate risk amongst their workforce.
Whether you are choosing 7, 10, or 14 day quarantine period users should be reporting their symptoms regularly. Effective employee screening services must include a daily symptom checker where employees can report their health status even while in quarantine.
COVID-19 Test Data Management
Administrators must have a platform where they can see the number of employees tested for COVID-19 as well as their results.
Although not directly mentioned by the CDC, organizations are taking on the risk of post quarantine transmission. For this reason, we strongly recommend that employers establish a contact tracing plan. Administrators should be able to quickly reach out to employees who were in close contact with positive COVID-19 cases.
Should your organization adopt the new CDC guidelines?
For the well-being of you and the employees at your organization the CDC suggests a 14-day quarantine period. However, if your organization must shorten quarantine then this guidance should be followed according to the CDC’s criteria. Employers must have the tools to sustain daily symptom checks and diagnostic testing in order to be successful. We also recommend they implement a contact tracing solution to minimize the risks of adopting a shorter quarantine period.
Book a demo with our team to try our symptom screening and contact tracing tools!