What is needed for a successful return to work program?
Employers should follow the “swiss cheese” model where each layer of protection adds more safety. No one solution can fill all the holes where businesses face risk. Adding multiple protection tools or “swiss cheese slices” covers these holes. Following this model allows you to create a strong pandemic defense for your return to work program (1).
PPE, disinfecting, and social distancing all contribute to a healthier workplace. This blog focuses on adding the employee screening layer. Employee health screenings ensure only employees who meet your return to work criteria are at the workplace.
Additional layers also include contact tracing, surveillance testing, and vaccine tracking. Contact tracing stops forward transmission and surveillance testing catches asymptomatic silent spread. Finally, vaccine tracking allows you to know when you’ve reached herd immunity. A comprehensive workplace safety solution should integrate all of these tools.
Ask employees to notify them if they are in contact with a sick household member
Currently at least 33 states in the U.S. have made screening employees prior to coming to a physical workspace a requirement. Some states require employee screening prior to each shift. Other states require screening before arriving at work. JD Supra has compiled a list of all the states that have mandatory screening requirements (3).
Key components of a daily health screening
A return to work program should provide the following services as part of the their daily employee screenings to ensure safety. This screening solution should also generate “come to work” or “stay home” recommendations based on the answers to the screening questions.
Health Safety Recommendations
Employers should have a symptom checker app with surveys to see if employees are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. The symptom checker app should ensure no employees with signs of COVID-19 are reporting to the physical work location.
As per the CDC, potential symptoms of COVID-19 include:
Fever greater than 100.4 degrees
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Fatigue, muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
Employers should ask if users have been tested and their results. The CDC recommends testing of individuals with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and their close contacts (2). Establishing a routine testing program also helps companies capture people who are asymptomatic but carry COVID-19 and are silent spreaders. A widespread testing program can help employees stay ahead of COVID-19 cases and prevent transmission.
Testing results should be accessible from a centralized dashboard. With this information, employers can immediately view positive cases and start contact tracing to minimize further COVID-19 transmission.
Employees should log their exposure to those infected with COVID-19 and/or sick with a potential COVID-19 infection. Employers should keep track of this information and send the appropriate advisories. For example, they should send quarantine advisories if employees have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Anyone who has been exposed should not enter the workplace until they have properly quarantined per the CDC guidelines.
In some areas, it is required for employees traveling from certain states to quarantine to ensure they are COVID-free (4). For this reason, employers should ask about recent travel in their health screening. Specifically, they should ask about travel outside of the country or to states on the mandatory quarantine list (4). If yes, they should not enter the workplace until they have met the quarantine exit criteria.
Many companies are waiting for the COVID-19 vaccines to become available to the general public. As they arrive, however, universal vaccine adoption is not guaranteed. Employers should have a vaccine tracking tool to help them manage a mixed immunity environment.
Companies should consider asking about employees vaccination status and type and offering incentives for adopters.
Health Safety Recommendations
It is important to understand how your screening solution generates safety recommendations. The survey and recommendations should help employers meet the screening requirements for their safe return to work program. The screener should ensure that only healthy employees are reporting to work.
Employers should develop a list of scenarios they should be prepared for according to local laws and guidelines. They should know what the response will be for these scenarios individually or in combination. Alongside this they should develop the appropriate recommendations for these cases as in the example below.
Scenario 1: An employees with no signs or symptoms of COVID-19 Recommendation: Cleared to come to work.
Scenario 2: An employees with a fever above 100.4 and/or a headache and sore throat Recommendation: Stay home, seek medical attention, and get tested for COVID-19
Scenario 3: Employees that have traveled to states on the mandatory quarantine Recommendation: Quarantine and/or get tested for COVID-19
Employee screenings play a vital role in return to work programs, but they are only one protection tool. Companies still need to add more “swiss cheese layers” to keep employees safe and prevent outbreaks.
Book a demo to test out our COVID-19 symptom checker application and vaccine tracking 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. This requires a combination of manual and automatic contact tracing software and hardware. When you start contact tracing the day that a positive test result is identified you can decrease forward transmission by 80%.
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.
Employees who tested positive for COVID-19 should receive instructions to isolate. These instructions should be informed by organization, state, and local guidelines. Companies should also advise contacts to quarantine and/or get tested.
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, lanyard tags, or clip-ons.
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 with our team to try our screening, contact tracing, and vaccine management tools!
Effective January 1, 2021, California has imposed a new requirement on employers regarding COVID-19 cases in the workplace. This new 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 new 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 authorities 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.”
New expansive 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 to rely on purpose-built technology to automates as much of the employee health status insights, contact tracing, and notification workflows as possible. That is exactly what ReturnSafe does!
We provide a comprehensive set of services to enable you to create a healthier workplace. We have one data set supporting all the services to enable swift and effective action.
This table outlines how our solution simplifies compliance with AB 685.
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 gets a centralized dashboard of everyone’s 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.
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!
The first approved COVID-19 vaccine hit the market and many are soon to follow. As 2020 comes to a close, has your organization begun to discuss a vaccine management program? Which employees have immunity and which don’t? What is the best way to manage in a mixed immunity environment? It’s time to begin these new conversations. Read our newsletter to see how we can help your organization prepare for the new year.
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Case Study: How Madonna University Safely Returned to Campus this Fall
We are excited to help our higher education partners keep students, faculty and staff safe while on campus. Learn why Madonna University chose our solution. Download the Case Study
Case Study: Why Pennrose Chose ReturnSafe to Protect Their Residents and Staff
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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!