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.
Addressing the Future of Infectious Disease Management and Preventative Health by Reimagining the Employee-Employer Relationship
I still remember the day that I was talking to my parents and sister who live in India and Singapore and thinking to myself “It is only a matter of time until the virus shows up in the U.S. and we will be caught unprepared.” Unprepared because, unlike the countries my family lives in, the U.S. isn’t able to put in place the same level or type of restrictions, mandates, curfews, or health and safety requirements that they can enforce in Asia and in Europe. So I prepared for war.
When my co-founders Jikku Venkat, Jason Story, and I started ReturnSafe in June, our vision was to reinvent the employer/employee relationship by creating the best infectious disease management and wellness solution for the workplace. And because our country — and our world — was faced with one of the most devastating viruses in nearly 100 years, we knew that our first responsibility would be to put on our combat gear and develop a solution that could slow the spread of the Coronavirus and build the best app to prevent the infectious disease from spreading at the workplace. We each felt a deep responsibility to help with the inevitable recovery a disease like this would require. Business continuity was being disrupted and bound to have a lasting impact on the economy and the people that power it. We resolved to build a tool for organizations to manage COVID and its consequences. A solution that would prevent one positive case from upending everyday life by becoming hundreds.
Here is where our journey, and the journey of ReturnSafe, began. We examined historical data, looked at what other countries deployed to successfully slow the spread of COVID, and recognized that the only way that businesses were going to be successful in keeping their communities healthy and safe was to create a way to screen, test, trace and manage COVID – a four-pillared approach that was effective in stemming the spread of viruses like MERS, SARS, and many others.
Combining our expertise in technology, design, and healthcare, and tapping the decades of experience from teammates like our chief medical officer Dr. Reef Gillum, we built something in six short months, which has taken most companies years to accomplish.
We Are Family We are extremely proud of and humbled by what we have accomplished. To date, more than 50 companies from every sector and industry, including long-term care, manufacturing, sports and entertainment, financial services, travel, education, and non-profit organizations have selected ReturnSafe as a partner in their plans to reopen their doors. Our relationship with our customers is intimate and collaborative. We have open and honest conversations that inform our product evolution. Every day, we learn something new from our customers and what we learn from one customer helps us better serve the market overall and together, benefits everyone using the platform. At ReturnSafe, we truly think of our customers like family and are thankful for the trust they put in us to enhance the health and safety of their teams.
Today, as we share the news of a new funding round led by Fifty Years and Active Capital with additional funding from Necessary Ventures, in a year that many of us would prefer to skip, there is still so much to be thankful for. Our investors have been instrumental to our growth and their belief in our vision gets us excited to think even bigger. Speaking with one such investor recently, Fifty Years founder Seth Bannon talked about the intersection of purpose and profit. He believes that together we are building a new type of company. We are creating a new generation of purpose-driven businesses that reinvest profits to drive greater impact.
Reimagining Employee Health More than 20 years ago, Pixar was an unknown studio launching their first animated movie, “Toy Story”. They then released “A Bug’s Life”, “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles” and many, many more, demonstrating that animated movies can be just as entertaining, emotionally moving, and successful as live-action films.
I believe that this is our Pixar moment. Employee Health has a path to success, and more broadly, will reimagine the relationship between an employer and their employees. With the new funding, we will expand our products to support the evolution of what is going to be needed with COVID, particularly vaccine management. With hope on the horizon and not just one but three COVID vaccines, employers will be faced with a web of ever-changing government regulations and guidelines and will need a way to help manage workplace immunity. More importantly, this funding enables us to go deeper into infectious disease management and preventative health and wellness, COVID being the immediate need, and develop even more impactful solutions for the workplace of the future. We are not fighting a single battle with COVID but rather preparing for a war that will influence the healthcare system for generations to come.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that 2020 will be a year to remember, from one of the most debated presidential elections in the history of our country to the global devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. While no one could have predicted the human toll and mass destruction the pandemic has had on families and businesses, there have been bright spots of human kindness, compassion, and sympathy. We have all found new ways to communicate and connect with loved ones and we hope that the coming year will bring opportunities to celebrate milestones we have missed and carry forth the sentiment of what has become 2020’s motto for many, “In This Together.”
World’s first infectious disease management platform for employers helps businesses, universities, healthcare facilities, and sports and entertainment venues reopen and stay open.
AUSTIN, TEXAS — December 22, 2020 —ReturnSafe, the company establishing new standards and tools for managing safety, health, and well-being in the workplace, today announced $3.25M in funding led by Fifty Years and Active Capital with additional investments from Necessary Ventures. This additional funding follows a rapid period of growth where the company achieved six-figure monthly recurring revenue and onboarded more than 50 organizations in the first six months of operation.
ReturnSafe’s solution protects tens of thousands of people spanning across health and senior care organizations, educational institutions, sports and entertainment event venues, non-profits, hospitality businesses, manufacturing facilities, professional services, real estate and construction firms, and more from around the globe.
“COVID-19 upended our world and forced the closure of workplaces, schools, and universities. Efforts to mitigate the devastating toll of the pandemic have created additional challenges such as a spike in unemployment and worse educational outcomes,” said Seth Bannon, founder of Fifty Years. “ReturnSafe allows us to fire up our economic, education, and entertainment engines while keeping everyone safe. From Sesame Street to the San Antonio Spurs to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society — world-class organizations are relying on ReturnSafe to bring people back to work safely. ReturnSafe is not only helping companies keep their employees safe from COVID-19, it is setting new standards to prevent future disease outbreaks in the workplace.”
“We’ve been impressed by ReturnSafe’s agility in responding to the challenges of reopening physical spaces. Their speed and expertise are meeting the legal and logistical complexities involved here,” said Neil Devani, founder of Necessary Ventures. “Almost every organization will need a reopening plan. Many believe these issues will subside when COVID-19 subsides. We expect the opposite. ReturnSafe’s focus on prevention will also help avoid backslides to the reactive stances that have been so devastating for so many.”
How it Works ReturnSafe’s infectious disease management platform has established a new paradigm for safety, health, and well-being by offering organizations an integrated solution that prevents and slows the spread of infectious diseases. Included are:
A daily symptoms screening app that documents regulatory compliance and enables real-time risk management based on guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and tailored to company-specific HR policies.
A testing dashboard provides rapid notifications of positive test results, a requirement for mitigating contagion in fast-moving environments, especially important when lab responses are slow.
High-resolution contact-tracing leveraging wearable devices with built-in social distancing alarms, one of the most needed solutions in active environments.
Case manager dashboard with workflows for employee isolation and quarantine management.
The Team “We started ReturnSafe for two main reasons – to keep employees safe and healthy and to ensure business continuity by minimizing disruption in the workplace due to the risk of a disease outbreak. COVID-19 has created massive human resources challenges, and while our initial objective is to slow the spread of COVID-19, we recognize a greater need to help employers manage all forms of infectious disease,” said Tarun Nimmagadda, founder and chief executive officer at ReturnSafe. “To reduce liabilities and keep employees safe, companies must adopt new preventative measures and technologies. With this new funding, we will scale our efforts for infectious disease management with new proactive and reactive capabilities like our vaccine and immunity management.”
The founding team, which consists of doctors and medical professionals, public health experts, and technology leaders, has built multiple hundred-million-dollar enterprise software and health-tech companies, deployed enterprise software solutions in more than 100 countries globally, and experienced numerous prior exits valued at greater than $300 million.
About Fifty Years Fifty Years is a San Francisco based seed fund that backs entrepreneurs solving the world’s biggest problems with technology. The Fifty Years team consists of former founders supporting founders using business as a force for good. They’ve seeded many technology startups shaping the world for the better — companies like Memphis Meats, Solugen, Substack, and NURX. For more information, visit www.fiftyyears.com.
About Active Capital:
Active Capital is a venture firm designed to lead seed rounds for B2B SaaS companies outside
of Silicon Valley. The firm is founded and run by former B2B SaaS founders with hands-on
experience starting, building, and scaling high growth businesses in underdog cities across America. Active Capital is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, and invests in B2B SaaS companies all over. To learn more, please visit https://www.activecapital.com.
About Necessary Ventures
Necessary Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm investing in companies solving the world’s hardest problems. Our portfolio includes companies like Farmer’s Business Network, Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Talkspace, and Vicarious Surgical. We help companies scale rapidly using mission-based narratives to drive tangible, business outcomes. For more information, please visit: www.necessary.vc.