As more and more companies begin to transition employees back to in-person work, the pressure is on for environmental, health, and safety (EHS) leaders to ensure a safe and comfortable return-to-work. 

In a webinar moderated by Alizabeth Aramowicz Smith, Health & Safety Practice Lead at Antea Group, two Antea Group COVID-19 Compliance Officers (CCO) discussed how companies can manage this. Beth Firkins, CCO and Health & Safety Training Lead, and John Whalen, CCO and EHS&S Production and Events Lead, offered lessons learned and best practices for safely returning to work.  

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the webinar, it is now available on-demand. 

Watch On-Demand

Adapting to the New Normal 

As we’ve mentioned before, the pandemic is not over yet. Many countries are in various stages of reopening and state and local regulations are changing daily. All of this uncertainty and constant change can make the job of an EHS professional incredibly difficult. As Beth Firkins noted in the webinar, “Because of the pandemic there has been a shift in priorities and EHS has taken center stage.” The demand on EHS professionals won’t be lessening anytime soon. With returning to work, some employees are experiencing feelings of stress and anxiety. This is where a COVID-19 Compliance Officer can help.  

What is a COVID-19 Compliance Officer 

A COVID-19 Compliance Officer is a dedicated resource for the implementation of COVID-19 policies. This person is the central source of information surrounding regulations and policies and is empowered to act to enforce these policies and adjust as needed. Having a CCO can help balance the work of health and safety teams and ensure COVID-19 programs are running smoothly and efficiently. A CCO will also take the lead in staying up-to-date on local and state regulations, helping to maintain compliance. 

Reopening Considerations & Planning for Events 

CCO’s will play a major role in planning for reopening workspaces. According to a study done by the Limeade Institute, 42% of employees are uncomfortable being on-site without strong COVID-19 measures. Some of the top concerns for employees returning to work are not knowing who might be sick, working with too many people in an office, inadequate disinfection and sanitization, and poor indoor air quality. 

In some cases, employees are leaving jobs because they don’t feel safe or taken care of. Having a CCO to ensure employees feel safe will not only help with a smooth transition back to work but also aid in employee retention. Some of the responsibilities covered by a COVID-19 Officer include:  

  • Assisting in all stages of reopening 
  • Ensuring employees are aware of restrictions and workplace COVID-19 policies 
  • Managing testing logistics and health screenings 
  • Monitoring and adjusting COVID-19 programs 
  • Enforcing company COVID-19 policies  
  • Clearly communicating the reopening status with employees 

Similarly, a CCO can aid in safely planning events such as meetings, conferences, photoshoots, product launches, and more. The CCO will have the skills and knowledge to manage details like room setup, vendor coordination, transportation, communicating COVID expectations, disinfection protocol, and other key safety details.  

Best Practices for Returning to Work 

The number one best practice for returning to work is putting employee safety first. With anxieties running high, a key role of the CCO is to help employees feel comfortable with the transition. Employers can do this by empathizing with employees about what they are going through or have been through, offering consistent, fact-based communication, and providing transparency on COVID-19 plans.  

Before returning to work, employers should have a plan to provide a safe work environment that protects employees and customers. There should be an active dialog throughout the transition to give employees the chance to voice concerns and be heard. Even as we move past the pandemic, there are several best practices that should be here to stay! Some of these practices include:  

  • Monitoring health authorities and CDC guidelines 
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection  
  • Case investigation and contact tracing  
  • Rules for high-risk areas (gyms, conference rooms, etc.) 
  • Visitor protocol 
  • Sick leave policies 

As we move forward, it will be important to keep employee safety and well-being a top priority. Consider how adding a COVID-19 Compliance Officer can help manage employee concerns and relieve some of the stress from your health and safety team. And don’t forget to keep pandemic plans evergreen – these policies and practices can continue to be used time and time again! 

For more information on event and production EHS support and COVID-19 Compliance Officers, visit our service page or contact us. 

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