Research Report: Health and Safety Considerations for Reopening and Operating Workplace During the Pandemic

There are many occupational health and safety considerations relevant to the physical and psychological health of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. If a workplace has been closed or operating at reduced capacity, employers must consider the health of the building and building systems before resuming operations, says the CSA Group.

Building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and water systems can harbour other microbiological and chemical hazards that must be considered and controlled (e.g., Legionella). Before workers return to the worksite, a risk assessment should be conducted to identify jobs or tasks where there may be an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Efforts to reduce the likelihood of transmission within the workplace should follow the hierarchy of controls. Where potential exposure cannot be eliminated through a shift to isolated or remote work (e.g., work from home), engineering and administrative controls can be implemented. Workspaces can be altered, and the scheduling of workers and work activities can be adjusted, to minimize close contact and maximize physical distance. Improved ventilation rates and improved filtration within HVAC system can also help reduce the probability of transmission. These strategies should be combined with the use of face coverings and good hand hygiene to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Multifaceted interventions are likely to be more effective at controlling workplace hazards. Prevention and control of COVID-19 should be part of a comprehensive occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS), including meaningful worker consultation.

As part of CSA Group’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CSA Research worked with the University of Toronto and many diverse experts to develop a guide for employers planning to reopen their workplaces to staff. This research report combines current recommendations and statistics (Part A) with a best-practice guide (Part B) to better resource HSE, HR and management to reopen and protect staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aimed at both large and small organizations, the findings are categorized in three areas for guidance and best practice: physical building systems, workplace organization structures and individual worker wellbeing.

For more information, please download the report here.

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