Representatives from more than 40 PESA Member Companies participated in an HSEQ/HR Virtual Townhall on June 25 to discuss best practices as companies move forward amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. HR Committee Chair and Advisory Board Member Bonnie Houston, Chief Administrative Officer, NOV, and Health & Safety Committee Chair Gary Childress, VP QHS&E Wellsite Services, Oil States International, facilitated the discussion.
Various strategies are being implemented to keep employees safe as companies begin allowing employees to return to their offices. Some companies are taking a staggered approach by allowing only a certain percentage of employees to return to the office or work site. However, with the current surge in cases some companies are rolling back return to work plans. Employers are also asking employees to complete health assessments on a weekly basis. In order to maintain the safety and wellbeing of employees, companies will continue to focus on social distancing protocols, wellness assessments and strong communication.
Procedures also need to be in place to address visitors and consultants that need to be physically on site to accomplish tasks. At a basic level, the procedures should mirror those in place for employees. This may include temperature checks when entering the facilities, sanitizing hands, wearing face coverings and social distancing. Companies are also limiting outside visitors to only those that are essential. Contractors and suppliers are being asked to supply information regarding whether their employees have tested positive and/or show signs of COVID-19 symptoms. Some companies are not allowing contractors or suppliers to use the break and lunch areas. Communicating expectations to suppliers and contractors ahead of scheduled visits is key to transitioning into these new policies.
Companies are relying on CDC guidelines when an employee does test positive or comes in close contact with a person with the COVID-19 virus. This includes requiring employee to stay home until 14 days after the last exposure. They are also asked to self-monitor by checking their temperature twice a day and watching for symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Companies are finding it difficult to get employees that have been exposed to COVID-19 tested, especially if they show no symptoms. In-house nurses working with employees’ personal doctors can help alleviate this issue.
The use of PPE continues to be an integral part of return-to work protocols, however some employees are becoming lax in their use. Providing different types of masks or face shields can help with comfort levels. It is also important to stress that using PPE does not negate the need to social distance. Regular communication, education and reminders will help in highlighting the importance of continued compliance.
Travel restrictions are being eased, however employees are being asked to communicate with their supervisors through the use of contract tracing forms. International travel continues to be restricted by most companies. When employees do travel and stay in hotels, they are encouraged to bring disinfecting/cleaning supplies.
Many practices during the COVID-19 pandemic will most likely be carried forward. The option to work remotely – whether that’s one day a week, 50% of the time or full time – will become common place for many companies. Travel will be kept to a minimum with the use of virtual meeting apps. Heightened awareness of personal hygiene, including regular hand sanitation will be incorporated in most work environments.