More than 40 PESA Members met for a virtual HSEQ/HR townhall on November 4 to discuss the best ways for companies to manage challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. The wide-ranging conversation, moderated by PESA Advisory Board Member Bonnie Houston, NOV, and Al Barrett, Weatherford, touched on an array of health and safety issues companies are facing.
One issue raised by the pandemic is the need to notify customers and clients of a possible exposure to the virus if an employee tests positive while also complying with HIPAA privacy requirements. Companies are notifying anyone who had interactions with an individual within 48 hours of development of symptoms or a positive test. One company has an innovative approach.
“We established a QR code that’s scanned when anyone arrives at a job site,” the company representative said. “If there’s a positive test, we can pull the data into an Excel form, and it will tell us everyone who was there, their company, and their contact info.”
Because the virus is spread through airborne particles, companies are paying close attention to air quality. Strategies vary and include increased servicing of HVAC systems, installation of HEPA filters, and validation of air filtration levels based on recommendations from a doctor.
“One of our offices installed a HEPA-grade scrubber on the HVAC system covering the cubicle areas,” said one participant. “The desks are 6-8 feet apart, but only separated by cubicle walls.”
A different area of the office not connected to the central HVAC system have stand-alone air purifiers with HEPA-grade filters, he said.
Companies are complying with regulations to conduct fire drills. In each case, companies are asking employees to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Some companies are providing hand sanitation stations and exploring a QR code system to place at each muster station for employees to check in with cell phones.
Face-to-face meetings continue to be challenging. Some companies are allowing them if participants complete a COVID-19 questionnaire, take temperature checks, practice social distancing and maintain good hygiene.
Others have banned gatherings or require meetings be conducted using face masks and in large conference rooms with limited attendance. Still others are requiring participants to have a negative test.
All companies are limiting the number of face-to-face meetings, as well as the number of participants.
Companies are allowing removal of face masks in face-to-face interactions when participants are seated, socially distanced and have passed the companies screening protocols. One company requires mutual consent to remove masks.
“All parties must agree to their removal before any can be removed,” said the company representative. “Any objection to their removal is not permitted to be challenged or questioned in any way.”
An issue companies are increasingly dealing with is employees coming to work when they know they’re sick with potential COVID-19 symptoms. Companies have responded by communicating to team members the importance of staying home if they’re sick, and by treating incidents as a health and safety disciplinary matter.
Companies have continued to enhance and update internal pandemic communications and training. This includes revised travel protocols, symptom requirements, site access and safety protocols. Updates include varying policies based on differing government policies in different countries and regions.
PESA’s HSEQ/HR committees will continue to gather information and share experiences and best practices with peers throughout the sector. For additional information, contact PESA Senior Director Membership Services Peggy Helfert.