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20 Questions to Ensure Your COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan Is as Inclusive as Possible

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every person on the globe differently. While we all are social distancing, wearing masks, and religiously hand-washing, the individual impact of the crisis is extremely personal. COVID-19 workplace safety plans implemented by organizations throughout 2020 have had to change on the fly and taking into consideration the individual needs of your employees might have fallen to the wayside for a focus on compliance and quick adjustments. 

This can be expected due to the need for consistent changes that this pandemic has brought on, but with a wealth of new information and some experience under belts, it’s a good time to review your health and safety plans to ensure they are as inclusive as possible. If you’re unsure if your COVID-19 safety plan is working for everyone, here are some questions you can ask:

Communication

  1. Can your organization’s policies and procedures be easily accessed by all staff members?
  2. Does your safety plan include the most up to date information and protection guidelines?
  3. Are you communicating reliable and trusted information in order to combat misinformation in the workplace?
  4. Do your policies detail return to work procedures for infected employees in multiple formats?
  5. Are you conducting employee check-ins or wellness surveys to assess how people are doing both with their work productivity but also with their mental health?
  6. Are you encouraging feedback and open communication regarding COVID-19 safety plans and policies?

Policy

  1. Do you have a set and documented procedure for employee screening requirements that outline what happens if screening is incomplete?
  2. Do you have a policy on how your organization will handle or support employees who have to take care of sick family members?
  3. Does your safety plan or return to work procedures address that not everyone works the same way and stress the importance of blocking off personal time and breaks when working from home?
  4. Have you received input on your policies from multiple parties in order to combat bias or blind spots?
  5. Have policymakers in your organization educated themselves on the ways COVID-19 has had an increased impact on marginalized communities and incorporated this into policy? 

Accommodation

  1. Is there a dedicated manager or supervisor who is tasked with answering questions regarding safety policies?
  2. Are you taking into consideration the mental health effects on your employees due to the pandemic?
  3. Are you checking in on employees who live alone or may be isolated from others outside of work?
  4. Have you allowed as much flexibility as possible for employees to manage new working, childcare, and school routines or for those whose family responsibilities have changed?
  5. Have you addressed common accommodations while maintaining privacy and avoiding discrimination?
    • E.g. Pregnant employees, employees caring for immunocompromised family members and children at home, employees with higher risk factors, etc. 

Accessibility 

  1. For employees with disabilities who are working from home, do they have access to the same accommodations and tools they usually have onsite?
  2. Do your COVID-19 policies, new work procedures, and virtual presence take into consideration the accessibility needs of your customers, visitors, and prospective job seekers?
  3. If you are conducting virtual meetings, are they as accessible as possible for all employees and meeting attendees?
    • Enable captions if available on our communication platform
    • Identify yourself each time before you speak
    • Avoid acronyms and idioms that may not be globally known
    • Share information in more than one way to allow for technical, situational, or sensory challenges
  4. Does your COVID-19 workplace safety plan address the needs of employees or visitors with disabilities?
    • To better understand how COVID-19 may impact those with disabilities please see this guide from Public Health Canada

No plan is perfect, and if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be flexible and open to change to successfully get through a crisis. We know all organizations are concerned about employee health, but now is the time to go back to existing policies and make sure you revise as needed to ensure that all your employees feel supported.