In a recent webinar focused on workplace safety and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a panel of industry leaders addressed considerations for corporations, businesses, and facilities as they are reopening their doors and preparing for employees to return to in-person work. The industry leaders include:
- Rod Wheeler, Founder and CEO of the Global Food Defense Institute
- Jeanna Madlener, Vice President, Property and Casualty at Woodruff Sawyer
- Stephen Glazier, Vice President, Casualty Loss Control Specialist at Woodruff Sawyer
- Nelson Lins, Chief Operating Officer at Raptor Technologies
Below are highlights of the panel discussion. You can listen to the full conversation here.
Elements Needed to Develop Crisis & Pandemic Response Plans
Rod: When it comes to thinking about any type of crisis, we must be strategic and gain situational awareness, which means knowing how a crisis can impact your company, employees, customers, or anyone that comes into your facility. Once you have situational awareness, you must then be adaptative, decisive, and proactive in establishing your response plans. The most important thing I think of when dealing with any type of crisis, and especially with this crisis, is communication. You must know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to all the stakeholders involved. Another critical component is knowing and documenting every person who comes into your facility. Many companies are doing a great job putting plans in place to mitigate COVID-19, making sure they have social distance policies, and tracking who is coming into the building so they can facilitate contact tracing.
How Contact Tracing & Infection Control Will Continue to Impact Facilities
Stephen: The primary reason to be concerned about contact tracing is to manage risk and prevent more people from becoming ill. You may find yourself in a situation where you must prove that you acted post-exposure or even prove that an exposure did not occur at your facility. Even though we don’t know yet what the liability landscape looks like when it comes to COVID-19 infections, we do know that the better job you do with thorough contact tracing, the better you can defend yourself if you are asked to prove the reasonableness of your response.
Rod: I am fortunately seeing companies implement contact tracing policies. I recently traveled to visit a plant in Arizona. Two days prior to my visit, the plant sent me a questionnaire asking me about the places I have visited over the past 30 days, who I have been around, if I have been exposed or have had any symptoms, and my travel history. This data—along with documenting my visit details—can help the plant with contact tracing efforts if needed. If I were to have answered yes to any of those questions, the document stated I would not be allowed entrance into their facility. I had to provide a good e-mail address and a telephone number so they could contact me if the virus appears at their facility. I highly encourage everyone to have documented plans like these.
Nelson: To document visitor data and quickly retrieve this data to facilitate contact tracing—and thus help stop the spread of the virus—companies should consider a visitor management system. It is our responsibility to make sure that we’re doing everything we can and controlling what we can control. That’s what it really comes down to. Putting a system in place where you know who is in the building, what time they come in, who they visited, what time they left the building—all of those things are part of a very well-rounded contact tracing approach that business leaders should be implementing throughout the country. Privacy, IT security, and data protection are critical components of these systems. Communication is imperative—visitors and employees must know what data is being collected and why. The process needs to be well outlined ahead of time before a visitor gives you their data.
Regulatory Updates & Guidelines for Health Screenings
Stephen: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and similar regulatory agencies have released temporary guidance on how an employer can test, gather data, and screen employees, which also applies to visitors and patrons. This includes what type of testing you can and cannot use, like anti-body testing and temperature scanning. When thinking about how to comply with OSHA and regulatory guidelines, it is important to stay updated with the EEOC.
Nelson: Companies that are still using paper logs to track and record this data need to consider implementing an electronic system. Just from a privacy standpoint, paper logs leave you at risk. A visitor management system screens visitors with health questions, collects key data, and makes it easy to retrieve records for contact tracing so you can take action quickly. Visitors—and anyone else using the system—are also asked to review and sign a non-disclosure agreement that communicates what data is being collected and why and how this data may be shared. Another key consideration for any visitor management system is its flexibility. COVID-19 health screening may not be needed in the future, so you want a system that is flexible to your visitor sign-in policies.
Key Liability & Insurance Considerations
Jeanna: So far the discussion has been centered around risk management, reduction, and mitigation, which are key when you start talking about how you’re going to transfer risk. Things like doing an assessment, following regulatory guidelines, implementing your plan, and forming your response team all eventually play into how you transfer your risk and develop your insurance program.
From a third-party perspective, if an individual claims your company failed to protect them from the virus, they must prove not only that the virus was in the facility, but also that the company was negligent. The record keeping, documentation, the tracking of who, when, and why they are in your building—all of that information is critical to build your defense if you see one of those claims come through.
When talking about data privacy laws, this also brings up a new liability. The information that you’re tracking, whether it be deemed personal identifiable information or personal health information with some of the medical questions being answered, that all represents a new risk. The business is the owner of that data and is responsible for protecting it, so choosing a solution provider that has that security in place to help you mitigate that risk is important.
Stephen: Another way to show that you have the right procedures in place to respond to COVID-19 is to do a gap analysis or hazard assessment. Insurance carriers have even developed gap analysis questions; your answers are assessed by underwriters to determine your level of risk.
Conducting a Site Health Assessment
Rod: Conducting a vulnerability assessment is key for all of this, for creating your crisis and pandemic response plan, and for your food defense compliance as well. Make sure your HVAC system at your facility is included in your assessment. In your crisis plan, you want to increase ventilation rates and the percentage of outdoor air that circulates in the system. Make sure you also have plans for respiratory and hand-washing considerations. Other items can include providing tissues and no touch disposal receptacles, discouraging handshaking in the facility, and enabling effective enforcement of protective screening measures. It’s also important to evaluate your visitors and develop an acknowledgement form that visitors and contractors must sign for the needed data collection.
Return Back-to-Work with LobbyGuard
The LobbyGuard Visitor Management system helps companies of all sizes and across various industries respond to COVID-19 by empowering them to better screen visitors, minimize COVID-19’s spread, and facilitate contact tracing. To learn more about how LobbyGuard can help with your COVID-19 response, read our eBook or contact us here.