The COVID 19 Emergency Standards Implementation Plan For Businesses And Organizations

In a pandemic-riddled world, we’re all struggling to get back to some semblance of normal business operations. However, governments are sitting on the fence about what direction to mandate next. In the interest of public health, many organizations are pre-emptively implementing COVID-19 vaccination regimens into their day-to-day operations. 

It’s potentially a sticky process if you don’t follow the regulations, so we’ve done our research to help walk you through the implementation process, so stick around this sticky situation with us.

What You’ll Find In This Guide

What You’ll Find In This Guide 1

Current Regulations 2

  • Current Regulations
    • Australia
      • Regulation Summary
    • Canada
      • Regulation Summary
    • The United Kingdom
      • Regulation Summary
    • The United States
      • Regulation Summary
  • Implementing A Covid-19 Awareness Program Into Your Operational Standards
    • Identify Key Variables
    • Seek Legal Advice Where Necessary
    • Define Your Policy And Standards
    • Setup Secondary Protocols
    • Notify Team Members 1 – Preliminary Notification
    • Notify Team Members 2 – Secondary Notification
    • Notify Team Members 3 – Request Survey Completion
    • Follow Up Responses and Funnel Into Secondary Protocols
    • Build A Database
    • Analyze Processes
    • Stay Healthy and Operational
  • Summary

Current Regulations

Australia

Regulation Summary

Australian regulations differ from region to region, so you’ll need to check your particular area. We’ve provided the links below in the resources section to each region’s guidelines for your convenience.

Basically, as a business operating in Australia, you will need to be aware of and have protocols in place for four main things:

  1. Risk Management
  2. Physical Distancing
  3. Hygiene
  4. Cleaning

Additionally to these four primary concerns, you’ll likely want to set up some secondary protocols for your team members to deal with the myriad of potential situations they may encounter in their daily activities. We talk more about secondary protocols in the business implementation guide below the current regulations.

Resources:

Regional Guidelines:

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Northern Territory

Queensland

South Australia

Tasmania

Victoria

Western Australia

Canada

Regulation Summary

Canada’s labour code states that employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. As such, businesses must have a health and safety policy, as you are likely aware, that encompasses how employees from managers to regular staff will handle Covid-19 outbreaks. 

For example, managers have to investigate and report cases of Covid-19 where it may affect anyone else in the workplace, be it staff, clients, or anyone else.

Employees also have to do their due diligence to prevent the spread of disease. 

These basic standards may seem pretty straightforward, and indeed they are. But where it gets more complicated is the involvement of other regulations and how they intertwine with the primary responsibilities of both management and staff. 

Regulations involving team members’ right to refuse work in a dangerous situation are mandatory for managers to be aware of. Similarly, understanding Canada’s internal resolution process for health and safety complaints is vital to understand. You’ll find links to these in the resources section.

As a responsible employer, ensuring you have a database of information to track your team’s health risks is what most businesses and organizations are implementing. Under the law, there are only certain things that you, as the employer, can ask a team member.

We have summarized what an employer may request, in terms of information from the team member, in the interest of public safety. The following list is an excerpt from the Government of Canada website.

An Employer may request information from a team member if:

  1. If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in the workplace (so that you can be asked to go home to self-isolate).
  2. If you are undergoing COVID-19 testing and the result of that testing, and if you were present in the workplace while potentially infected.
  3. If you were in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, you must follow the direction of your local public health authority.
  4. Your vaccination status.

We’ll cover the easiest ways to gather and track this information in our implementation guide below.

Following, you will find the links to the Canadian Government’s latest information on these subjects.

Resources:

The Internal Resolution Process For Health And Safety Complaints

Employer and Employee Duties Under Part II of the Canada Labour Code

The United Kingdom

Regulation Summary

The regulations across the UK vary slightly, but there are six basic vital guidelines to follow as a business or organization. The following list excerpt comes right from the Gov.UK website.

1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19.

2. Provide adequate ventilation.

3. Clean more often.

4. Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms.

5. Enable people to check-in at your venue for contact tracing.

6. Communicate and train.

These guidelines are the immediately actionable steps recommended for factories, warehouses, and other similar work environments. The Government of the UK has graciously created guides for many different types of industry, so check out some of the resources below to find out more.

Resources:

Guidance for England

Guidance for Northern Ireland 

Guidance for Scotland

Guidance for Wales

The United States

Regulation Summary

The United States, for all its glory, can have a fairly divided opinion from one state to another. For this reason, it’s best to consult your local authorities for your rights and obligations, either as an employer, manager, or team member.

However, despite some shifting opinions on the extent of a business’s responsibilities to controlling viral spread, there are some basic principles that the OSHA has set forth, and you need to be aware of and comply with.

To summarize the information on the OSHA website, the following is an excerpt list of responsibilities the employer (and thus management) needs to be aware of and implement (if not already).

  1. Facilitate employees getting vaccinated. 
  2. Instruct any infected workers, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
  3. Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers. 
  4. Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE.
  5. Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and languages they understand.
  6. Suggest or require that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments and that all customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
  7. Maintain Ventilation Systems. 
  8. Perform routine cleaning and disinfection.
  9. Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths.
  10. Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.

(source: OSHA)

We’ve got a great plan below to help you implement these protocols from the OSHA, so continue to the next section to find out more. And remember, the ETS or Emergency Temporary Standard states companies have until December 5th to comply with OSHA legislation. This date may be delayed though, so if you haven’t set up your COVID-19 Action Plan yet, there may still be time. We talk about it more in the secondary protocol section of the implementation guide. Continue on for more.

Resources:

OSHA – Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

OSHA – Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

CDC – Vaccines For COVID-19


Now that you’ve got a handle on what’s required let’s look at a sample process for implementation. Due to the similarity of requirements and regulations across countries, you may find that this process works well for you, despite what country you reside in. However, we strongly recommend you consult with a lawyer or your local authorities to find out the particular regulations for your specific region or country.

Implementing A Covid-19 Awareness Program Into Your Operational Standards

Implementing a Covid-19 Vaccination and Testing Policy to your daily operations isn’t as daunting a task as you may think. We’re going to cover the process involved to help you ease your team members into the new policies your business will put in place.

In researching multiple industries, countries, and regulations, we’ve found that there are 11 essential steps to implementing your Covid-19 Awareness Program. Let’s quickly review these steps and get a bit more in-depth following the crucial list.

  1. Identify Key Variables
  2. Seek Legal Advice Where Necessary
  3. Define Your Policy And Standards
  4. Setup Secondary Protocols
  5. Notify Team Members 1 – Preliminary Notification
  6. Notify Team Members 2 – Secondary Notification
  7. Notify Team Members 3 – Request Survey Completion
  8. Follow Up Responses and Funnel Into Secondary Protocols
  9. Build A Database 
  10. Analyze Processes
  11. Stay Healthy and Operational

Identify Key Variables

The first step to implementing a COVID-19 Awareness Program is defining and understanding the critical variables that will affect implementation. For example, mapping out the different roles at your company and the risk each faces when dealing with the disease will aid you in constructing an action plan to deliver information to the highest risk factor first.

Similarly, understanding the required personal protective equipment (PPE) that each role will need to prevent disease and how that equipment will be dispersed following staff involvement in the program. 

All variables that will affect the plan implementation should be noted, categorized, and resolved before execution.

Seek Legal Advice Where Necessary

If the legislation in your region is unclear as to your responsibilities as an employer, then seek out your local authorities or even a lawyer to determine the extent of your legal obligations. Remember, the regulations can change from state to state or province to province, so selecting the particulars in your region is essential to your legal compliance.

Define Your Policy And Standards

Once you understand your obligations and those of your team members, it is time to write out and define your policy. Your policy will be documented and included in your company’s health and safety policy and should be readily available for all staff to read and understand. Similarly, once your policy is defined, you must establish the processes to manage the procedure and maintain staff compliance.

For many countries, using a digital reporting system such as a mobile form automation app like 1st Reporting offers is a great way to include an Employee Screening Form in a manageable cloud-based database. 

Setup Secondary Protocols

Secondary protocols to your system are vital to handling the different scenarios that will arise. For example, what do you direct your team to do in the case where a team member comes to work exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19? Or what if the person is a client? Defining how staff and management must react to potential and probable scenarios is vital to manage risk appropriately.

You will likely require procedures for the following scenarios:

  • Staff come to work exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms
  • Clients arrive exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms
  • A staff member calls in to tell you they have tested positive for COVID-19
  • A staff member refuses to become vaccinated
  • A staff member tells you they are fully vaccinated
  • A client refuses to wear a face mask or other company policy to prevent the spread of COVID-19

All of these scenarios are common in our new world, and as you have likely gleaned from the news over the last year, these scenarios can often lead to violence or the destruction of property. With such fast escalation, ensuring your secondary protocol is clear and concise is vital to maintaining staff and client safety while on your premises.

Special Consideration – Vaccination or Regular Testing?

When the United States OSHA launched the Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19, it took many states by surprise. The courts lit up with cries of dissent at the idea of the OSHA implementing a mandate that forces employers to ‘police’ staff vaccinations or tell them to stay home.

However, many companies are implementing such rules, and your secondary protocols have to reflect your business’s policy about staff vaccinations.

You may need to track staff vaccinations and request staff who refuse vaccination to complete regular testing for COVID-19 to comply with the policy. 

Ensure you check with your local authorities before instituting a ruling that could cause issues with legislation compliance in your region.

The ETS states that any business in the United States with over 100 employees (part-time and full time included) must have a mandatory written policy in place that says that all employees must seek complete vaccination if able. The written policy is to be implemented no later than December 5th, 2021.

(source)

The ETS also states that employees who are not willing or cannot receive vaccinations may elect to have weekly COVID-19 testing completed. The employer will require a database to maintain this weekly information, should the team member decide to take this route.

However, the ETS is currently being battled in court by several states, so that you can expect delays in the mandatory date requirements. The entire policy may not become law for a variety of reasons, but many businesses are finding it’s wise to prepare for what they feel to be an inevitable change in vaccination policy.

Given that the ETS states that businesses must have the policy in place by December 5th, it also means that companies must know their staff’s vaccination status prior to this date. For this reason, we strongly recommend using a digital information system, like a mobile form automation application like the 1st Reporting app – specially designed for fast data capture, storage, and retrieval. And with the built-in template library and customization options, you can make a COVID-19 information capture form in minutes to use at your company.

Notify Team Members 1 – Preliminary Notification

Like with so many other protocols in life, it’s a wise decision to plan for multiple-staged communication and notifications. We recommend sending out a message to your team describing your intention to create and implement a COVID-19 Action Plan (or Awareness Program, or any other name you find fitting).

Give your staff a head start by letting them know what is in the pipeline and coming their way. It will ease any transition in protocol and make it easier for your team members to digest the change.

Notify Team Members 2 – Secondary Notification

We think that once you have your draft of your plan together, it’s time to reach out to staff with a secondary notification. This notification will eliminate a large amount of those who skipped or junked the first notification. Also, it’s good to request feedback at this stage. Your plan isn’t finalized yet, and some staff members might have an excellent idea for you that could ease implementation, so asking for a response is a wise move.

Similarly, when you elicit a response from team members, you can track which ones respond. Those who do not respond may not have received the notification, and special delivery might be a requirement at this point. 

Prompt your staff for the third communication, which will request information (in countries where permitted) for you to start building a database.

Notify Team Members 3 – Request Survey Completion

If you are in a country like Canada where you are building a database of vaccinated staff versus those who are not, then the third communication should be the form request to elicit information about your team member’s vaccination status.

Similarly, you can use a site entry form to determine if staff entering the facility are symptomatic. We’ve got a Visitor/Employee Screening template that you can download today if you don’t want to use a digital solution like the 1st Reporting app.

Follow Up Responses and Funnel Into Secondary Protocols

During your secondary protocol creation phase, you should have considered the scenario where staff or guests are not fully vaccinated. Depending on the industry and country of operation, there may be very different protocols required in this scenario.

Following up on your health survey or team member screening forms, you may have a secondary process for those who are unvaccinated. Perhaps they must work from home or have to wear special PPE to enter the facility. Regardless, you’ll have to find out from your local authorities what the recommended and required courses of action here are but start by collecting as much data as you’re obligated to and build a database.

Build A Database 

We were talking about building a database to compile your team member’s information. Remember, this entire process aims to increase positive health and safety for your staff and guests, so you’ll want to maintain records but do so discreetly and sensibly, given the nature of the sensitive information being committed to the database.

Utilizing reporting applications that have inherent security strength, like those created by companies that are ISO certified (see the 1st Reporting App by EmAppetizer Inc – an ISO registered company), is vital to the security of data. That’s why so many businesses are letting go of a paper/pencil recording methodology and moving into the future of digital reporting. It’s so much easier to retrieve data, keep it secure from prying eyes, and run reports with a digital reporting solution, so we strongly recommend giving it a try.

Analyze Processes

Once you’ve got your processes set up, your forms in place, your secondary protocol laid out, and your master finished copy of your health and safety manual update ready, it’s time to launch into your operations.

With processes in place, you may want to spend some time analyzing the processes. Ask staff who directly work with the primary and secondary protocol to give feedback about how the system works. Get them to communicate their pain points and difficulties implementing the process. In doing so, you will gain invaluable insights into how you can make the protocol more efficient, effective, and easier to maintain. But, a digital reporting platform is where we’d recommend you start. After all, why start with outdated pen and paper when you can say goodbye to the filing cabinet and move into a more automated future?

Stay Healthy and Operational

The last phase of the COVID-19 process implementation is to ratify the system as needed, based on your analysis of the processes and maintain operational standards. It may take a bit of time to get used to, but after 2020 and 2021, it shouldn’t be too difficult for your team members to make some minor adjustments to their processes to accommodate the new health and safety plan.

Summary

We discussed current regulations in countries like Australia, Canada, The United Kingdom, and The United States; and gave some great directions to help you find your region’s particular guidelines.

The article emphasized creating an effective health and safety plan by following a realistic and comprehensive staged implementation approach.

We explained how to implement a COVID-19 Action Plan or process with the proper steps and time (analysis) spent on the different stages. The article also infers that tracking your staff’s vaccination status is crucial in creating effective health and safety plans regarding COVID-19 (when and where permitted by law).

Consult with your local authorities to understand the particular requirements your business needs to practice. Use a digital reporting system like the mobile form automation software by 1st Reporting to move your platform to a cloud-based secure environment.

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