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Itasca, IL – The National Safety Council commends its home state of Illinois and the City of Chicago for releasing detailed strategies for reopening businesses post-quarantine and shelter-in-place directives. The manner in which we return Americans to their traditional work environments and routines will – in large part – define our national response to a pandemic that has upended our lives and forever changed how our nation approaches workplace safety.
However, the state and city guidance is just that – guidance. It will not be enough for employers to protect worker safety and health. To avoid a second wave of COVID-19 infections and prevent another shut down while supporting the workforce, employers must prioritize three key issues: testing, contact tracing and mental health.
If employers cannot test their employees, contractors and visitors, they are doing a disservice to those they serve and the public at large. Testing must be widespread – and widely available – before employers open their doors. Federal guidance should be followed, but it is the floor – not the ceiling. Employers must go beyond this guidance, because now is not the time for minimum.
Containing every communicable disease effectively requires adequate and diligent tracing. Employers are on the front lines for successful tracing. Workplaces may inadvertently provide places for virus transmission, and contact tracing among co-workers becomes a key to prevent further spread.
The coronavirus crisis has impacted mental health in both clear and unseen ways, and will continue to do so as the crisis evolves and beyond. Because employees may not realize the impact stress has on their mental health and wellbeing, every return-to-work strategy must include assistance for employees to address mental health. That means leveraging employee assistance programs (EAPs), providing employees with contact information for mental health services, and openly acknowledging and discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health.
The goal of reopening is not simply to restart the economy. If employers aren’t sure they can bring employees back safely, they should consider whether it’s the right time to bring them back. We must ensure a sustainable and lasting economic recovery and keep workers both available and safe. To help employers determine if they are ready, NSC has developed playbooks and resources through its SAFER initiative. We encourage employers everywhere to leverage these free guidelines and tips, developed thanks to insight from the country’s leading safety and health professionals, companies, public health organizations, legal professionals, nonprofits and government entities. Additional information is available at nsc.org/safer.
About the National Safety Council The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.
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