Addressing the Coronavirus in Factories (Outside of China)

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With the recent outbreak of coronavirus, novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), we know everyone is on high alert. Many of  factories and workplaces have extended holidays and others are just now returning to work and worried about what could happen next.   Even if you think your workers are not at risk, with so much unknown, it is never a bad idea to take extra precautions.  Large populations of people, like factories can feel stressed and worried about contagion during a crisis.

Supporting workers and ensuring a healthy and safe working environment is critical to reducing risks and maintaining production levels throughout this crisis.

Below we discuss five steps that you may consider enacting while communities are still at high alert: Prevent, Prepare, Inform, Educate and Listen. We’ve also provided resources throughout the article to help you and your team.

Listen to a webinar by our partners’ Workplace Options and ISOS: “Building Psychological Immunity During the Coronavirus Outbreak." To listen to the recording click the links below:

PREVENT

The first thing to do is prevent an outbreak of the virus from starting at your workplace. Take the following steps to make sure workers don’t bring the virus to work.

  • Institute and communicate clear policies about people with the flu or flu like symptoms
  • If a worker is infected with the virus, or has been in direct contact with someone who has symptoms of the virus they should be denied access to work and sent home for isolation and advised to see a doctor
  • If a worker recently returned from a trip to Wuhan, China during (or just prior to) the outbreak, consider whether the employee ought to be sent home for isolation.
  • Workers with a fever should not come to work.
  • Identify people who may be at risk and ensure they seek medical care and stay home and away from work while they are sick.
  • Ensure that all work travel follows government travel advice and bans
  • If workers have not all returned from Chinese New Year, have a plan to identify workers who may have been in contact with someone who has the symptoms of the virus.
    • Use WOVO surveys to gather information in advance (ask your client adviser for example questions)

PREPARE

Preparation is key to avoid the spread of the virus. With large populations of people at a factory, extra precautions may need to be taken to ensure a healthy and safe working environment. Consider enacting the following measures:

  • Provide flu-prevention supplies, such as anti-bacteria soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, trash baskets, and face-masks.
  • If you have an on-site clinic, make sure your health professionals have the necessary resources and are up to date on care protocol
  • Prepare for absences
    • Create a plan for checking and monitoring workers who are absence because of the flu. Use WOVO surveys to reach out to them and collect data.
  • Identify a place that can be used for sick people
  • Consider increasing the space between workers on the line. Health experts say that creating 1 meter of distance between workers can decrease the spread of the flu.
  • Consider doing a deep clean of the workplace. Make sure to use anti-bacteria soap to kill germs.
  • Consider canceling work events
  • Make sure that those preparing food continue to follow health guidelines.
  • Create communication plan for if a worker is identified as having the virus and ensure that local authorities are alerted.
  • Get help from an outside adviser

INFORM

Workers, especially those who have not yet returned to work, may be extremely nervous about how the coronavirus will impact their health and job. Make sure to continuously communicate with workers on what you are doing to keep them safe.  Increased communication will also help ensure more workers return to work following the extended holiday.

  • Remind workers, using WOVO, of standard health guidelines for keeping workers healthy, including not coming to work when they are sick, washing their hands and wearing masks.
  • Use WOVO newsletters to communicate to workers your plan and what you are doing to address the current outbreak.
  • If workers are away from work, don’t forget that you can still connect with them using WOVO. Reach out and keep them updated on new developments, like when your facility will reopen and transportation.
  • Use WOVO Broadcast Messages to get the information out quickly. For example:
    • When an emergency happens and an urgent action needs to be taken
    • A new development of the pandemic that everyone needs to know immediately
    • A new action/policy adopted by the government or the company that employees need to be informed about on a timely manner. For example, change of working hours, leave policies or HSE protocol

EDUCATE

Not being informed or receiving outdated information during a pandemic increase workers’ uncertainty and stress. It is important to keep workers informed about the facts and actions they can take at home to stay healthy. The information management sends to workers should be updated, accurate and concise. Remember, you are not the expert of the pandemic. Check reliable sources like the World Health Organization (visit daily for updates and information) and use links within your posts to help workers identify fact verses fiction.

LISTEN

Pandemics are scary and make many people anxious. If your company is put on a temporary shutdown, your employees may need additional support and assurance in order to stay calm and retained. If your company resumes production amid speculation of an outbreak, your employees may be more prone to emotional turbulence, stress and conflicts. Use WOVO to encourage them to speak up, address their concerns and provide resources with psychological support:

  • Send out broadcast messages to let workers know that management is listening and here to help
  • Use Connect to address to workers’ questions and requests or to point them to the correct authorities
  • Ensure cases with Emergency Trigger Words get addressed with priority
  • Conduct Survey to quickly get updates about their situations, whereabouts and concerns
  • Send out a Newsletter or update My Company to list tips on how to cope with stress
  • Use data from Reporting to take targeted preventative or remedial actions

If you need templates for any of the newsletters, broadcasts or surveys suggested above reach out to your client adviser.

This is a time that requires understanding, collaboration and trust among everyone at the company. The Labor Solutions team is here to help. If you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to share them with us, either through your Client Advisor or via the HelpDesk button on your WOVO Dashboard.