COVID-19 has kept U.S. citizens at-home since March 2020. Now that states are beginning to reopen, employers want to get their workers back in the office. But there are concerns about how to go about making sure employees are safe.
There are no formal guidelines on how to work on location within a post-COVID-19 world. There have only been four influenza pandemics during the last century, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The deadly “Spanish Flu” of 1918 was followed by the milder “Asian” and “Hong Kong” flus of the 1950s and 1960s. The SARS outbreak in 2003 was considered a pandemic scare and the H1N1 outbreak of 2009 rose to the level of a pandemic. COVID-19 joined this group on March 11, 2020.
While this is new territory, it makes sense that employers should lead the way in testing as employers already have a direct hand in their workers’ health. In the United States, companies provide 49% of insurance coverage. Making the workplace healthy and safe post-COVID-19 is at the top of the priority list for many businesses.
Testing to Keep Workers Healthy
There have more than 32 million people tested for COVID-19 and more than 3 million reported positive since the outbreak began. Along with cleaning and disinfecting your building, such as wiping down surfaces and objects and disinfecting with EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19, many companies are looking into testing workers’ health as they return to work. There are at least three ways to do accomplish this task.
Viral tests take samples from the respiratory system, such as a swab from the inside of the nose, to tell if an employee currently is infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. A viral test requires lab work to determine if an employee has COVID-19. Some tests are point-of-care tests, meaning results might be available at the testing site in less than an hour. Other tests must be sent to a laboratory to analyze, a process that takes 1–2 days once received by the lab, according to the CDC.
Employers can take the lead with this testing, offering it onsite to manufacturing or healthcare workers or asking employees to take on the testing themselves, providing proof of the results. The volume of testing done is determined largely by industry. Healthcare workers, for example, might initially require daily testing, while others might initially require weekly testing. All positive results would have to be reported for the local healthcare officials.
Simple, straightforward surveys are another way to manage employees’ health during the outbreak. Self-screening mobile health forms, like the one offered by Arcoro, ask employees simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions before they clock into work. The form first asks employees whether they are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath; and second, whether they have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or medical official. If the worker answers “yes” to any of these questions, they are advised to leave the worksite and seek medical attention. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance for employers confirming they can legally screen employees regarding COVID-19 symptoms and require workers to leave the workplace if they are sick.
Employers can protect employees by conducting temperature screenings. If employers go in this direction, the CDC recommends protecting the screeners through social distancing and using physicals barriers and PPE to minimize exposure. For example:
- Ask the employees to take their own temperature when they arrive at the workplace. Confirm it is less than 100.4 F and make a visual inspection from six feet away for signs of illness, i.e., flushed cheeks and fatigue.
- During the screening, have the screener stand behind a barrier like a glass or plastic window or partition that protects the screener’s face. Use a fresh pair of disposable gloves for each employee tested and clean the thermometer between each check. The exception is to use a non-contact thermometer, which the screener should clean according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Use PPE if social distancing or barrier controls cannot be used during the screening process. However, the CDC warns that relying on PPE alone isn’t as effective as using social distancing or barriers.
Examples of Workplace Employee COVID-19 Testing
- Amazon tests its fulfillment center workers every two weeks. According to CNBC, employees will test themselves with nasal swabs, with a clinical professional supervising. The company also plans to develop standalone diagnostic labs at several of its distribution center sites to analyze the samples.
- San Francisco partnered with a private testing company to provide testing for city employees, contractors and other essential workers with symptoms, according to Kaiser Health News.
- Titan Roofing of Springfield, Mass., an Arcoro customer, uses the self-screening mobile health form in tandem with its time clock app. The mobile form allows the construction company to comply with guidelines and procedures issued by the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
- Rosen Hotels & Resorts, which has eight hotels in the Orlando, Fla.-area, plans to have employees regularly fill out a survey about their health and travel history, according to Kaiser Health News. The hotel chain will also take employees’ temperature when they arrive, and those with temperatures above 100.4°F will not be allowed on the worksite.
- CVS Health has been taking its 300,000 employees’ temperature in pharmacies and retail stores since April, according to the New York Times. Those employees with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher are sent home.
How does COVID-19 Testing Comply With the ADA?
Considering the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits any employer from making disability-related inquiries and requiring medical examinations of employees, it may seem employer-led COVID-19 testing is against the law. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance on April 23 on the ADA concerning coronavirus. The agency stated that employers may screen employees for COVID-19. The stipulations to testing are that it must be job-related and consistent with business necessity, according to SHRM.
Readiness Check to Reopen
Currently, there are no official guidelines for testing workers for COVID-19. But the CDC does offer a checklist for businesses that are looking to reopen.
The checklist includes ways to prevent and reduce transmission among employees, as well as how to maintain healthy business operations and a healthy work environment. It includes items like providing employees access to current information, reinforcing how employees can protect themselves, plans for daily health checks, conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace, and developing a plan if one of your employees tests positive for COVID-19.
Arcoro is dedicated to helping its customers protect their employees. We added a self-screening mobile health form to our time and attendance app at no additional cost. The questions appear just after workers enter their PIN and before they clock in to begin work. The COVID-19 mobile health form is available to new and existing users of the Arcoro time clock app and will be implemented upon request. Customers that wish to turn on this form should contact Customer Service. All other companies are invited to see a demonstration of this functionality.