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Risk Assessment: How to monitor contagion risk at your manufacturing plant?

As lockdowns lift and workers return to work, there is a semblance of normalcy. However, this sense of false comfort is exactly that—flawed. New variants and delayed vaccine rollout plans mean we’re not out of the woods just yet. 

 

Amidst such uncertainty, few industries like manufacturing and food processing are holding down the fort, learning to thrive in this stark reality: What if someone tests positive and the plant is fully shut down. 

 

While such fears are not misplaced, there is a way to manage the risk of coronavirus on an ongoing basis. By actively assessing risk and adopting mitigation strategies, business leaders can proactively minimize the impact of the virus on the workplace.

 

In this article, we unpack how you can assess and manage risk in your workplace to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on your business operations. 

 

How to assess risk in your business

Risk assessment provides business owners with an objective evaluation of the threat, eliminating uncertainties in the number of affected workers while determining the level of risk exposure. Risk assessment plays a critical role in improving safety in the workplace, mitigating accidents, and also improving outcomes. Risk assessment is meant to be done continually to keep your business safe. 

 

Industries such as medical facilities, hospitals, food industries, and social services are often in search of new ways to control COVID-19 risks within their facilities given the sensitivity of operations and output. Also, many companies in this industry have a great number of workers within their facilities meaning the impact of the spread of the virus would be significant across several departments.

 

There are different methods for assessing risks and they may differ in application from industry to industry such as the use of industrial hygiene tools, proper PPE, temperature screening check, and contact tracing strategies

 

In the existing scenario, dynamic risk assessment is the right way forward since it allows businesses to be agile and flexible in the face of changing environments. Dynamically assessing risk also helps create and develop an ongoing feedback loop that is time-sensitive and collaborative.

 

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What is a dynamic risk assessment?

 

The process of risk assessment is not a one-off exercise but is meant to be inculcated into the regular ongoing dialogue and feedback loop between employers, trade unions, and workforce representatives. Industry members ought to identify the measures that work and adopt the necessary mitigation measures.

 

Dynamic risk assessment is not a plug-and-play process or a one-and-done exercise but expects business owners and managers to review and manage risks frequently and on a regular basis.

 

As a business, you need to collate risk assessment results and draft actionable plans aimed at preventing a COVID-19 outbreak in your facility.

 

Recommendations to properly monitor risk:

  • Utilizing expertise

Since business owners and employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their workforce, they can employ the skills, training, and expertise of safety health professionals. Such recruitment is usually outsourced since external specialists are better equipped to suggest process-level improvements that can help mitigate risks. 

  • Be empathetic and communicate with your employees 

Worker safety measures will prove to be ineffective if employees are unaware of best practices or choose to flout workplace rules. As a business owner or manager, you need to actively communicate the measures you have undertaken for their safety and ensure that they adhere to rules.

 

Newly returning workers can be apprehensive about their safety. But unequivocal reassurance and demonstration of mitigation measures can go a long way in assuring employee safety in your workplace.

 

The measure implemented should be subjected to constant review as updates from public health and safety guidelines become available. All of these updates should be properly shared and communicated across all staff platforms and in weekly team meetings. 

  • Reinforcing physical distancing measures

To prevent the virus from spreading, careful consideration must also be given to other parts of the workplace where there is scope for people to congregate in groups without maintaining social distancing. Employers must assess other high-risk areas where people share communal spaces on-site such as toilet facilities, staff and changing rooms, canteens, smoking areas, and hygiene stations.

 

For example, controlling the spread of COVID-19 can be monitored by using Safeteams’ social distancing and zone tracing features. Also, staff should be reminded of the mandatory requirement to wear face coverings in indoor communal areas, including staff canteens and corridors.

  • Updating workforce training and compliance methods

Companies should set up workforce training for their staff where they would communicate organization-specific actions that have been put in place to mitigate the virus. The training must promote and support physical distancing enhanced hygiene and the wearing of face coverings. They should also set out the expectations of staff in ensuring compliance with these measures.

 

Staff who undertake the cleaning of the premises should also be part of the training. While sensitizing your staff, carry out an induction process covering any new or enhanced hygiene and physical distancing measures and the wearing of face coverings.

This induction process can:

  • help demonstrate a commitment to taking the risks of COVID-19 seriously

  • build workforce confidence that they are returning to a safe workplace

  • reinforce staff responsibilities

Companies can also set up a structure for monitoring staff compliance and operational arrangement

 

Measuring Risk assessment methods

Tracking the results of your safety protocols in place can occur by collecting and analyzing data. But it doesn’t stop there. To get the best result, you need to leverage this data after it’s been collected to continuously improve program performance and drive safer outcomes.

Here are several metrics that you should consider when collecting data:

  • Training sessions completed 

  • Hazards reported 

  • Safety meetings attended by each employee 

  • Plant shutdown time

  • Repercussions of an employee testing positive for COVID-19

 

To successfully track your safety performance, you must have the right kinds of data collected in your management system. It is important that these data are collated regularly and accurately.

 

If you want to achieve this, you need to involve participation from the frontline workers as they are in the best place to capture critical data. As you communicate the importance of your operation, your workers will be able to actively contribute and participate in the safety process.

 

To get the best results, forward-thinking companies have opted for automated contact tracing solutions to gather accurate and analyze employees’ movement and interaction data. This way, it is very easy to prevent the spread of the virus if someone were to catch COVID-19 within the workspace. Most contact tracing solutions will generate reports, doing all the work for you in a simple click, improving operational efficiency while lowering overall costs. 

 

Conclusion

Safeteams can help you monitor the contagion risk for your business by providing real-time reports on employee interactions, assessing high-traffic zones in your facility, and even proactively measuring risks due to frequent interactions between employees. Managing COVID-19 risks requires time, accuracy, and precision, and adopting an automated contact tracing solution will help you dynamically reduce risk to keep your workers safe.

 

Looking to build a safer environment for your workforce through dynamic risk management? Fill out this form to talk with one of our experts.

 

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