Opening and Operating During COVID and What Lies Ahead

Bring People Back 850 x 500

Be Confident About Your Team’s Safety

EBE Website Logo No Quote Horizontal-1Laura Steinbrink, MBA LEED-AP
Contributor, Emerald Built Environments

As the year has rolled on, we have continued to develop our understanding of the impacts and threats of COVID-19.

While we were once sheltering in place and wiping off every package from the grocery store with bleach wipes, we've largely adapted as new knowledge has been gained. Now, even though many have been vaccinated, new strains of the virus erupt around the globe, borders remain closed to US citizens, and concerns about safety remain.

Whether you own or lease your space, reopening and operating at the workplace requires new policies and procedures. It can be extremely helpful to have a proven system to guide decisions and to prove to your employees and visitors that you have policies and procedures that will protect them. WELL has provided us a tool for exactly this.

WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management

The WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility Operations and Management is an evidence-based, third-party verified rating for all new and existing building and facility types focusing on operational policies, maintenance protocols, stakeholder engagement, and emergency plans.

Designed to empower owners and operators across large and small businesses alike to take the necessary steps in order to prioritize the health and safety of their staff, visitors and other stakeholders, the WELL Health-Safety Rating can help guide users in preparing their spaces for re-entry in a post-COVID-19 environment, instilling confidence in occupants and the broader community.

The rating, which consists of a subset of relevant features from the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL™) adapted for facility operations and management, was informed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but has broader applicability for supporting the long-term health and safety needs of people in a given space (WELL).

This Rating was released last year by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). They gathered a group of nearly 600 public health experts, virologists, government officials, academics, business leaders, architects, designers, building scientists and real estate professionals with the goal of developing a guidance and standard that the world could use to help prevent the spread of COVID. This team of experts recognized that safety within buildings, when we spend 90% of our time indoors, would be one of the most crucial aspects of controlling the disease and protecting the people.

Rating Factors

The WELL Health-Safety Rating is a subset of the WELL Building Standard, focused specifically on facilities operations and management during a public health crisis and will continue to be adapted as new information is gained as it is fundamentally an evidence-based rating system. The rating system includes 21 features across the following core areas, a minimum of 15 which need to be met:

  • Cleaning and Sanitization Procedures
  • Emergency Preparedness Programs
  • Health Service Resources
  • Air and Water Quality Management
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

Bring People Back Safely

If you are already open or preparing to bring your employees back and want to feel confident you're doing everything you can to provide a safe and healthy environment, consider how WELL Health-Safety can guide you.

Join us for a live discussion and our free webinar, Bring People Back Safely: Opening and Operating During COVID, on August 4 from 9 to 9:45 a.m.

Looking Ahead: Refocusing on Workplace Safety as COVID Variants Mutate

Masks copy

In 2020, not much took precedent over muddling through every challenge associated with the pandemic. In the midst of being reactive, it was easy to lose focus on larger, less immediate initiatives. Thankfully, as we continue to create proactive steps to address the current unknowns, we can start to refocus on the day-to-day processes and strategies that impact our workforce.  

One such initiative is workplace safety. As additional organizations begin returning to the workplace, it is more important than ever to foster a culture of well-being. Taking action steps to mitigate workplace incidents and employee injuries above and beyond COVID-19-related initiatives should be a priority.

Employers should start to revisit best practices in an effort to promote proper safety standards and mitigate workers’ compensation risks. Here are five tips that we suggest.

1. Refresh Supervisor Knowledge

Look to review company guidelines and protocols to ensure leaders are up to date and educated on any changes.

Provide supervisors with the tools to address any pre-existing or new response efforts to workplace incidents. Encourage team leaders to dialogue with staff so they understand the company’s position on proper procedures. Look to reintroduce any trainings or resources that may add additional benefit to individual contributors.

2. Emphasize Safety Accountability

Showcase the organization’s safety committee.  Ensure the group is composed of the correct representation throughout the organization.  Look to the committee to continue to monitor pandemic initiatives, however also challenge them to create comprehensive action-items to improve overall safety measures. 

Task the group with annually analyzing incident data to determine focus areas in need of further prevention initiatives.  Have the committee review new procedures to ensure feasibility and effectiveness. Review all recent guidelines against current practices to confirm measures have been implemented and are being followed. 

3. Involve the Remote Workforce

As remote work options become more prevalent, it is important to remember that employers can still take steps to promote health and safety outside of company workspace. 

Actively engage offsite personnel to participate in preventative goals and problem-solving. Amend alternative work arrangement policies to reflect continued safety expectations regardless of the work location. Create a safety self-certified checklist for offsite employees to complete in an effort to promote hazard awareness and prevention. Outline a communication plan specific to the remote workforce so employees understand applicable protocols for incidents or near-misses.  

4. Review Incident Response Procedures

Evaluate current investigation protocol to ensure the processes are still accurate. Address any lapses in injury response to better understand how to create a more efficient practice.

Identify the best strategic approach to incidents to remain consistent with any new federal agency guidelines or recommendations. Re-educate the employee population on proper notification procedures when an incident occurs. 

5. Partner with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC)

Know that the BWC is not the enemy! The agency has many resources for employers to attempt to assist with mitigating risk.  Programs are available for employers throughout the state that look to promote employee well-being and safety.

Most recently the BWC has begun the “We’ve Got You Covered” initiative that provides face masks to employers at no cost. They also have programs such as “Better You, Better Ohio,” which is a health and wellness program aimed at smaller employers to assist with promoting a healthy workforce. 

In addition, the BWC’s division of Safety and Hygiene provides a variety of services and resources to assist with creating a safer workplace.  Employers have the opportunity to participate in safety consultations. These are non-enforced, confidential consultations that can assist with identifying potential workplace hazards. The goal of these programs is to provide aid to companies that may need additional help in ensuring the identification and removal of environmental stressors that can impact the workforce.

Encourage safety representatives within your organization to research the resources available through the agency. These programs and initiatives can lead to improved safety programming and fewer employee incidents. 

Here to Help

By taking steps to reignite broad-based initiatives, companies can begin to heal from the effects of 2020. ERC is here to assist in that recovery.  As we move forward together, ERC will continue to provide resources aimed at strengthening workforce initiatives and strategy. 

To learn more about safety and workers’ compensation, please join us for our webinar, Ohio Workers' Compensation & Unemployment: Who Do I Call? Where Do I Begin?, on April 14, 2021 at 9 a.m.

Protect Your Workplace—5 Frequently Asked Workplace Violence Questions

Workplace Violence: 5 Frequently Asked Questions

Every year, nearly 2 million American workers are reported victims of workplace violence. Workplace violence covers a wide range of acts or threats that are disruptive to the inside or outside of a workplace. Exposure to workplace violence or a lack of security may lower employees’ morale, leaving them feeling disengaged and unproductive. This is a rapidly growing concern for organizations worldwide, and we encourage seeking proper training to prevent and protect employees from possibly hostile situations.

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6 FAQs About the Ohio Medical Marijuana Bill on Employers

Medical Marijuana

House Bill 523 passed by Governor John Kasich on June 8, 2016 legalizes medical marijuana use in Ohio. Effective September 6, 2016, authorized licensed physicians are able to recommend the use of medical marijuana to someone with a qualifying medical condition which consists for chronic and severe illnesses. Under this bill, consumption is limited to oil, edibles, and patches.

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OSHA's Top 10 Safety Violations for 2012

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced the top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for  2012. The list includes the following:

  1. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) Total violations: 7,250
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) Total violations: 4,696
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451) Total violations: 3,814
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) Total violations: 2,371
  5. Ladders (1926.1053) Total violations: 2,310
  6. Machine Guarding (1910.212) Total violations: 2,097
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) Total violations: 1,993
  8. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) Total violations: 1,744
  9. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) Total violations: 1,572
  10. Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303) Total violations: 1,332

Additional Safety Training

ERC offers the following Safety Training solutions:

  • OSHA 10 and 30 hour voluntary compliance
  • Lockout/Tagout
  • Hazard Communications
  • Electrical Awareness
  • Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Permit Required Confined Space Entry
  • Fall Protection
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Forklift Operator Training
  • HAZwoper

For more information on safety training, contact Pete Bednar at 440-947-1293 or

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