Safety and OSHA News

Re-opening after coronavirus: Safety checks before work starts

The closure and production cuts for businesses during the coronavirus pandemic are unprecedented.

So restarting and re-adding capacity will be unprecedented also. We don’t know when and how this will happen.

From a safety standpoint, there are plans you can make now.

Staffing

Will your workforce look the same as before COVID-19?

If businesses ramp up gradually, some employees may be missing because the virus is still spreading (to a lesser extent) or because of on-going childcare complications.

Ask yourself if Joe or Jane who volunteer to jump in on a job they don’t know or haven’t done for quite some time have all the safety knowledge they need to avoid injury.

It’s a good time to review job hazard analyses with employees.

Restarting equipment

OSHA’s lockout/tagout standard includes requirements for releasing machines or equipment before restoring energy and using it:

  • Machine inspection: Have tools and other nonessential items been removed and are all components operationally intact?
  • Positioning of employees: Are all employees safely positioned or removed from the area? Have affected employees been notified of the restart?
  • Lockout and tagout device removal: Each device must be removed by the employee who applied it.

Air quality and disinfection

Buildings that weren’t closed properly and weren’t maintained during closure could pose health hazards to returning employees.

If HVAC hasn’t been running as it normally would, relative humidity in the building hasn’t been controlled. This creates the conditions for mold and moisture damage.

Best bet: Operate HVAC as close to normal as possible during shutdown, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

The AIHA also warns water that sits stagnant for an extended period in water mains, building plumbing lines and water heaters loses residual chlorine disinfectant which increases the risk for Legionella colonization.

Before re-occupancy, and often afterward, clean and disinfect interior occupied space, furnishings and machinery. Particularly, companies that have open seating (employees don’t have permanent workstations) will have to keep on top of this.

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