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Five vital questions you need to ask before you go back to work.

People are sick of quarantine. Over the past few months thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets demanding the re-opening of businesses. It’s not just employees; business owners are increasing hours of operation and bringing employees back to the workplace. Meanwhile, national cases of coronavirus are at an all time high after weeks of holding steady. Whether or not you’re an essential worker, or if your finances are aching, is it really safe to go back to work? 

It just may be. According to health experts, a safe workplace hinges on two things–an honest-to-goodness risk assessment and your plan of attack

The World Health Organization–widely considered a top authority despite recent political attacks–has the risk assessment down to a science, categorizing risk into three levels: low, medium, and high. Factors to consider are how much distance employees can keep from one another (we’ve all heard about the 6’ rule), actual exposure to the virus (think a crowded ER compared to classroom, compared to the stay-at-home telemarketer), and finally, whether you personally have special reason to keep COVID-19 at bay. Keeping those in mind, here are the questions you should be asking to keep yourself safe at work.

  1. Has a risk assessment been completed? Your employer should determine whether your workspace is at low, medium, or high risk, and the assessment should include input from you. Ask your employer if a risk assessment has been completed, and if the answer is no, ask for one.
  1. What is the level of risk? Now that the assessment has been made, review it and be sure you and your employer agree on the level of risk. If you disagree, speak up and give evidence why. For example, if your employer determines the workplace is medium risk and all employees must wear a mask, but you work the night shift alone, ask about shifting your risk level down.
  1. What changes are being made to address the risk? Once you know your risk level, now what? Plan of attack time! For low risk jobs, the WHO doesn’t recommend any changes at all. But for medium and high risk jobs, WHO recommends you give that virus a fight: frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer, disinfecting high use surfaces after every use, employing the trusty elbow for coughs and sneezes, taking a break from high risk services, and yes, wearing gloves, goggles and masks. You and your employer should have a detailed plan in place that makes you feel safe.
  1. Am I especially susceptible? Maybe your job is low or medium risk for others, but you have an underlying health condition, you’re over 60, or pregnant, or you’re caring for someone who is high risk. Make sure the plan of attack takes your personal situation into account.
  1. What are my responsibilities as an employee? Now here’s a question the truly smart people are asking themselves. Let your employer know if you see something risky, ‘cuz everyone gotta work together. Maybe surfaces aren’t getting disinfected because the cleaning bottle is empty, or maybe you notice one of your co-workers isn’t taking the guidelines seriously. Speak up. And keep this in mind, complications from corona virus can be fatal, and there isn’t enough science yet to make reliable predictions; therefore, you have the right to remove yourself from any situation that seems risky to you.

Stay home if you can, but if you must go back to work, these five questions just might save your life.

Do you feel safe at your workplace? Why or why not? Are you able to stay at home, or do you need to go back to work? Tell us your story, below.

Resources

https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-tips-for-health-and-safety-at-the-workplace-in-the-context-of-covid-19?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzM3xxZDL6gIVlh6tBh2q7Qn5EAAYASAAEgLSpfD_BwE

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/06/america-giving-up-on-pandemic/612796/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/05/graphic-tracking-coronavirus-infections-us/