COVID-19 presents unique threat to manufacturers. Software for symptom monitoring, tracing, testing and vaccination verification is crucial.
Any case of COVID-19 in the workplace, no matter where it’s contracted, poses potential financial, legal, and reputational consequences for the organization. As the Biden Administration gives a larger role to OSHA and workplace scrutiny, businesses will need to prepare for potential fines, inspections, and bad press.
Manufacturers face the biggest challenges present in the COVID-19 era pandemic. Personnel undergo the most viral exposure and risks for spreading the disease since employees may be performing physical labor in warmer environments with suboptimal ventilation. The likelihood of distancing and masking on a large open floor comes into question; the space itself might pose a challenge for contract tracing efforts and direct supervision for mask compliance. In addition, differences in language, lifestyle and education are dangerous barriers for conveying new safety measures. What’s more, because manufacturers create essential products, it’s not possible to close down temporarily or work remotely, so they must maintain nearly pre-pandemic staffing levels.
Before mass vaccinations become the norm, what can manufacturers do now to preempt COVID-19 cases and keep employees healthy? The first priority is to educate about the potential risk factors, and create a culture of safety. Beyond hearing the number of COVID-19 death and cases in their city or state, it’s important to know the why behind changing behaviors, protocols or performing additional safety practices.
America is built on a spirit on independence and individual liberty but it has also survived numerous challenges by people’s spirit of togetherness. While mask wearing and distancing are vital in the workplace, employees need to understand the importance of these rules (which can be difficult to enforce if there are no state or local mandates).
Based on successful COVID-19 related education, employers can then move to creating and enforcing effective safety rules for COVID-19 prevention and recognition.
According to CDC guidelines, individuals with signs of COVID-19 should report their symptoms to their employer. How this reporting happens varies from self-reporting to formalized daily questionnaires required of employees. Self-reporting is not ideal and there are a lot of variables that could go wrong; the most effective questionnaires need to continuously updated to reflect local and national guidelines, understandable, thorough and easy to use.
Specially designed software solutions are the optimal way to capture and store information regarding COVID-19 symptoms for large numbers of individuals. These products can be updated to accommodate changing local and national guidelines, and their answers can be retained for legal purposes, documentation, or crucial contact tracing.
If an organization is large enough, a proportion of its members will definitively develop COVID-19 cases. Therefore, the detection and prevention of associated cases is crucial. The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 cases in this setting is surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals for the presence of COVID-19. While testing every individual on a regular basis can be expensive, strategic pooled testing can be tremendously valuable and less costly.
Multiple strategies can enhance the efficacy of surveillance testing for an organization. Testing can be targeted to those with exposure to multiple other individuals in the workplace, whereas individuals working from a remote location or those in an office with little interaction may need less surveillance.
Additionally, a contract tracing program should also be integrated into the surveillance program to prevent individual cases from becoming full blown outbreaks. New software systems can perform this function for companies and vastly decrease the administrative burden, given the statistical likelihood of eventual COVID-19 cases within large organizations. Effective tracing initiatives with an understanding of workforce movement can be implemented when cases occur and assist in seeing where groups need quarantine, extra testing, or early training of other individuals.
The next “must-have” plan for businesses in the COVID-19 era is vaccine verification, and companies will need to confirm and document which individuals have been sufficiently vaccinated. This task will be increasingly challenging since some approved vaccinations require two separate shots (while it has yet to be approved, the JNJ vaccine will only require one shot). Vaccinated individuals may pose less of a risk, although companies will have to strictly follow public health guidelines which may require more monitoring and testing individuals. Again, integrating with smart software solutions can minimize a great deal of effort in achieving this ambition.
Even with the advent of vaccinations, the effect of COVID-19 will not be over and companies still need to take strict precautions. Understanding the threats of this disease as well as the potential strategies and technologies to combat these challenges will allow companies to optimize their productivity, workforce health, and their brand for now and the foreseeable future.
Dr. Soumi Eachempati is the Co-Founder and CEO of Chelsea Health Solutions and Cleared4. Dr. Eachempati brings a wealth of experience in the health care sector to this position. After being on the faculty of Duke Medical Center, he was appointed to the faculty of Weill Cornell Medical in New York City for 20 years and attained the prestigious rank of Professor of Surgery and Public Health. At Cornell, he was Chief of Trauma Services and Director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. He also was heavily involved in the education of residents and students. He served on other multiple committees within the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital network and the Weill Cornell Medical College including those involved with disaster management, approval of clinical research, and medical ethics. In his medical career, he performed over 7000 operations and authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and editorials. He also authored a textbook entitled, Acute Cholecystitis, the study of gallbladder and biliary disease. He reviewed publications for multiple medical journals and served on the editorial board of Surgical Infections. He also was elected the President of the New York Chapter of the American College of Surgeons and served on the Board of Governors of the American College of Surgeons.