Safe Building Practices

Approaches to Reducing Risks to Safety at Work

Around the world safety codes, regulations, and building policies are designed to keep those working and living in buildings safe, secure, and to ensure they have access to all needed necessities. Some buildings, such as laboratories, have additional requirements to address risks from chemicals and biological materials. Building sites have requirements to protect from falling objects and other hazards. As we transition from a fully remote, height of the pandemic mindset to a post-pandemic return to work, let us review some of the recommendations made to help keep you and other employees safe at the office.

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) have recommended that employees keep items such as masks, tissues, and hand sanitizer at hand while in the office to ensure that they can readily be used when needed. [1] Employees are encouraged to continue to work remotely if they have a fever or other symptoms or if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Continuing to maintain safe distances is also recommended in addition to avoiding contact with other employees’ “phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment.”

Image of women wearing mask and quote from article.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has included, free for download from their website, a “COVID-19 Back-to-work Checklist” which can assist returning employees prepare for the transition. [2] The recommendations include implementing employee screening procedures and developing an exposure-response plan. Employers should also consider how customers will be welcomed into the office, will they be permitted to visit the office and under what safe practices? And finally, policies on employee travel with consideration of potential risks associated with the COVID-19 virus should be developed.

Looking to the future, standards organizations and local and international agencies are considering what changes and standards may need to be developed to enhance our resiliency. Preventing or slowing the spread of future outbreaks and better managing them to reduce fatalities and disruptions to education, employment, and supply chains.

On April 28th, ISO along with many organizations celebrated World Day for Safety and Health by highlighting the actions that can be taken today to better prepare for tomorrow. [3] These included incorporating flexibility and agility into strategic and continuity planning and incorporating remote work fully into long term staff employment plans. ASTM International has coordinated with other standards developers, a collaboration forum on personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure that equipment can be safe, protective, and consider issues such as sustainability. [4] And the U.S. Small Business Administration has developed a template that businesses can use to create a business resiliency plan. [5]

As conversations continue, we expect standards development in the building, health, and other industries to incorporate elements of resilience against future pandemics into their current and newly developed standards and invite those working in these areas to contribute their insights and stories to the Women in Standards.

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