11 communication tips from OSHA

Looking to communicate about workplace safety during the COVID-19 outbreak? Where better to turn than the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration?

OSHA workplace safety tips

As you design your back-to-work plan, here are some tips from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA offers a wealth of information in its 35-page Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.

Just interested in the comms-related advice? Don’t worry, we’ve scoured the document for key suggestions for busy communicators.

Some crucial points, according to OSHA, that communicators must consider:

1. Promote employee self-monitoring. Inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure. Encourage sick employees to stay home. (There’s a handy self-checker at the link, for all us hypochondriacs.)

2. Keep them informed about pay, leave, safety, health and other issues that may arise during infectious disease outbreaks. Provide appropriate training, education and informational material about business-essential job functions and worker health and safety.

“Informed workers who feel safe at work are less likely to be unnecessarily absent,” OSHA states.

3. Keep it virtual. Minimize contact among workers, clients, and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications and implementing telework if feasible.

4. Address questions. Developing emergency communications plans, including a forum for answering workers’ concerns and internet-based communications, if feasible.

5. Train them. Provide workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors. This includes cough etiquette and care of personal protective equipment.

Train workers who must use protecting clothing and equipment how to put it on, wear it, use it properly and take it off correctly. This should be done with an eye to their current and future duties.

“Training material should be easy to understand and available in the appropriate language and literacy level for all workers,” OSHA says.

6. Find alternate ways to reach them in a crisis. Develop emergency communications plans, including a forum for answering workers’ concerns and internet-based communications, if feasible.

7. Stay informed. Monitor public health communications about COVID-19 recommendations and ensure that workers have access to that information. Frequently check the CDC COVID-19 website.

Comms department should then “collaborate with workers to designate effective means of communicating important COVID-19 information,” OSHA says.

8. Get help from your health care partners. Work with the insurance company providing employee health benefits, as well as state and local health agencies, to offer information to workers and customers about medical care in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

9. Inform workers about on-site care. Communicate the availability of medical screening or other worker health resources. Do you have a nurse on site? Do you offer telemedicine services? How many of your employees know that?

10. Communicate to customers. Don’t forget those sneezy folks wandering your stores. Inform them about symptoms of COVID-19 and ask those who are sick to minimize contact with workers until healthy again.

For example, post signs about COVID-19 in pharmacies where sick customers may visit, and include information in automated messages sent when prescriptions are ready for pick up.

Also, consider strategies to minimize face-to-face contact, including drive-through windows and phone-based communication.

11. Keep international employees apprised. Warn workers abroad that the State Department cannot provide Americans abroad with medications or supplies, even in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.


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