COVID-19: Workplace safety
Updated 04:25, 14-Jan-2021
Hendrik Sybrandy

For nearly a year now, Micro Center, a computer store chain with an outlet in Colorado, has stayed open and stayed as safe as it possibly can. When it comes to customers…

"We offer them gloves, face masks, we sanitize their hands when they come in," said Skip Dwyer, Micro Center District Manager. 

Workers were a priority for the store from the moment the pandemic began.

"I think there was a fear factor and we offered leave of absence to all of our employees that had a concern for their safety," Dwyer said. He added that it's been a learning experience.

"Every day we figure out something that we can do a little bit better," he said.

The engineering firm Campos EPC made a series of changes to their work spaces at the outset of the pandemic.

"Thermal scanners, rearranging our offices, rearranging our work schedules to minimize the number of people in the office at any given time," said Mike Venturini, Campos EPC Principal.

All done with the help of a consultant, which employees seemed to like.

"I think it gave them a little peace of mind," Venturini said. "I think that all helped."

It's the kind of reimagining of offices that companies which rely on physical work spaces never envisioned entering 2020. Today there's more cleaning, more precautions, more efforts to separate employees who do come into work, and their customers.

"That's probably going to be a trend," said Dan Meitus, Elevate Real Estate Services C.E.O. "Offices aren't going to be as compact and dense as they used to be."

This risk mitigation in the workplace and attempts to keep the most vulnerable workers at home have been accompanied by new responsibilities for bosses. Like getting people to mask up.

"I think it's really hard for these companies to police people, I think it's impossible," said Dr. Dana Lerman, The COVID Consultants Co-Founder. 

Lerman, an infectious disease physician, said encouraging basic safety measures may pose the biggest workplace challenge.

"They're all taking on these roles that they've never had to take on before," she said.

She cautioned that you can never be completely safe.

"You will really decrease the risk of transmission in a workplace if you just follow the rules," Lerman said.

One of Skip Dwyer's rules: 

"If there is a positive test from any one of our associates we immediately shut down the store and call in a company to fog and deep clean the store on the spot," he said.

Meitus believes some office changes are here to stay.

"If you go touchless, where you just walk up to the door, the bathroom door and it opens for you, or you have the lights that have the sensors that turn on, you're not going to go back with that technology," he said.

At least one workplace legacy of the virus. The adjustments haven't stopped.

"It's been nine months," Dwyer said. "This is what we do."

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