Getting Back to Work: What Employers Need to Know About Creating a Safe Workplace

With most states lifting stay-at-home orders and easing restrictions, businesses will reopen and employees can return to the workplace. However, the return to work will be far from business as usual. In order to quell employee fears as well as reduce liability, employers will have to rethink the way business is conducted and how work is performed. With the challenges that come with reopening, employers will be seeking trusted partners who can help guide them as to how they can safely bring employees back to work.  Because hospitals and health systems have shown to be such critical allies in the fight against COVID-19, they are the obvious choice to turn to when navigating decisions about employee health. It also presents a great opportunity for health systems to bring back furloughed workers as employer needs for screening and testing increase.


The following guidelines are recommended protocols from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for allowing employees to safely return to the workplace. These guidelines are suggested to be share with hospital and health systems’ employer partners:

  • Employee Screenings: Employees should be screened prior to returning to work. Employers should employ the following tactics when screening employees:

    • Temperature Checks: Utilize an infrared thermometer to determine an employee’s temperature prior to allowing them into their workspace. Employees with high temperatures should not be allowed to report for duty and should consult a healthcare professional.

    • Notify of Risk Factors: Certain conditions put individuals at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Make all employees aware of these risk factors and communicate that they should closely follow all guidelines and/or contact a healthcare professional before returning to work if they are/have any of the following:

      • Age 65 years or older

      • Chronic lung disease or asthma

      • Serious heart condition or heart disease

      • Severe obesity

      • Smoker

      • Diabetes

      • Chronic kidney disease

      • Liver disease

      • Immunocompromised (cancer treatment, organ transplant, HIV or AIDS, immune deficiencies)

    • Screening Questions: The CDC has issued the following questions to help determine COVID-19 exposure. If any employee answers “Yes” to any of these questions, do not allow them to report for duty and direct them to see a healthcare professional for further testing.

      • Have you recently traveled to any of the following: China, Europe, Iran, Ireland, Malaysia, South Korea, United Kingdom?

      • Have you been in contact with anyone who has or had COVID-19?

      • Have you been told by a health official that you may have been exposed to COVID-19?

      • Have you had any of the following symptoms in the last 14 days: fever, cough, runny nose, difficulty breathing, sore throat?

  • Regular Monitoring: Employers should determine appropriate screening intervals for employees reporting to work, i.e., daily or weekly, and maintain adherence to this schedule. Employees should be encouraged to self-monitor for symptoms and instructed NOT to report to work if they do have symptoms or become ill. Any employee who becomes ill while on the job should immediately notify their supervisor and visit a healthcare professional.

  • Wear Masks: All employees should be required to wear masks while in the workplace until state and local officials determine that it is no longer required to do so. We recommend that employers provide approved face masks to all employees. Alternatively, employers can approve employee-provided face masks if they can ensure proper disposal and/or washing after use.

  • Social Distancing: Employees should continue to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others while in the workplace. Workstations and workflow may need to be moved or adjusted to allow for proper social distancing. Employers should avoid holding large group meetings and gatherings, and should post reminders to maintain social distancing in breakrooms and other congregation areas.

  • Disinfect and Clean Workspaces: All areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas and shared equipment should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Employees should be provided with disinfectant wipes or sprays and urged to regularly clean their work area. Hand sanitizer should also be made readily available to all employees.

These guidelines have been approved by both the CDC and OSHA. However, they are suggested guidelines and are not meant to be all inclusive. Be sure to advise employers to follow all federal, state and OSHA guidelines that pertain specifically to their business and location(s).

Providing reopening guidance and offering screening services offers a significant opportunity for hospitals and health systems to partner with local employers. Applied Health Analytics can help create employee health management strategies and guide these partnerships. Contact Applied Health Analytics to learn more.