COVID‐19 in the Workplace: Return to Workplace Risk Assessment
Multiple Locations, Canada
Canadian Federal Government Departments responded to the COVID-19 world-wide-pandemic by having its employees work from home from mid-March 2020 to reduce the risk to its staff and to comply with emergency orders across the country.
Having weathered the initial response, a Canadian Federal Department was faced with the problem that given the criticality of many of its operations to several sectors of the Canadian economy, it needed to plan for the safe resumption of key activities carried out in the field and in its special purpose workplaces, offices and various other facilities.
SLR, familiar with the Department’s Hazard Prevention Program, was well positioned to respond when approached to complete a risk assessment to support the Department’s return to the workplace planning effort. SLR considered the problem, and rather than just listing common risks and mitigation measures for minimization of infectious disease transmission in the workplace, SLR sought an approach whereby risk factors common across all workplaces and specific to special purpose workplaces were identified, characterized and defined by semi-quantitative low-to-high-risk scales. In this way, the Department could employ its existing HPP risk assessment process to the evaluation of workplace risk associated with COVID-19.
SLR conducted a world-wide search for the latest COVID-19 epidemiology, risk and risk reduction practices that were included in the risk factors and applied to both common and special purpose Departmental workplaces. Simplified self-assessment forms were prepared for use by Departmental managers to aid in evaluating workplace risks consistently, and in identifying control measures targeted at the more significant risk factors such that overall return to work risk could be reduced allowing the Department’s employees to return to work safely.
Due to the rapidly changing knowledge base and the urgency of finding a solution, SLR completed the work within a two week timeframe, completing a second search of best practices immediately prior to submitting the framework report and facilitating communication of the results to its managers.
SLR scientists and engineers continue to keep abreast of COVID-19 scientific updates and studies across the world in order to continue to provide the best solutions to our clients.