One of the biggest challenges companies currently face is how to keep employees safe as offices reopen, establishing safety protocols that include social distancing, employee self identification (symptomatic/asymptomatic), and taking employee temperatures daily. While we would like to think that precautions are sufficient, it’s important to have a well-defined plan for what to do when an employee tests positive for or is exposed to COVID-19. This starts with contact tracing.
Employers are generally required, under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, to provide workers a work environment “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” OSHA has expressed that COVID-19 falls under this clause, which means that employers must affirmatively act to reduce and manage COVID-19-related hazards in the workplace.
CDC Guidance on Contact Tracing for Employers
The CDC released updated information for employers in October for case investigation and contact tracing in non-healthcare workplaces, encouraging employers to work with local health departments when responding to workplace exposures to COVID-19. The CDC recommends coordinated actions, including case investigation and contact tracing, to help prevent the spread of the disease and decrease the need for business closures.
Communication and support are critical in this area—especially when notifying employees who have been exposed and what next steps are. Because cases are fluctuating regionally and social distancing guidelines vary from state to state, your employees will be looking to you for guidance and assurance of their safety and contact tracing is imperative in order to do that.
Contact tracing is a common method to help control the spread of infectious diseases. Today, it is a critical part of the fight against COVID-19. Contact tracing begins with those who test positive for COVID-19. Those with whom they have had close contact are then identified anonymously, as they may have been infected as well. These contacts are notified and supported through a period of quarantine. They are monitored until they develop symptoms, pass the window of risk, or are proven not to have been exposed.
Because your company’s involvement with case investigation and contact tracing depends on the authorities, responsibilities, and capacities of your local health departments; federal, state, and local laws and regulations; and the level of interest and capacity of the employer, the CDC also recommends that employers consult with their company’s human resources, legal, medical, and occupational safety and health guidance, policy and other resources to help them develop and implement their COVID-19 preparedness, response, and control plan. Your company’s role in contact tracing investigation, generally conducted by HR, is a narrower version of the contact tracing that public health officials are doing on a larger scale to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
When collaborating with the health department, the CDC asks that employers be ready to prepare and quickly provide information and records to the health department about the workplace, potential workplace contacts, and, when needed, workplace operations, without revealing confidential personnel records or business information. In order to do so, your internal response team must work to collect and protect this information and, depending on the size of your workforce, this task alone may require several dedicated staff members.
Resources to Help You Create Processes for Contact Tracing at Work
Is there an easier way to collect and maintain this information? There is. To help employers reopen safely during the COVID-19 crisis, Cisive developed a suite of solutions to help employers monitor COVID-19 antibody and immunization status, conduct contact tracing and self-attestation, and streamline COVID-19 compliance. Here, we’ll focus on CONTACT19, a solution that gives you a contact tracing program tailored to meet your organization’s needs.
CONTACT19 allows companies to take a proactive approach to testing and contact tracing to ensure the protection of their workforce. The process begins with a detailed interview of each employee who self-reports symptoms and/or a positive test. CONTACT19 uses a template developed in association with medical authorities to identify those who may have been exposed to infection. It identifies and notifies other employees (and sometimes contractors, customers, or visitors) who may have been in proximity, making recommendations for isolation or quarantine in accordance with your corporate policies.
You can combine CONTACT19 with the Cisive SAFE19 solution, a secure, paperless, central repository specifically designed to handle the uploading, validation, and compliance reporting on COVID-19 test and immunization data, for a more robust workplace safety program.