Best Practices for Returning to the Office

Since pest management has been considered an essential service, and companies have shown incredible flexibility in adapting to new conditions, the industry has been surviving and thriving despite adversity. Nevertheless, as offices reopen and hiring processes begin again, practices need to be reviewed and changed. 2020 has changed most of the rules for how people can interact and how business is done. With the changing, uneven landscape of legal requirements for masks, social distancing and health benefits, it can be easy to lose track of your new obligations as an employer during this period. QualityPro recently hosted a webinar with panelists from our service partners Unique Background Solutions and Seay Management Consultants, Inc., covering some of the major concerns for businesses as employees return to work, and we all navigate our way toward the “new normal.” The webinar itself is available as a benefit to QualityPro Accredited companies through QualityProTools.org, along with other QualityPro monthly webinars. As we move through the information to be covered, we’re going to try to make it clear where considerations are legally required, required by the QualityPro Standards, or are emerging as best practices.

“Pest management companies have demonstrated their role in public health by rapidly adapting to provide essential services while minimizing risk. We are confident that companies will continue to set the example for how to keep moving forward while keeping employees and customers safe.”

MASKS AND FACE COVERINGS

Respirators and other PPE were part of pest management long before 2020. But now masks are likely part of daily life for customers and all your employees. Currently (as of June 2020) 14 states have some form of mask requirement:

California
Connecticut
Delaware
Illinois
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
New Mexico
New Jersey
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
Virginia

Nationwide, facial coverings are recommended by CDC and OSHA for employees working in public. It’s important to be aware of the requirements in your state and service area, because if masks are required by state regulation or company policy, then your company may be required to provide them. If not required by your state government, then at the very least providing face coverings—perhaps with insects or your company logo—to employees is something to consider as a value-add that can increase employee retention.

TESTING REQUIREMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS

The source of liability employers are thinking about most as employees return to work is potential exposure to the virus. It’s important to know what kinds of testing are available to employers. Ordinarily, employees’ health information is protected under HIPAA and unavailable to employers without employee authorization, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has cosigned on employers checking employees’ temperatures as a safety precaution. Our panelists were careful to point out that the best practice for gathering this kind of information is to put the job in the hands of an on-site medical or first-aid professional, or that the person taking the temperatures should be trained by such a person.

The EEOC has allowed certain considerations regarding the information provided by COVID temperature checking, notably that an employer can require temperature testing as part of a post-offer, pre-employment medical examination, and may delay the start date of an applicant who either has COVID-19, or symptoms commonly associated with it. The only case in which an employer is permitted to withdraw a job offer due to an applicant displaying symptoms of, or testing positive for COVID-19 is if the job requires the applicant to start immediately—the argument being that the individual could not safely enter the workplace under current CDC guidelines.

RETURN TO WORK AND BEYOND

Care must be taken when bringing employees into the office again, whether they’re returning from furlough or a new hire. The best practice our panelists recommended was keeping the lines of communication open. Ensure that employees understand the testing regime that will be implemented, what the expectations will be for safety measures and sanitation and what resources will be made available as conditions develop. When developing company policies, start with a hazard analysis. Look for parts of procedures where people touch or exchange an item (shaking hands, giving a pen, etc.) and areas of your building where people either frequent (photocopiers, coffee machines, etc.) or are prone to having people within six feet of each other (kitchens, lounges, etc.). In each instance, control the hazard by (in order of most effective to least effective): removing the hazard, replacing the hazard, isolating people from the hazard, changing the procedures to minimize risk, or providing PPE for when the hazard must be contacted.

QualityPro’s safety resources are available at www.qualityprotools.org and coronavirus-specific resources are posted at www.pestcontrolcoronavirus.com. Our program partners, including the panelists who contributed the information provided here, stand ready to answer questions and track national and state-level developments, and offer guidance to companies overwhelmed by new responsibilities and an uncertain future.

Pest management companies have demonstrated their role in public health by rapidly adapting to provide essential services while minimizing risk. We are confident that companies will continue to set the example for how to keep moving forward while keeping employees and customers safe. While the procedures may have changed, the goal has always been and will always be to provide high-level service that protects public health.

QualityPro is administered by the Foundation for Professional Pest Management, an independent organization that has been developing good business practices and standards since 2004. Designed specifically for pest management companies in the U.S. and Canada, we are proud to certify over 500 of the best companies in the pest management industry. QualityPro is endorsed by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). For more information, contact us at QualityPro@pestworld.org.

Special thanks to Michael Barnes with Unique Background Solutions and Raleigh “Sandy” Seay II PhD with Seay Management Consultants, Inc. For more information, visit their websites at UniqueBackground.com and SeayHR.com.

BY GRIFFIN VOLTMANN, CERTIFICATION MANAGER, QUALITYPRO

Photo credit: FATCAMERRRR