With widespread lack of clarity over how long the Covid crisis will continue and cases on the rise across America, it is a concerning time for temp workers. Without a clear road map for how the virus is to be approached, particularly during a post-election period of uncertainty, many questions are being asked of staffing agencies that place workers with businesses. Primarily, what can be done to keep employees safe during this indefinite period of risk?
Communication is everything
Many staffing agencies emphasize the importance of staying in contact with employees that they have placed in workplaces during this time. This allows agencies to be aware of what measures employers have in place to prevent workplace infections. Given that so many of the workers supplied by staffing agencies are front-line employees in at-risk categories, agencies must know what is being done to keep workers safe and provide advice and assistance where it is needed.
This is of particular importance in states where cases are rising precipitously, which is most of them. Only by keeping employees safe can businesses keep their doors open.
Educating employees is pivotal
At the start of 2020, few of us knew anything about what Covid-19 meant or about what the virus could do. Even now, we don’t know everything, so it is important to be constantly aware of what we do and don’t know – and it is essential for agencies to be communicating this to workers. Any employee placed by an agency needs to be taking the personal actions necessary to prevent infection and transmission. Still, they also need to be confident that the employer follows protocols to prevent becoming the center of a virus cluster.
OSHA highlighting where violations have taken place
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to carry out workplace inspections and flag up violations – a recent report indicated that more than 200 workplaces had been penalized, with fines totaling more than $2million levied. The issues raised by such inspections ranged from failure to have a written policy on respiratory protection to failure to record an instance of infection or a fatality from Covid. The severity of the penalties is that the employers flagged have often been medical or care facilities. As well as protecting vulnerable residents, these facilities have a particular responsibility to keep employees safe given that an infected carer risks transmitting the virus to someone at a greater risk of death.
Agency clients made aware of testing limitations
Employers, keen to avoid hiring a new worker with the virus, have in many cases been requesting that only workers with a clean Covid test be placed in their workplaces. While this is not on the face of it an unreasonable request, agencies are keen to point out that a clean test means the employee was not infected on the day of the test and have sought to allay concerns by recommending temperature testing and tracing questionnaires, as well as advising that employees isolate between receiving a job offer and beginning the placement.