Using the Hierarchy of Controls to Reduce the Risk of COVID Infection and Spread at Work

Many workplaces are trying to create safe, healthy work environments so workers can come to work and get work done while also not getting infected with COVID-19 or spreading COVID-19 to other coworkers.

In some cases, it’s a safety professional who’s playing a big role in the organization’s COVID mitigation strategies. And in those cases, even if the safety professional would be happy for additional guidance and suggestions, workers are no doubt in good hands. Job hazard analyses are being performed, risk assessments are being run, and hazard controls are being put into place using the hierarchy of controls.

In some other cases, an organization won’t have a dedicated safety professional on staff and these COVID mitigation prevention efforts may fall to someone in HR or someone with similar job responsibilities. It’s our belief that this article can be helpful to people in the first group (the safety professionals) and people in the second group (our friends in HR), but that in particular these people in HR-like roles who have COVID safety and health responsibilities thrust on them during a national emergency can use (and deserve) a helping hand.

So in this article, we’re going to introduce the idea of using the hierarchy of controls to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace.

Before we get started, we wanted to direct your attention to three things:

With that, we’ll get started introducing you to how to use the safety concept of the hierarchy of controls to reduce the spread of COVID during your Return to Work efforts.

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10 Safety Considerations to Reduce the Spread of COVID at Work

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Employers all over the world, and certainly here in the United States, are trying to find ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 infections at work so their companies can stay open and productive while their people stay safe and healthy.

In this article, we’re going to present 10 key safety considerations for reducing the risks of COVID-19 spreading at your workplace.

Before we begin, please know that we’ve got a COVID Return to Work Checklist for you and our parent company Vector Solutions has created free online COVID-19 Safety Training courses you’re welcome to use as well.

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Applicable OSHA Standards to Consider While Implementing Workplace COVID Mitigation Strategies

As you may already know, on January 29, 2021, OSHA released a new guidance related to workplace safety and health and COVID-19 mitigation strategies: ‘Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.’

We provided a full walk-through of that new OSHA guidance in an earlier blog post, but in this blog post we wanted to drill down and focus on other OSHA standards and safety/health regulations that you’ll need to keep in mind regarding your COVID prevention plan in addition to the actual OSHA guidance.

And before we get going, we wanted to make sure you know about the COVID Return to Work Checklist we’ve got for you and the online COVID-19 Safety Training courses our parent company Vector Solutions is making available to everyone as well. We hope you find the checklist and the online courses helpful.

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OSHA’s January 29, 2021 COVID Guidance

Shortly after the presidential inauguration in 2021, OSHA released a new guidance related to workplace safety and health and COVID-19 mitigation strategies: ‘Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.’ In addition to this new guidance, OSHA has also created a lengthy list of industry-specific guidances to help with COVID mitigation too.

In this article, we’re going to introduce you to the key points of this new OSHA guidance regarding COVID mitigation and a COVID prevention plan. We’ll also let you know about a few resources we’ve created to help you with COVID-safety at your workplace, discuss an earlier, 2020 Return to Work guidance from OSHA, and link to you helpful resources from other organizations like the CDC, NIH, AIHA, and ASSP that you can refer to in order to strengthen your COVID ‘return to work’ safety and health efforts.

We’ll quickly begin by linking you to the COVID Return to Work Checklist we have created and the online COVID-19 Safety Training courses our parent company Vector Solutions has made available to everyone as part of their ‘Vector Cares’ initiative.

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OSHA on Safety Training for COVID

Back on January 29, 2021, OSHA released a new guidance called ‘Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.’ As we generally do when writing about things like OSHA guidances, we encourage you to read the whole guidance on your own in addition to reading this article that draws on part of the guidance. And keep in mind that, in addition to this general guidance, OSHA has also created quite a few industry-specific guidances to help with COVID mitigation as well.

We’ll walk you through the key points of the guidance and zero in on OSHA’s recommendations for COVID-19 related safety and health training in this article.

But before you start reading, you might want to download this COVID-19 Return to Work Checklist we created for you–it’s based on the OSHA COVID guidance we’re referring to in this article. Also, we’ve got a series of completely free COVID-19 online training courses offered through our parent company Vector Solutions as part of their ‘Vector Cares’ program. Be sure to check those out and put them to use.

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Manual Material Handling Hazards in the Construction Industry

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As you may know, the American Industrial Hygienists Association (AIHA) has released a Focus Four for Construction Health guidance document that identifies four significant health hazards in construction, explains the hazards in detail, gives control recommendations, and more. We recently discussed the health guidance document with Barb Epstein, one of the creators of the AIHA construction health hazards document, and wrote about the four construction health hazards as well.

Having introduced people to the AIHA Focus Four document and those four construction health hazards in general, we wanted to follow-up by taking a deep-dive, looking at each of the four health hazards in more detail in separate articles. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at manual material handling (the other health hazards are air contaminants, noise, and high temperatures, and we’ll take closer looks at each in later articles).

We hope this article helps keep workers at your construction sites safe and, in addition to this article, we encourage you to download any of the following:

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COVID-19 / Return-to-Work Checklist

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On January 29, 2021, OSHA published Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Spreading the the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace. As in all instances like this, we encourage you to click that link we just provided and become familiar with the primary source.

At the bottom of this article, you’ll see we’ve created a downloadable checklist you can use to help mitigating the spread of COVID at your workplace while you’re trying to get work done during a pandemic. The checklist is based on a section of the OSHA guidance we just mentioned and we think you’ll find it useful. You’ll also see the checklist includes some additional links to even more useful resources that we think you’ll find helpful as well as you try to protect the health and lives of employees in the face of this COVID pandemic.

Although we recommend you read the entire OSHA guidance and we’ve provided the downloadable checklist at the bottom, we’re also going to provide a quick, high-level overview of the guidance for you immediately below and tell you about a few products Vector Solutions makes to help you keep workers safe and healthy in general and to help you with the COVID-related issues discussed in the OSHA guidance.

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Report: State of Training in Manufacturing & Industry

Our Vector Solutions partners over at RedVector recently created two reports looking at the state of training in 2021: the report we’ve got for you here, the State of Manufacturing & Industrial Training in 2021, plus a similar report on the State of Architecture, Engineering & Construction Training in 2021.

If you’re involved in training in the manufacturing and industrial spaces, we think you’ll find the report below interesting and helpful. Download a copy, see for yourself, and let us know if you’ve got any questions or if we can help you out in any way.

In addition to the report below, you may also be interested in the following resources related to manufacturing & industrial training:

And of course, we make online manufacturing training courses, a learning management system (LMS), mobile training apps, and more as well.

Enjoy the guide and good luck with the workplace performance improvement efforts at your manufacturing workplace.

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State of Industrial & Manufacturing Training (2021)

Download this guide for all sorts of helpful insights into the state of industrial and manufacturing training as we enter 2021.

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The State and Future of Learning & Development in 2021: See What the Experts Think!

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2020 brought the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of challenges to workplace learning efforts and neither have gone away just yet.

We asked some of the leading learning & development experts in their world for their insights on how COVID has impacted L&D and what may be in the future for L&D. There answers are in this guide.

We’d like to thank all of the contributors for sharing their time, knowledge, and insight. They include Connie Malamed, Arun Pradhan, Patti Shank, Cara North, Clark Quinn, Stella Lee, Zsolt Olah, Julie Dirksen, Mike Taylor, Jacinta Penn, Guy Wallace, Emily Wood, Kassy Laborie, Alexander Salas, Michelle Ockers, Shannon Tipton, Christy Tucker, Linda Berberich, and Richard (Dick) Clark. We encourage you to follow up and learn more from each of them–visit their websites or blogs, buy and read their books, catch them on social media where they share helpful information, and more.

If you’re interested in workforce L&D issues, you might also appreciate the State of Architecture, Engineering & Construction Training Guide and State of Industrial & Manufacturing Training Guide from our partners at RedVector.

Enjoy the guide, thanks again to the contributors, and have a safe, productive 2021 full of learning, improve performance, and success. Cheers!

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The State & Future of L&D in 2021

We asked some of the world’s leading experts in learning and development about the current state and future of learning and development. Read their insightful answers in this guide.

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COVID and Construction: Working Safely with Tips from AIHA

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COVID’s been a major challenge for employers and employees in every industry and, frankly, for everyone in the world. And there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, as we’ve got some effective vaccines and we’re starting to get shots into arms out there (well done, healthcare workers, and thanks!). But that said, we’re still a long way from being out of the woods on this one.

Every industry has had to grapple with ways that are common from industry-to-industry. For example, it’s good for all of us to main social/physical distance, to wash our hands, and to wear masks to reduce the spread of the virus. You can learn more about a lot of this stuff that applies in all walks of life and from industry-to-industry in the series of free COVID awareness videos Vector Solutions has made available, and we’d recommend you check out OSHA’s January 29, 2021 COVID guidance as well.

But it’s also true that each industry has its own unique COVID-related health challenges, risks, and controls. And that’s true of the construction industry. Thankfully, the American Industrial Hygienist Association, or AIHA, has published a guidance document called Returning to Work: Construction Industry to help construction employers and workers in their efforts to work safely and preserve their health within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ll provide a brief overview and some tips we gleaned from the document, but we encourage you to download it, read and apply it yourself, and to keep in mind that OSHA COVID guidance and materials from trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well.

Also, because we all know that COVID is creating an extreme strain on our mental health as well as our physical help, feel free to check out these two recorded discussions with some industry experts addressing issues related to the construction industry, COVID, mental health, and suicide: Cal Beyer discussing suicide and mental health in construction and other high-risk industries and Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas discussing the National Guidelines for Suicide Prevention (both in general and in the context of the current COVID pandemic).

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Beginner’s Guide to Online Training

Beginner's Guide to Online Training

Online training has become increasingly common in recent years (and for good reason). And the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that trend (and, again, for good reason). And, while things will change between now and the time when the COVID pandemic is finally over, it’s unlikely that things will go back to the pre-COVID state.

In short, while online training was becoming increasingly common even before COVID, and COVID accelerated that trend, we won’t abandon our new uses of online training when COVID’s in the rear view.

Is your organization interested in implementing online training or maybe using it more but perhaps you’re just not up-to-speed on all of the technologies, tools, terms, and training techniques associated with online training? If so, you’ll find this guide, our Beginner’s Guide to Online Training, helpful.

We discuss and explain a lot of the things you need to know to begin implementing online training at your workplace in this guide, including: elearning courses, elearning authoring tools, virtual classes, learning management systems (LMS), mobile learning apps, SCORM, AICC, xAPI, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence/machine learning, chatbots, and more.

We hope you find this guide helpful. Please let us know if you have any questions about online training, including of course online training courses, learning management systems (LMS), and mobile learning apps.

Also, a quick heads-up for you that we recently talked about this same stuff in a live webinar which you can now listen to as a recorded “Beginner’s Guide to Online Training” webcast at your leisure.

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Beginner’s Guide to Online Training

Download this guide to learn the basic tech, terms, and tips related to online training–LMS, elearning courses, authoring tools, virtual classrooms, and more.

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Report: The State of Training in the Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industries

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At Vector Solutions, we specialize in performance improvement solutions and training solutions for many industries, and our Vector partners at RedVector have an especially strong offering for training and continuing education for the people in the Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) industries.

In this guide, we’ve pulled together research we’ve done from AEC industry sources, our own AEC customers, training experts, data on our own product and course utilization, and more to give you some insight into the state of Architecture, Engineering & Construction training as we head into 2021.

Hope you find this helpful. Let us know if you’ve got questions about AEC training solutions, including learning management systems (LMS), continuing education, online AEC courses, or more.

In addition to this guide, you might find our recent State of Industrial & Manufacturing Training Guide and State of Learning & Development in 2021: See What the Experts Think! guide interesting as well.

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State of Training in AEC Guide (2021)

Download this guide for all sorts of helpful insights into the state of training in architecture, engineering & construction industries as we enter 2021.

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