United States law requires businesses to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of this obligation, and it presents employers with a new set of challenges to meet if they are to minimize risk for workplace outbreaks.
Businesses can use CDC guidelines—including hand-washing, social distancing, and masking in close proximity or enclosed spaces—to start developing in-house efforts to maintain workforce health. They may even want to take things a step further and mandate testing.
However, navigating general recommendations and ensuring compliance with health best practices can be difficult, explains Dr. Lars Boman, Medical Director for the nationwide telemedicine platform Because Health.
For example, because the CDC currently only recommends viral tests for individuals experiencing COVID-like symptoms, Human Resources departments or workplace managers may be put in the position of making health-related decisions.
“If somebody just has a headache, do they need to be tested? If they have a headache and a cough, definitely they should be tested,” says Dr. Boman. “That is part of the challenge that workplace managers face. Who is to make this decision? And do they have access to a medical service or screening tool that can help them with that?”
Furthermore, according to Dr. Boman, due to the risks of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, businesses may need to “think differently than the CDC. You may need to test asymptomatic people to identify carriers among the employees…. [To do this,] you may have to do recurring testing,” he says.
Yet, without the guidance of healthcare professionals, these are again the types of decisions that fall into the laps of employers and managers who are not qualified to make such decisions.
Because Health’s new Workforce Health™ service seeks to change all that by shifting such responsibilities back to the experts. The program integrates a symptom screening survey, on-site temperature screenings and viral testing, and tele-health wellness screenings. Employers can consult with experts to develop protocols, including testing schedules, that work best for their particular needs and circumstances.
In addition to relieving issues associated with decision-making, on-site testing and screening components of the Workforce Health service improve quality and accessibility of care for employees.
“If the employer wants daily temperature checks, then a medical professional is provided for that,” Dr. Boman says. “This also allows for a visual, eyes-on assessment of a person’s health.”
In addition, Dr. Boman notes, while law permits employers to require regular PCR tests of their employees, sending hundreds of people to community test sites is untenable in many places. Public test lines are often long and it can take 10 days or longer to receive results. With private testing, on the other hand, results are available within 24 to 48 hours of the sample hitting the CLIA-certified lab.
By bringing in medical experts to provide on-site services and guide a business's decision process, Workforce Health protects employee health and safety while making on-site health and wellness services as accessible, convenient, and stress-free as possible.