Return to Work Safely Protocol, The Tech

You could think that because we are going through unprecedented times that life is never going to be the same again. I can assure you that this is just a phase and we will get through it. Especially with a little help from technology.

When life changing events like this happen I always, as is my nature, look at how technology can help. Google and Apple have done the same and are building technology into our phones that will help society. In this article I will go through some of the technology you can use in Ireland to help implement the government’s Return to Work Protocols.

Pre-Return to Work Checklist

The first thing the Irish government is asking us to do is to get all staff members and visitors to the workplace to fill out a Return to Work Checklist. Questions like “Do you have symptoms of cough, fever, high temperature in the past 14 days?” need to feature on the checklist. Whether it is government mandate or just common practice, you will need a pre-return checklist filled out by every employee. I would go even further and use this checklist to check in with the employee on a regular basis even if they work from home.

To avoid flooding HR with a mountain of paper documents and avoid a nightmare of tracing who has and has not returned the form, I would recommend moving to a Smart Checklist Software. Create an online form you can distribute to all the staff to be filled out before coming back to work. Security can then check at the door if the Pre-Return form has been completed to allow access to the building.

Temperature Testing

One of the recommendations by the Irish government is to check people’s temperature before they enter the building. The protocol is that you need to refuse entry if someone is showing a high temperature. You basically need to send them home with an informative Covid19 recommendation letter. You cannot, and I stress you cannot write down the person’s name, not even on a post-it note.

It is not because we are living with an epidemic that GDPR rules do not apply. You cannot record medical data in any way or form without good reason and prior consent.

This protocol is easy to solve with technology as there are many gadgets to test somebody’s temperature. Visit Alibaba.com and search for contactless infrared thermometers and you will find many options ranging from €10 up to €50. It is easy to use and something security can use to check staff before they enter the building.

There is other technology available like temperature measuring facial recognition terminals. They use infrared technology to check people’s wellbeing when they pass by. It is expensive technology and unworkable under European privacy legislation. Facial recognition is already a legal nightmare. Add temperature testing to the mix and you open yourself up to some legal backlash. You can under no circumstances record staff’s medical status, so this technology is a no no.

Team Contact Tracing

Another recommendation is that workers must be organised into teams. Which sounds obvious to do as we all work in some type of team structure. The problem is that the Irish government does not refer to a team in the company organisational sense but refers to a team in the physical sense. This means an employer needs to setup physical groups of people that will work together no matter their organisational structure. Managers will also have to record if they have been working with other team members in the office.

This is more challenging. Structurally you can group staff into physical teams but contact tracing visitors is a little bit more difficult. The government’s own app, which apparently uses the tech built by Apple and Google is no help either. The App does not share information with any government or employers, and this is right process to take.

Other GPS based app solutions used in some of the Asian countries have proven to work well. Unfortunately, this is not an option in Europe. You cannot trace a staff member’s GPS location as an employer as they cannot guarantee you will not be tracking staff during breaks.

A workable solution is to ask managers to scan anyone they work with beyond the team. This can be done by using New-Avenue’s NFC technology and any modern smart phone with an NFC chip. For this to work,  all staff must have an NFC enabled smart badge. If this is not the case in your company then there are NFC armbands and stickers you can use. The manager can simply scan the staff members smart tag and with a smart NFC checklist software to record who they have been working with. It is cheap, easy to implement and workable in real life.

Clean, Clean, Clean

New Avenue Compliance Smart Tag Cleaning

The government protocol dictates that cleaning must take place at least twice daily in all parts of the facility and after every use of critical rooms like bathrooms and meeting rooms. Not only is this wise, it is critical to get staff comfortable to go back to work. 

As an employer you will have to show that desks, meeting rooms and communal areas have been decontaminated. Most companies already have cleaning crews in place so implementing this protocol will be a matter of tracking and tracing.

Still, we have all seen the paper cleaning lists on the back of doors with miraculous future cleaning. Yes, some cleaners can clean in the future. The next time you are in a bathroom with a cleaning list, check it out. Paper based checklists are not enough to give your staff the confidence that the facilities are clean. Digital solutions that cannot be tampered with are the way to go. Smart checklists can be used by the cleaning crew to indicate when an area has been decontaminated.

Using New-Avenue’s Smart Compliance Tag Checklists, staff can scan these tags and see when either a meeting room or facility was last cleaned. At the same time, they can request a refresh. This same technology can even be used on people’s desks. Simply hang a smart tag on every desk which the staff member can scan and request it to be cleaned. It’s like hanging the ‘clean my room’ tag on a door handle.

These are some of the tech recommendations I can give regarding the Return to Work Safely Protocol we will all need to adhere to. With the right implementation and the help of technology, this should not have to impact people too much. Anything we can do to stop the spread of this virus makes it worth it.

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