Risk assessment and controls for COVID-19 prevention

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Managing the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace requires multiple strategies that must be used in combination to be effective. As return to the physical workplace occurs, supervisors must consider both the consider the range of controls that can be used to minimize risk.

Workplace preventative measures for COVID-19: hierarchy of hazard control

COVID-19 is a new hazard in the workplace. Hazard mitigation should always focus on implementing measures to eliminate or reduce the risk which, in this case, is contact with COVID-19. For this purpose, the hierarchy of measures to control the hazard must be considered, as outlined below and has been modified to apply to the current circumstances of COVID-19.

Risk control must follow the hierarchy of controls. The most effective control is to eliminate the hazard. If this is not possible, risk must be minimized by working through the lower and less effective levels in the hierarchy. Before GPE/PPE is considered, every effort should be taken to plan out and implement the other controls in the hierarchy as much as possible. The following diagram outlines the hierarchy of controls for COVID-19. 

hierarch of controls for COVID-19

Figure 1: Hierarchy of Controls for COVID-19

Risk assessment

Completing a risk assessment will help to determine whether or not an employee should return to campus or continue to work remotely from home. To initiate a risk assessment, identify all work functions employees will perform and then consider for each one the following:

  • Can the function be performed without face-to-face interaction (example: via online or telephone)?
    • If "Yes":
      • Continue working remotely
    • If "No"
      • Adjust the workplace
      • Adjust work processes
      • Once measure are in place, is physical distancing still a challenge?
        • If "Yes":
          • Provide GPE
            • Use a non-medical or cloth mask
          • Provide PPE where required (restricted circumstances)
            • Consult with Safety Office
        • If "No"
          • Monitor measures and adjust as needed

process for assessing risk

Figure 2: Process for assessing risk