Return to work

SAFER: NSC creates task force to provide guidance on returning to work safely


As traditional work and operations begin to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic, safety and health are on the minds of employers and employees alike.

To help guide both groups through the process safely, the National Safety Council has launched SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns, a comprehensive, multifaceted initiative that is bringing together nonprofit organizations, businesses, medical professionals, government agencies and trade associations with the intent of developing industry- and risk-specific resources and recommendations for U.S. employers of all sizes.

Although various states, agencies and industry groups have released specific guidance, the council’s goal is to create an all-encompassing set of resources focused on worker safety now and in a post-pandemic environment.

“We saw a lot of good resources being put into the public conversation,” said John Dony, director of the Campbell Institute at NSC and the council’s staff lead on SAFER, “but they were maybe a little narrowly focused or only on one specific issue or type of work environment.

“We have the access to folks not just in industry, but in trade associations and government, and in the medical, HR, and legal communities. Let’s bring them all together and provide something that has more rigor behind it, is more comprehensive and looks at all dimensions of this issue. That was the rationale.”

Guidance developed by the task force will focus on physical and mental health, fatigue, and stress, Dony added.

First steps

Beginning the week of May 4, the SAFER task force began rolling out a return-to-work framework that focuses on how to safely return to work or how essential workplaces can continue to work safely.

Over the next several weeks, NSC is anticipating additional “deeper dive” documents to be published, based on four categories:

  • Office environments
  • Enclosed industrial (manufacturing, etc.)
  • Open industrial (construction, etc.)
  • Public-facing environments (retail, health care, utility work, etc.)

“We’ll be really building out the framework with more depth,” said Dony, who added that the task force will expand the guidelines and recommendations based on contributors who have shared their procedures, as well as include various documents from agencies such as OSHA, NIOSH, FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“From there, we’ll be iterating these documents as people begin to actually see what it’s like to come back into their (work) environment,” he said.

As the library of documents grows and impacts workplaces, SAFER eventually will be aimed at influencing public policymakers and health officials to ensure worker safety and health.

How to get involved

Dony said organizations of any size can contribute to the initiative, regardless of whether they’re NSC members.

For up-to-date information, visit and click “Sign up for SAFER resources.” To contribute to the work of the task force, email [email protected].

Along with working with the task force, contributors are needed to review documents and resources or add input during a comment period.

“We’ve seen hundreds of folks – organizations large and small, individuals, practitioners across all sorts of industries and backgrounds – raise their hand and say, ‘I want to help,’” Dony said. “It speaks to the passion and commitment of the safety community.”

Meet the task force

As of May 18, members of the SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns task force included:

ABSA International
Ameren American Chemistry Council
American College of Occupational & Environmental Medicine
American Contractors Insurance Group
American Industrial Hygiene Association
American Petroleum Institute
American Red Cross
American Society of Safety Professionals
American Staffing Association
American Trucking Association
Associated General Contractors
BAE Systems
Board of Certified Safety Professionals
Boston Consulting Group
Captive Resources
Cementos Progreso
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (NC)
City of Chesapeake (VA)
City of Phoenix (AZ)
City of Sacramento (CA)
Cosette Pharmaceuticals
COVE: Center of Visual Expertise
Cushman & Wakefield
Day & Zimmermann
Department of the Navy
Edison Electric Institute
Electric Power Research Institute
Employee Assistance Professionals Association ERM
HR Source
Industrial Scientific
Intelex Technologies
Infectious Diseases Society of America International Safety Equipment Association
ISN ISSA - Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association
The Kennedy Forum
Krause Bell Group
Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
National Association of Realtors
National Governors Association
NSC Chapter Network
NSC Divisions & Delegates
ORC HSE Strategies LLC
Owens Corning
Psych Hub
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
Retail Industry Leaders Association
Safe States Alliance
United Rentals
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Steel
WorkCare World Economic Forum

See an updated listing of SAFER task force members and donors on's SAFER hub.

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