Workplace Solutions Emergency response planning Facility safety Safety program management Workplace exposures

A proactive approach to monitoring COVID-19

I’m on my company’s COVID-19 response team, and I’ve been asked to monitor social distancing and contact tracing. How can I take a proactive approach to this so we’re prepared when we have a case onsite?


Responding is Mike Russin, senior product manager for connected safety solutions, Industrial Scientific Corp., Pittsburgh.

You’re not alone in this situation. This year, many safety professionals have taken on COVID-19-related responsibilities. Few people are trained on social distancing and contact tracing, but you can make both easier by creating a process before your site has a case.

In sports and pandemics, the best offense is a good defense. Monitoring social distancing can ease the pain of contact tracing after a confirmed case. However, on many sites, it’s hard for workers to stay 6 feet away from others. In these cases, you need to go beyond onsite signs, floor markings or plexiglass shields.

One way to reinforce distancing rules is with geofencing. Geofencing tools – available within some live monitoring software – allow you to create a custom map of work zones on your site. Once you create zones, you can set and assign safe capacity limits – and actually track whether your workers follow them.

If too many workers enter a zone, you’ll receive an alert that the area is over capacity. You can then work with teams to stagger traffic patterns and reduce the activity in the area. With proactive measures such as this, you can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and stay in compliance with state and local guidelines.

If one of your workers has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, contact tracing becomes your next best tool. Now you need to know who that worker may have had close contact with throughout the day and notify them.

Several companies offer contact tracing reports, but they’re not all created equal. Some connected equipment providers and app developers claim to automate contact tracing, but these reports often require documentation as a backup.

Automated contact tracing programs often generate reports based on location data from wearable devices. This approach has two major downfalls. These reports are accurate only if everyone on your site wears the devices, making it a cost-prohibitive undertaking. Aside from that, some connected devices only collect data every five to 15 minutes. This leaves too much room for undocumented close contact.

Your best tool for fast and accurate contact tracing is an app-based report. These types of apps prompt workers who may be contagious to log their activity in the app, so you can see where they’ve been and with whom they’ve had close contact.

The app allows you to quickly trace exposures at your site and trigger follow-up actions. With an accurate record of potential and confirmed exposures across your site, you can identify anyone who may have been exposed. You can even create a workflow to alert these workers that they need to get tested and self-isolate. This is a great way to control the impact on other employees and your business.

No matter which tools you choose, it’s important to understand what information they can provide, how they can help you be proactive and how you can use them to address a case of COVID-19 on your site.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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