COVID-19 safety measures can keep us in business

Keep employees safe and minimize the costs of COVID-19.

The past 18 months have presented one of the biggest challenges employers have ever faced. It's not just hard on you, but on your employees and often times your customers. You want to get back to business, and everyone wants to get back to regular life.  

With the governor's recent announcement and Oregon OSHA's subsequent guidance that masks will be required in indoor spaces statewide starting Aug. 13, you and your workers may be feeling extra fatigue and frustration about the pandemic and how long it has continued.

There is a silver lining: COVID-19 safety measures, including face masks and vaccinations, can help keep workers safe and save you money in the long run. 

“Businesses and employees across Oregon have suffered. To prevent illness with COVID-19 and the impact to our workforce, we need to use all the tools we have until we beat this virus once and for all,” says SAIF Industrial Hygienist Kim Henry. “We know that protecting our employees ultimately protects our businesses, our economy, and our communities.”

The cost of COVID

Many of us are aware of the human toll the virus has taken on the health of people and communities. According to the Oregon Health Authority, there have been 234,393 total cases and 2,920 deaths in Oregon as of August 11. 

But what about your business? To get a basic idea of what COVID-19 costs, here are some numbers: 

  • 3,020: the number of COVID-19 claims SAIF received through July 30, 2021 
  • $1,727.40: the average cost of a COVID claim 

While many claims were for quarantining or testing, we saw many that were much more serious and costly, including some that cost more than a million dollars. 

The pandemic also continues to impact supply chains, causing major disruptions to business. 

“We have heard from many businesses about the broken supply chain, delays in material deliveries, and difficulties hiring back a full workforce. One employer reported a million-dollar piece of equipment held up for delivery last year and just recently received it,” Henry says. “Some businesses haven't recovered at all.”

With the Delta variant on the move and the CDC's most recent recommendation for even vaccinated people to wear masks indoors, it's easy for businesses to feel like safety measures won't make a difference. But they do. 

Why COVID safety measures matter

The graphic below shows the correlation between public safety measures and the number of daily COVID cases in Oregon. 

Daily case count graph

For more information, see Documenting Oregon's path to recovery from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020-2021.

What can employers do to prevent infections?

The timeline above is straightforward: vaccines are effective and masks work. 

Here are other safety measures that can help:

  • Encourage employees to get vaccinated. This includes providing paid time off to go get the shot, offering paid sick time to recover from potential side effects of the vaccine, or even hosting a vaccination event. 
  • Implement physical distancing protocols in the workplace. 
  • Provide periodic COVID testing for employees who can't get vaccinated.
  • Implement engineering controls, like portable HEPA filters, that can help prevent the spread of the virus. 
  • Provide N95 masks to employees who work in high-risk environments, like correctional facilities, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare workplaces. 
  • Keep workplaces clean and make sure employees are provided with the time and supplies to practice good hand hygiene. 

And don't forget to follow Oregon OSHA's rule on COVID-19

You can find more information and resources on keeping workplaces safe at saif.com/coronavirussafety.