The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way Americans view their safety at work as well as the protocols that businesses have in place. Whether it’s following social distancing measures, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), or conducting more rigorous cleaning and sanitization, businesses have made safety investments to navigate the new normal.
To understand employees’ and business leaders’ concerns regarding COVID-19 safety protocols in the workplace at healthcare, manufacturing, retail and transportation/warehousing businesses, Stericycle conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. employees who currently work on-site as well as 450 U.S. business leaders at companies with more than 100 employees.
The Workplace Safety Survey highlights the perceptions that employees and business leaders have on COVID-19 safety investments and protocols, corporate responsibility and concerns about employee safety. The following top five themes emerged.
COVID-19 workplace safety investments
Despite decreases in profitability, business leaders are investing in COVID-19 safety. Business leaders are concerned about the safety and health of their workers as the majority (90%) believe duty of care now extends to protecting their employees from COVID-19 infections. More than a quarter (28%) of companies spent up to $50,000 on COVID-19 safety in 2020 (e.g. masks, gloves, enhanced cleaning, temperature, etc.).
The majority of businesses surveyed, except for healthcare, will dedicate 2-10% of their 2021 annual budget to COVID-19 safety. Reflecting this sentiment, nearly all (95%) employees say their employer has implemented COVID-19 safety protocols to keep them safe in the workplace.
COVID-19 protocols and training
While most employees say their employer has implemented COVID-19 safety protocols to keep them safe in the workplace, there is room for improvement when it comes to COVID-19 safety guideline training.
Ninety-five percent of employees say their employer has COVID-19 safety protocols to keep them safe in the workplace, and 89% of employees believe their employer has clearly communicated these protocols. However, more than one in five (22.5%) employees say their employer does not offer workplace training around COVID-19 safety guidelines and one-third (33%) of employees think they, and their coworkers, need COVID-19 safety training.
Compliance and enforcement
Despite enforcing compliance, both employees and business leaders are concerned their coworkers won’t follow safety guidelines and that current safety measures aren’t protective enough. Nearly two in five (38%) employees and three in five (58%) business leaders are concerned they’ll contract COVID-19 while at work.
Additionally, nearly two-thirds (65%) of business leaders are concerned about their employees contracting COVID-19 at work, with the majority (51%) concerned because they don’t think their employees will follow the guidelines. These concerns may be valid, as two in five (44%) employees who are concerned they’ll contract COVID-19 at work say it’s because their coworkers are not following safety protocols.
PPE disposal at work
Nearly two-thirds (62%) of business leaders and more than half (54%) of employees believe used PPE (e.g., gloves, masks, etc.) could pose infection risk in the workplace. However less than half (49%) of companies will provide a designated PPE disposal area in the workplace. Currently, four in five (80%) employees dispose of used PPE in their workplace with more than a third (38%) of employees disposing of their used PPE in a communal trash can. In contrast, less than half (49%) of companies provide a designated PPE disposal area within the workplace, which employees and leaders may consider a safety hazard.
Flu and COVID-19 prevention
In September, more than half of companies surveyed (64%) planned to offer a flu vaccine while 48% planned to offer a COVID-19 vaccine at their workplace once available for mass distribution. However, 53% of employees would not feel comfortable working alongside coworkers if they did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, slightly more employees did not plan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine (33%) that the flu vaccine (29%).