Managing transportation worker distraction amid COVID-19: NSC hosts webinar

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Photo: WendellandCarolyn/iStockphoto

Itasca, IL — Concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic are creating distractions for many commercial drivers, putting the safety of these essential employees – and others – at risk, Brian Fielkow, CEO of Houston-based Jetco Delivery, said during an April 17 webinar hosted by the National Safety Council.

“Let’s face it, none of us are running right now with perfect clarity like we would’ve been a month or two ago,” Fielkow said during the webinar, which focused on safety in the transportation industry amid the pandemic. “[Transportation workers] are concerned about their health. They’re concerned about their family’s health. Maybe there are family members in poor health that they can’t visit.”

Other concerns include worries about layoffs, leaving home while under stay-at-home orders from respective governors and being assigned routes to COVID-19 hot spots.

“If you think the cellphone is a distraction – and it is – consider the impact of COVID,” Fielkow said. “That’s important because you have to approach your employees as if they’re distracted.”

Leaders and managers need to acknowledge worker concerns and “adjust your style to understand and manage distraction,” he said. “Lead with a firm commitment to safety, but with empathy, too. COVID-19 requires us to change how we lead.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 18 expanded a national emergency declaration, granting temporary exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations to commercial motor drivers transporting items intended to help in the COVID-19 relief effort. Fielkow is concerned about the exemption.

“Fatigue doesn’t care if we’re in a crisis or if we’re in normal times,” he said. “I’d be very, very careful about disregarding the hours-of-service rules, even if you’re hauling COVID-related materials, because fatigue is fatigue. Let’s be sure that we’re focused on safety above compliance.”

During this crisis, drivers might need more frequent breaks and more say over assigned routes. “Don’t force work,” Fielkow said. “If an employee is not comfortable with a particular assignment, you can’t force it.”

Fielkow also encouraged employers and managers to check in frequently with drivers about any concerns or questions they might have.

“We’ve done that in our company a couple of times and we’ve gotten great questions,” he said. “Those questions led to discussions and conversations, then an understanding that we can be safe and we can operate with a clear head in the COVID-19 era.”

Fielkow described a situation in which a trusted, reliable employee was having performance issues and making mistakes.

“It may be that they’re distracted,” he said. “What you’ve got to do is diffuse that distraction, stay firm on the safety issues, but put the rule books and discipline forms away. Let’s coach. Let’s call time-out. If we start inundating people with every (safety) rule out there, we’re going to lose our peoples’ minds. We’ve got to narrow the focus to what’s most important.”

Employers must understand that their clients and vendors are most likely following the same best practices when it comes to safety and health as well. To do so, Fielkow said having those conversations can advance the topic.

“You’ve got to be a resource that gathers resources,” he said, noting many industry associations are offering free COVID-19-related resources that can be downloaded and shared with clients and vendors.

Jorge Chavez, a Jetco Delivery driver with more than 15 years of experience, discussed his work delivering essential supplies to grocery stores and other businesses during this time.

“For us as professionals, we have to be extra vigilant and alert – checking our mirrors, increasing our following distance, because people could be scared,” Chavez said. “They could be distracted.”

To ensure his own safety, Chavez said staying connected with news about the pandemic, along with federal and local safety guidance updates, has been critical.

“I’m also reading all emails from my company, making sure we’re on the same page,” he said.

U.S. House T&I Committee to Thank Transportation Workers

As essential employees from every sector, but especially in transportation and infrastructure, continue to step up in our nation’s fight against the novel coronavirus, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will be thanking them… We’re reaching out in the hopes that you will join us by using the hashtag #ToThoseWhoKeepUsMoving.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 1:00 PM ETthe Committee will hold a bipartisan tweetstorm to thank workers.

The Committee has put together graphics and sample social media for your use. Please feel free to use them and contact Marcus Frias (majority staff) at marcus.frias@mail.house.gov or Justin Harclerode (Minority Staff) at justin.harclerode@mail.house.gov if you have any questions.

The graphics can be found  HERE.

COVID-19 pandemic: CDC adjusts return-to-work guidance for essential employees

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Photo: Hirurg/iStockphoto

Washington — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new guidelines intended to allow workers employed in “critical infrastructure” to return to their jobs more quickly after exposure to people with known or suspected cases of COVID-19.

Previously, essential workers were instructed to remain home for a 14-day period after exposure or potential exposure. As outlined April 8 by CDC Director Robert Redfield during a White House coronavirus task force press briefing, the new interim guidance enables these workers to return to work if they do not have symptoms and follow various other precautions such as taking their temperature before going to work, wearing a facemask at all times, frequently cleaning and disinfecting workspaces, and practicing physical distancing on the job.

According to CDC, the guidance covers workers in the following sectors:

  • Federal, state and local law enforcement
  • 911 call center employees
  • Fusion center employees
  • Hazardous material responders from government and the private sector
  • Janitorial and other custodial staff
  • Individuals employed in food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, informational technology, transportation, energy, and government facilities

“We appreciate the dedication of all brave people responding to the challenges of #COVID19 to keep their communities safe and healthy,” Redfield wrote in an April 8 tweet, “and we will continue working to find ways to keep these individuals as safe as possible during this challenging time.”

Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19

 

To ensure continuity of essential function operations, CDC indicates that critical infrastructure workers may be allowed to continue working in the face of potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are in place to protect and protect them to the community.

Potential exposure means being a household contact or having close contact (up to 6 feet away) with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case. The period to have contact with a person includes a lapse of 48 hours before the onset of symptoms.

Critical infrastructure workers who have been exposed but remain asymptomatic should implement the following before and during work shifts:

  • Pre-assessment: Employers should monitor temperature and assess employee symptoms before they begin work. The ideal would be to control the temperature before the person enters the establishment.
  • Regular Monitoring: As long as employees do not have a fever or other symptoms, they should monitor themselves under the supervision of the employer’s occupational health program.
  • Mask use: The employee should wear a mask at all times in the workplace for 14 days after the last exposure. Employers can provide masks or authorize the use of cloth face covers for employees in the event of a shortage of supplies.
  • Social distance: The employee should maintain a distance of 6 feet and implement social distance, as long as the tasks performed in the workplace allow it.
  • Cleaning and disinfection of work areas: regularly clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, and electronic equipment for shared use.

If the employee becomes ill during the day, they should send him home immediately . Surfaces in your work area should be cleaned and disinfected . Information should be collected on people who were in contact with the sick employee during the time he had symptoms and 2 days prior to the onset of symptoms. They should be considered exposed to other persons in the establishment who had close contact up to 6 feet from the employee during that time.

Employers should implement the recommendations in the Interim Guide for Business and Employers on Planning and Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Find more information on how to identify critical infrastructure during COVID-19 on the DHS CISA website external site icon or on the CDC Specific Guide page for emergency response personnel.

INTERIM GUIDE

This interim guide is for critical infrastructure workers, including staff in 16 different job sectors, such as:

  • Local, State, and Federal Public Safety
  • 911 call center employees
  • Fusion Center Employees
  • Private sector and government hazardous materials response personnel
  • Custodial staff and other custodial staff
  • Workers, including contract providers, in the food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, computing, transportation, energy, and government facilities
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
  • Employees should not share headphones or other objects that are close to the mouth or nose.
  • Employers should increase the frequency with which commonly touched surfaces are cleaned.
  • Employees and employers should consider piloting the use of face masks to ensure that it does not affect assigned tasks.
  • Employers should coordinate with facility maintenance personnel to ventilate workplaces more frequently.
  • Employees should keep their distance when they take a break all together. It is necessary to take staggered breaks, avoid congregations in the rest area and not