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HSEQ/HR Townhall Discusses COVID-19 Protocols, Testing

Representatives from more than 40 PESA Member Companies participated in PESA’s second HSEQ/HR Remote Townhall on July 15 to discuss best practices as companies move forward amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. HR Committee Chair and Advisory Board Member Bonnie Houston, Chief Administrative Officer, NOV, and Health & Safety Committee Chair Gary Childress, VP QHS&E Wellsite Services, Oil States International, facilitated the discussion.

The CDC continues to update and expand guidelines relative to COVID-19, most recently widening the list of higher risk individuals, which now includes obesity (BMI of 30 or higher) among other conditions. Companies are managing through this on a case-by-case basis and are relying on the employees to disclose any pre-existing medical issues if they are in a high-risk category.

Procedures addressing secondary exposure cases are being closely monitored with organizations ensuring testing is being done and isolation is implemented. Most companies are relying heavily on detailed contact tracing protocols. These protocols have been established and are being followed whenever an employee tests positive, exhibits signs/symptoms of the illness, and/or feels that they have been exposed to someone (close contact) to someone who has tested positive.

Regarding customer or country testing requirements for pre-trips, most companies are not requiring testing of employees who do not show signs of any symptoms. Because travel is currently limited, the typical requirement is to make companies aware of any anticipated travel so the company can mitigate and take precaution ahead of time as necessary. For those who have been traveling outside the United States, some countries are requiring testing prior to arrival while others mandate a test upon arrival. Resources such as International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm, have been valuable as a means to identify testing sites as employees arrive in country.

From a salary perspective, employees who have been exposed and need to self-isolate are being asked to do so with no change in salary. Most companies require the employee to quarantine from home, continuing to do their work if able. For the most part, employees, regardless of exemption status, level or role are fully paid if they are required to quarantine without having to use their own personal benefits such as PTO. Some organizations have had specific cases where they may require the employee to manage their time using their own personal benefits if the exposure was not work-related, such as exposure to COVID through a personal circumstance like on vacation, at a birthday party, family member’s home, etc. All in all, organizations are encouraging truthfulness to ensure employees are safe and companies are following guidelines.

As people continue to work from home, flexible work schedules and remote work policies are being developed, implemented and updated. Athough some organizations’ employees started going back into the office last month, most are reverting back to remote work from home policy if able. Some companies stated when they do go back into the office at full capacity, they will only go in one to two days a week. With schools announcing protocols and schedules for the 2020-2021 school year, companies are starting to look into how their organizations will manage through the different scenarios presented by the various districts. Companies feel establishing a sustainable plan will assist with the development of a remote work force moving forward.

Additional services and techniques are being introduced, deployed and tested, and therefore decontamination methods at worksites, facilities and remote workplaces are being updated. Best practices include implementing an extensive cleaning regimen and identifying a company if deeper scale cleaning needs to be done; facilities cleaned on a daily basis by a dedicated employee whose sole job during the pandemic is to ensure the cleanliness of the facility; decontamination of equipment daily at shift change using approved disinfectant; and encouraging sites to work with contracted third-party cleaning services and/or internal personnel to increase the level of/frequency of routine site cleaning; particularly with regard to common touch surfaces.

Due to a recent update by OSHA related to workplace exposure and resulting positive tests, organizations are reviewing their current process and incident classification criteria. Companies are conducting good faith inquiries but are faced with the challenge of how to determine contact tracing unless employees were in a very specific location, like on a platform. All companies are not following the same procedures but may have to disclose information the same fashion in order to comply with OSHA guidelines.

Regarding overall testing, some companies require a negative test to come back to work and some require two negatives. However, the timing and the type of test is a source of contention. Companies are facing ambiguity around tracking transmission, timing of testing and return to work clearance, and are working through the challenges on a daily basis.

For the latest information and resources visit PESA’s COVID-19 Resources page. For more information regarding future HSEQ/HR Townhalls, contact Senior Director Membership Services Peggy Helfert.

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