Category Archives: Uncategorized

June 2020 WISE Administrator’s Message

Hey WISE friends! It is easier to do a text update this month so I can link you to ALL THE THINGS…

Today is the last day of early registration for ASSP’s Safety 2020. If you’re looking to lock in the lower rate, register today! If you’re a student member, you get THE BEST deal for the virtual conference at $75. It’s even a great deal when prices go up, but save that money because you’re a student 🙂 All info and registration is at

WISE Coffee Breaks continue each Friday at 10am CST, please visit the WISE group in the ASSP Community for the login info, or check out our Facebook and LinkedIn groups for the link and password. The coffee breaks have been a fun and unstructured way to meet new WISE friends and discuss collaborations between our group and other ASSP practice specialties and common interest groups, as well as ways WISE can deliver timely and relevant info to our members and the Society.

coffee break (1)

Speaking of virtual socials, WISE is hosting several virtual networking opportunities during the ASSP Safety 2020: Virtual event. Links for these events will be posted in our WISE group on the ASSP Community, our Facebook group, and LinkedIn group. Watch your ASSP Weekly emails for info as well.

WISE Safety 2020 virtual events

Traditionally, WISE has offered a t-shirt each year during the annual ASSP conference to support the WISE Professional Education Grant. You can donate direct to the grant fund by texting WISE to 41444, a link will be sent to you to complete the donation. Please share this info with others who would like to support and #fundWISEfutures!

WISE Text4Safety

You may also support the WISE Professional Education Grant fund through purchase of WISE logo apparel and accessories at the WISE Store from Beeze Tees in New Hampshire and through the WISE Collection from Vicki’s Safety Creations. A special item was created by Vicki’s for Safety 2020, they are neck gaiters that can be used as face coverings, as many of you may be required to wear at your workplace or in public areas.

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Last but not least, do not forget about all of the opportunities to recognize your fellow WISE members for their achievements. The WISE Member of the Month program continues fresh each month, use this link to submit a nomination anytime.

Congratulations to our 2020 WISE Safety Professional of the Year Melissa Rohrer!

WISE MotM (2)

Congratulations WISE Professional Education Grant recipient Michelle Sullenger! WISE MotM

ChapterWISE and Mentoring excellence awards will be announced during the WISE Safety 2020 Virtual Networking Event.

As Christina Roll moves into the WISE Administrator position on July 1, 2020, Camille Oakes will begin her term as WISE Assistant Administrator! An official hand off and welcome will be conducted at the WISE Safety 2020 Virtual Networking Event.

new wise leadership!

I look forward to “seeing” you soon!


Safety 2021 Speaker Proposal Planner

You’ve aspired to speak at the BIG SHOW, the ASSP Professional Development Conference, PDC for short. Now, the deadline for Safety 2021 speaker proposals awaits, July 15, 2020. Safety 2021 will be in Denver, CO, make sure to check your availability for the dates of the conference before submitting a proposal, it is slated for June 6-9, 2021. Note that you are limited to two proposals, this is different from previous years.

If this is your first time, the process can seem daunting. I assure you it is not, however it is just daunting enough to ensure only those who are truly serious about speaking apply!

I have encouraged people to speak at past conferences, and shared my process in preparation for Safety 2019. However, I shared that info a mere 17 days before the proposals were due… Last year and again this year, I’m giving you the resource MUCH further in advance. Here is your behind the scenes look into how I’ve approached preparation of my proposal for this epic event since 2014!

  1. Identify your topic based on your current interests and initiatives or what you’re working on in the next year. It’s hard to propose a relevant topic a year in advance, but it can be done if it’s something you’re passionate about or will be working on consistently in the coming year.
    • If you need some inspiration, listen to this quick message I recorded with advice on identifying a topic for Safety 2019. Just disregard the dates and listen to the advice. You can also watch this video I recorded on the same topic, again, disregard the dates, and use the advice. A quick summary of my advice is in the image below, updated to take 2020’s events into account… SAFETY 2021 Speaker Proposal Tips
  2. Identify a partner or assemble a panel if you don’t want to speak solo. Safety 2019 was the first year I didn’t submit a solo proposal! I submitted as a duo and a panel. If for financial reasons you need that 100% conference registration honoraria, that is only in play if you speak solo or co-present. If you are on a panel of 3+ speakers, your registration is paid for one day only.
  3. Visit the Safety 2021 speaker proposal page and familiarize yourself with the parameters. You MUST follow these instructions and word/character counts!
  4. Build your proposal in a Word document, do not type it directly into the online form – I am a big fan of trusting technology, but I just can’t stomach the thought of losing my content if something weird happened! Use Word, then copy and paste over once you’ve finalized your proposal elements.
    I developed a tool for this specific purpose, please download and use it!
    Abby’s Safety 2021 Proposal Planner
    When using my tool, type the information below the bold headings that correspond with the ASSP Speaker Proposal form. You can find word and character count by highlighting the area in question, click Tools and choose Word Count. That window will give you info on word count and character count with and without spaces.
  5. Refresh your bio – you’ll need to list relevant speaking experience, so if you don’t maintain an Events page like I do, you may need to flip through your calendar to find the past few years of speaking events. Note that you also must include three references!
  6. Thanks for reading this far… Please reach out with any questions after you’ve downloaded the proposal planner!

Book Report! blink

It’s been a WHILE since I’ve done a book report, the last was No Ego, which you should definitely read, or at least check out some of the author’s, Cy Wakeman, video or podcast content.

I just finished “blink” by Malcolm Gladwell for the WISE book club. Since the ASSP conference isn’t in person this year, we can’t do our book swap, so we revived the WISE Book Club to stay connected. Learn more about WISE here or here.

Since I’m a horrible procrastinator, I just finished the book even though our last book club meeting was over a week ago…

To expedite the book report and keep the spirit of the book’s subtitle “the power of thinking without thinking” – I’m using just the bended pages of my copy of the book as a guide for the highlights and conversation points of the book. Let me know if you have also read the book, and if you’d like to discuss more!

From the chapter The Locked Door, In high-stakes, fast-moving situations, we don’t want to be as dispassionate and purely rational as the Iowa ventromedial patients. We don’t want to stand there endlessly talking through our options. Sometimes we’re better off if the mind behind the locked door makes our decisions for us.

Since I read this book with other safety professionals, I had a safety pro lens to most of the content. This chapter was especially interesting when related to a high risk workplace or task. Gladwell describes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex as our “mental valet” that keeps tabs on what’s going on around us to make sure we act appropriately to the setting but keeps our brain free to focus on the problem or situation at hand. I thought of the impact of safety training, and ensuring we reach our workers with multiple learning styles (listening and doing), and in varied lengths of time (micro training and longer form training). This information contributes to that “mental valet” for the worker, so they are able to make the right, safe, or appropriate decisions for action in the moment.

In the chapter titled The Warren Harding Error, the author furthers the “blink” concept but starts to give the reader some ideas of why this will not work in all scenarios.

The Warren Harding error is the dark side of rapid cognition. It is at the root of a good deal of prejudice and discrimination. It’s why picking the right candidate for a job is so difficult and why, on more occasions than we may care to admit, utter mediocrities sometimes end up in positions of enormous responsibility. Part of what it means to take thin-slicing and first impressions seriously is accepting the fact that sometimes we can know more about someone or something in the blink of an eye than we can after months of study. But we also have to acknowledge and understand those circumstances when rapid cognition leads us astray.

As the book goes on, there are several examples of where thin slicing can go wrong. Often it’s because a person is a novice at the material. This is explained in horrific detail in the police officer shooting examples in the last chapter of the book. I also thought a lot about a Maya Angelou quote during this chapter and after finishing the book, When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. It can seem harsh, but sometimes your brain percepts things about someone you’ve just met that you later argue with yourself about (not out loud fortunately!). These are the times when thin slicing may be working in your favor.

I must admit, there was a chapter that lost my interest, Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory. It was about war games, exercises that military leaders conduct to simulate scenarios that could jeopardize our national defense. A quote stuck out to me, again, I related it to the jobsite and high risk tasks, We would not get caught up in any of these mechanistic processes. We would use the wisdom, the experience, and the good judgement of the people we had. This along with another passage I’ll quote reminded me of McGregor’s Theory X and Y , with Theory Y being preferable as it encourages self direction. Gladwell stated that the person using the quoted method allowed people to operate without having to explain themselves constantly, and that it enabled rapid cognition.

When workers are treated like adults, and allowed to draw on their experience, and are enabled to use their judgement, it implies a level of trust. On the flip side, if you operate in the opposite way, workers second guess themselves or fail to act.

The chapter Seven Seconds in the Bronx, details several accounts of police officer involved shootings that range from shootings resulting in the death of an innocent person, to a short encounter in which an armed person is arrested without injury. In the latter, the book describes the encounter as lasting 1.5 to 2 seconds, just like the others that ended in death, but the officer’s gift of training and expertise allowed a different end. The ability to extract an enormous amount of meaningful information from the very thinnest slice of experience. Gladwell describes the slowing down of a fast-moving situation, which comes from experience, similar to the example earlier in the book of Larry Bird’s basketball court vision. Every moment – every blink – is composed of a series of discrete moving parts, and every one of those parts offers an opportunity for intervention, for reform, and for correction.

I LOVED that last sentence. It was the a-ha and value-affirming part of the book for me as a safety pro. Isn’t this the goal of safety training and our interactions with workers? To get them to essentially slow down a task, and see each step as an opportunity to find a way to do it more efficiently and safely? As a safety pro, isn’t it a gift that we could aspire to give the workers we influence? Give them Larry Bird’s court sense, but for their work area. Though the subject matter of this chapter was very heavy, my mind went to the concept of flow state. I don’t have this thought line completely figured out, but it’s where the end of the book left me – finding a less distracted flow state in stressful work environments. I’m starting with this article, which will likely lead to reading the book Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

If you’ve read “blink” – what did you read next?

The last chapter of the book, Listening with your Eyes, couples nicely with diversity and inclusion topics I’ve been studying, especially as they relate to safety. Diverse perspectives bring strength to a team and organization, but many leaders struggle to figure out how to really make this happen. After describing the blind audition process many orchestras now use, which has led to more women and minorities in first chair positions and filling the other orchestra seats, Gladwell writes, orchestras now hire better musicians, and better musicians mean better music. When we listen with our eyes we miss out. Think about perspectives you may be missing at your various “tables” because of preconceptions about a person. Those missing perspectives are keeping your culture, programs, and procedures from getting better. In safety, that can mean you are missing ways to keep workers safe.

Returning to work after COVID-19

To keep myself organized and share the fantastic info that organizations and agencies are sharing, this post will be updated as more resources are developed. As always, use your judgement and tailor any templates to fit your organization’s needs.

Check out the Reopening America panel I was a part of on Safety FM for more info.

View the Reopening America panel on YouTube

Trois-Rivieres Training LLC – a gym in St. Cloud, MN 

National Safety Council’s SAFER Playbooks 

AIHA Back to Work Safely

Target post-COVID toolkit

Lyft health and safety program

Tesla COVID return to work playbook

Minnesota Department of Labor COVID plan template

Cushman & Wakefield resources

New York’s phased reopening with templates 

Safely Reopening Brewery Operations – Brewers Association

Velocity EHS state by state guidance

N95 Alternatives are a GO per OSHA

OSHA is on board with KN95s and other N95 alternatives. It may still be tough to source KN95s and other options, so you should look into other controls and other respiratory types.


Read more here from OSHA.

The COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls for the General Public

What if you’re not in an essential role at a critical infrastructure organization?

What if you are isolating at home, and need to go out for some food?

What if you had a plumbing issue and have to call in the professionals?

I’ve found myself in all of these scenarios recently, and even though I have an extensive safety background, I still paused to think. This thought process is natural for me, I’m a risk management and safety professional after all! This thought process may not be natural to you, however. I’ve had family and friends reach out to ask what “people in my industry” think about COVID-19, how long we will have to isolate, and what we are doing at our workplaces.

It’s kind of cool that the general public now knows the term “PPE,” but I also worry that they may think that is all there is to safety – suiting up and putting on protective gear to “stop” something from harming a person. It made me think that the general public might be open to learning about another concept from the safety professional’s toolkit – the Hierarchy of Controls.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a great landing page on the HoC. NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). You can learn all about that history here.

To keep things simple and relevant, it’s best to work through the HoC with a task in mind. After you’ve identified a task, you begin to identify the hazards associated with that task. This is the foundation for another safety concept called Job Hazard Analysis (or Job Safety Analysis, Task Hazard Analysis, Activity Hazard Analysis, or other term used at your workplace).

Task: You must go to the grocery store to pickup food for the next week.

Potential hazard: COVID-19

Now let’s work through the HoC to identify controls for the hazard of COVID-19. The HoC is usually presented as an upside-down pyramid to guide you to work through the stuff at the “top” first before the bottom tippy tip which is PPE.


Elimination controls: Usually this means that you eliminate the task completely. So, don’t go out! Seriously, if you’re doing pretty well on groceries and don’t have immediate needs, eat what you have – no need to hoard. I just learned about an app called Plant Jammer that will make up vegetarian-friendly recipes for you based on what you have on hand. This is also a great way to minimize food waste.

Substitution controls: What can you do in place of the actual task? You could order shelf-stable food to be shipped to your home; order a combination of pantry and fresh food for delivery by a local service in which a shopper does the shopping for you; order for drive-up pickup. There are probably more iterations of these substitutions that involve alternate ways of shopping in which you avoid interaction with others as much as possible. You get the point, and your mileage may vary depending on if you live in a city, suburb, or rural area.

Engineering controls: These controls are the type that physically isolate a person from the hazard. This is being attempted at stores with makeshift pickup counters that have plexiglass or other physical surface between the worker and the customer. In a typical non-COVID-19 workplace setting, a great example of an engineering control is a guard on a tool – the worker still uses the tool, but there’s a physical “thing” that is in place to prevent a worker’s finger or other body part (or whole body) from coming into contact with the hazard. Another example is guardrails when there is a hazard of falling.

Administrative controls: We also call these “work practice controls” nowadays because these are ways that we change the way the worker works through education, postings, and other non-physical controls.

A great example that stores are using all over the US is the placement of markings on the floor and sidewalks to indicate 6-feet of distance. This enables people to maintain social distancing while waiting in line. A store may also put up a sign for people that enter the store to shop to maintain 6-feet of distance from others – of course, signs don’t often change behavior and that’s why your friends are posting on Facebook about people getting too close in the aisles of Target!

Another administrative control is to shop alone if you do go out. Don’t bring your child, spouse, or other adult from your household. Stores are supporting this by limiting the amount of customers allowed into a store at a given time. Many stores have also setup special hours for elderly and immunocompromised people to shop to limit their exposure to others.

If you will be using a shopping cart, bring wipes to wipe down the handle before use, and bring hand sanitizer so you can wash your hands after returning the cart and before getting into your car.

When you get home, you may want to wipe down the food packaging before bringing items into the home. Even if you order food for delivery or shipment, you may still want to wipe down the items before bringing them into your home.

PPE controls: PPE is the last resort when you work through the HoC. The goal is to NOT put a bunch of protective gear on a person to do what they need to do at work. I have the same goal for you if you choose to venture out to shop.

PPE is the last resort because it is the control that is most subject to human error. People often put PPE on incorrectly, use the wrong PPE, or don’t understand the limitations of their PPE. When a construction worker gears up in a high visibility vest, they still must pay attention when working around heavy equipment! If that vest is dirty, or the retroreflective fabric is compromised somehow, the gear may not do it’s job, and the worker has a false feeling of safety…this is not good!

For our shopping example, if you’ve worked through the HoC and have chosen that you will do the shopping on your own, by entering a store and going through the checkout, you may choose to wear PPE because you have not implemented any other controls to this point (for whatever reason). By taking on the responsibility of wearing PPE, think about what you’re going to do with it when you get home… If you have a garage, you should think about leaving yourself a clean set of clothes and shoes to change into, and leave the “store clothes” in the garage or bring into the home in a bag and put them in the laundry right away. If you wear gloves and they are not disposable, they should be laundered too. If you choose to wear a mask, wash or dispose of it after use per its instructions.

Throughout and after this process, wash your hands!

Here’s a nice article that sums up this process, without naming the HoC (but now you’ll see it!), and has more resources links for you to dive down rabbit holes as you would like (or not).

Please share your tips and let me know of any questions. Stay safe and healthy out there!


The COVID-19 Wisdom of Frozen II

Disney released Frozen II to their Disney+ streaming platform last weekend, and it was just in time! Schools in the US closed, and students of all ages have been at home all week in addition to their (some newly) teleworking parent(s). 

Frozen II came up several times this week, mostly because it was a fantastic treat, carrot, or distraction for parents with kiddos of Frozen-enjoying ages. For parents, it’s a tool:

“if you finish this worksheet, you can watch Frozen II”

“just read for 20 minutes and you can un-pause Frozen II”

“if you don’t finish that worksheet, I’ll put Elsa on top of the refrigerator again!”

And that was just at my house… fill in your own Frozen II based threats and motivators! 

This week, I found Frozen II coming up in conversation because of it’s accidental wisdom and calm for these times of lockdown, quarantine, and general uncertainty. 

I’ve been a HUGE FAN of the Frozen II soundtrack since seeing the moving in the theater, my daughter and I had all the lyrics memorized within days. The soundtrack and its lyrics hold wisdom for our times, if you just listen closely… 

All Is Found

The movie’s opening scenes include flashbacks where we learn this lullaby. Why do lullabies often involve sudden death? Anyway… The song is haunting, and tells the tale we’ve heard before about chasing after answers, hoping for all to be revealed, but as the song cautions, “Dive down deep into her sound, But not too far or you’ll be drowned.” 

The song is sung by Anna and Elsa’s mother, voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, who plays an android on HBO’s Westworld. If anyone else finds meaning and symbolism in that, we can nerd out further, but I digress…

As we seek answers from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and heck, Joe Rogan, I urge you to not dive too deeply, or at least not for too long. It is easy to get overwhelmed, and drown in information. It is exhausting, even for the past 2-3 weeks that COVID-19 has been a reality in the US, to repeat this diving, drowning, and waking up the next day to do it all again, in your home, with more and more distractions and challenges. 

Some Things Never Change

This song I am choosing to interpret as reassurance and a battle cry for safety and risk professionals right now. Someone very wise once said, “the only constant in life is change,” and safety pros know this all too well. But we have tools and systems for this! This is our time to shine! When Ana sings “that’s why I rely on certain certainties,” I think of our tools for training, communicating, and job and risk analysis. Use your foundational skills, and you’ll shine during these uncertain times. And it never hurts to do all of this with beautiful grand piano accompanied lyrics in your head. Safety friends, “I’m holding on tight to youuuuuuu” 🙂 

Into the Unknown

I really enjoyed the emotional quality of this song and Idina Menzel’s voice in the theater, and then enjoyed a completely different vibe hearing the Panic at the Disco version of this on the soundtrack. As safety pros, we know we are DEFINITELY going into the unknown right now, but I can’t help feel a bit of positivity and opportunity even though things seem to be falling apart or are SO uncertain at times. I can hear that “whisper” of positivity, (“but I won’t”) but have to set it aside sometimes for the daily reality of what’s going on. In times of struggle and challenge, it is important to have perspective to avoid going into spirals of negativity or worry over things you cannot directly control. 

When I Am Older

This song goes out to our kids… “this will all make sense when I am older.” Of course, the irony and message of this song as you watch along with the movie is that, NO, this will NOT all make sense when you are older. It doesn’t make sense to adults right now! With age will come tools and ways that our kids will be able to process these current events. 

Reindeers are Better than People

A quick interlude to the next tune… and a reminder to pet your pets. Talk to them too, and make voices for their responses. It’s OK, you might feel better for a moment. Repeat. 

Lost in the Woods

This song is clearly for the parents! If you belted out 80s love ballads and watched the videos on MTV, this is your modern jam. I went through a lot of feelings in the first full week of working from home, my husband working from home, and my child doing her schoolwork from home. Oh, and eating all of our meals at home, and looking to only each other for entertainment, conversation, solace, and everything else we needed. In the close quarters, there was also distance. I think it’s due to our brains each coming to the realization at different times that this is our new normal for an unknown amount of time. 

The song is a love ballad to your spouse, partner, bestie, child, pet, anyone you have turned to for support this past week – even though we are so close, it can be easy to lose ourselves and lose our minds a little bit. We can find our “true north” and come back to each other. 

Show Yourself

Confession: I can’t get through this part of the movie and not cry. I’ve seen the movie three times now, and every time, the tears fall. It’s a good, hearty, “I needed that,” inspiring type of cry – but a cry nonetheless. If you’re usually a stoic person, that doesn’t show emotion readily (ahem, me), the lyrics really speak to you. Being a “fortress, cold secrets deep inside,” I know how it feels to be “home” with a person or an internal feeling of confidence to really “show yourself.” 

This is also a call for my fellow safety professionals to step into their role! “Show yourself!” Your organization needs you, the front line workers REALLY need you. If you think it’s not in you, listen to the song and get your inner badass, prepared, and confident safety pro out of the dark.

The Next Right Thing

This is the gut wrencher. There was probably a time this past week that you felt you weren’t getting through, or that no one was with you, or other hopeless and alone feeling. “I’ve seen dark before, but not like this.” Most safety pros have an incident from the past that called on all of their skills to get through – a serious injury or fatality. We’ve unfortunately seen some of the worst things that can happen, but this is different. We’re in times that there is no playbook, no specific strategy to turn to, “but you must go on, and do the next right thing.” There will be a “day beyond this night,” and the role of the safety pro is so critical right now.

Bottom line: Keep learning, sharing information and best practices, and find the “next right thing” and build on it. Take some time to enjoy the people who are cooped up in the house with you, and to break tension, watch Frozen II or at least jam to the soundtrack for a dance party! 

Imagining a Post COVID-19 Workplace

The following text was started on Friday March 13, 2020,

“Dream with me, imagine the workplace after COVID-19 is controlled, never going back to old methods.

We’ve learned there are so many meetings that really should have been emails, that for years we grossly under utilized virtual meeting technology. Those stuck in early 00s office habits were exposed; and learned, adapted, thrived even, and were more efficient than ever.

People with kids, elder and family care responsibilities, mobility constraints, chronic illness, mental illness, and other struggles well never know fully are meaningful contributors to organizations, on their schedule. Because time is money, but time can also be made to work for individuals.”

Now I’m back in the present, Sunday March 15, 2020. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota just completed an hour long press conference on school closings, which presents extreme challenges for many in the state. I am so fortunate to have experience as an independent consultant, I’ve had to think VERY creatively in tough times. For those who are able to easily pivot to teleworking, we are in a position of privilege. It is not that difficult to now add your child(ren) back to the home while schools are closed. Those who work in non-office settings should be ready for their employer to begin to approach the work day and schedule in a creative way. This is the time for administrative controls to shine! 

If you are in the non-office category, put your own thinking cap on – how could your workplace do things differently so that parents are able to care for their children who are now at home for the next few weeks (at least)? Innovation at this time is needed, and will likely be rewarded. We are in interesting times in which decisions made now will impact how we work in the near future. I am optimistic for the future of work, the workplace, efficiency, and balance. 

For my fellow office-based folks, we have always been overhead, and we should have already been working efficiently to reduce that overhead. If you’re not experienced in working from home, you may have laughed at those who work from home in the past… you’re about to find out it is indeed serious business. You are about to learn how productive you can be, how long a day can be, and how many available working hours there are in a day. You must dedicate a space, now matter how small, for your laptop and other essential office tools. You must have ergonomics and longevity in mind when you set up this space – it is NOT sustainable to plop your laptop at the kitchen table! You may do that from time to time, but it should not be your default. 

Check out my past posts on laptop ergonomics and other considerations for teleworkers here and here. My safety friend Cathy White posted a great video for practical ergonomics as one begins to setup their home office, even if it has to be at the kitchen table. 

If you find yourself feeling isolated, use your employer’s web conference platform to reach out to coworkers and colleagues. I personally just quickly changed multiple in-person meetings to Skype, Zoom, and Lifesize meetings. I still have Google Hangouts and other tools at my disposal as well. 

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The Safety Justice League podcasts will continue on their usual schedule, so make sure to take a listen – you’ll feel like you have 4 new fun coworkers! Find us wherever you usually listen to podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I Heart Radio and more. 

And finally, keep a positive mindset and have empathy for your coworkers who may be juggling a LOT right now. This classic video could be any of us! 



Sample Language for COVID Communication

Even the most reputable resources are not offering specific guidance on how employers can communicate with their employees about coronavirus. With guidance like “have a plan” coming from top organizations and associations, it’s leaving many safety professionals and risk managers with more questions than answers.

In this post, I will not reiterate resources I’ve already presented in past posts, here and here. But please do click and read them to catch up! Also, be sure to subscribe to daily update emails from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Response and Policy (CIDRAP).

Let’s get to it…


Pandemic Plan

To ground yourself on where we’ve been and what we should be planning for in the future, check out this influenza planning and response infographic from CDC (2017). OSHA has also been there for us in the past with influenza and pandemic planning resources, this landing page, along with the info contained in the most recent planning documents from OSHA referenced here, regardless of industry, are required reading for safety and risk professionals at this time.

While it may seem elementary, this pandemic planning checklist for workplace administrators from the CDC is a great thought process and work flow for any safety, risk, or human resources professional to use now.

Many safety pros are being asked by their organization and even senior safety and risk staff to prepare written guidance. First, you should look at your company’s current disaster and emergency planning documents. You may already have procedures, policies, and language there that can be adapted to provide communications to workers related to the current COVID-19 outbreak. To supplement or replace (in some cases) your current communication, use the linked resources below from reputable sources like the CDC:


After you take guidance from the links above to inform your organization’s general policy related to a pandemic, it’s time to dig in to the actual communications you may need to provide to your organization and personnel.

Think of the communications in three parts: the event, guidance for those immediately affected, and information for the organization to communicate the facts and any related policy.

For example, an employee tests positive for COVID-19, now what?

The event: It is top priority to ensure the worker receives the care they need. As soon as practical, speak to the employee before they go home or to their doctor (or by phone or email) to find out who else they may have been within three to six feet of in the past two weeks (14 days), this includes coworkers, vendors, subcontractors, and clients. The employee’s healthcare provider will conduct any mandatory reporting that falls under their responsibility.

If the COVID-19 exposure was work-related, consult OSHA’s guidance on recordability, which must be viewed on a laptop or desktop computer (the most important recordability information is in a blue call-out box that is not visible on mobile devices. Contact your insurance carrier about reportability. Some guidance on compensability is starting to trickle out as more organizations report work-related cases.

Guidance for those immediately affected: Notify impacted employees immediately that they should go home and self-quarantine for 14 days as prescribed by CDC, and self monitor as described in CDC guidance here. Use the CDC language, there is no need to craft your own language for the self-quarantine and self-monitoring.

Information for organization: When communicating about this case, ensure that you do not identify the infected employee by name to maintain confidentiality. State the facts, that a worker tested positive for COVID-19, personnel who were in close proximity to the worker have been informed and directed to self-quarantine for 14 days. Similar to OSHA’s guidance on reporting exposure assessment results for contaminants like silica, notify employees in writing of the exposure, and indicate the corrective actions being taken to reduce future exposure.

Take steps to clean, or hire a third party to clean, the work area including common areas ad shared workspaces. If your business is in a multi-tenant building or office park, inform the surrounding businesses and/or building management so they may also take precautions they deem necessary. Report these activities to employees in writing as well.

Communication is key! Whether you’re keeping in phone contact with an employee with a confirmed COVID-19 case, or letting personnel know that you’re taking proactive measures. Your people are looking to you for guidance, reassurance, and direction – use your usual pathways, this is not the time to change your entire communications approach.

For more resources

For other specific “what if” scenarios, the Fisher Phillips law firm has an informational landing page that is continuously being updated based on the latest guidance. If your organization has legal counsel, consult them as well to receive similar resources and guidance. Your insurance carrier and broker likely have information you can use as well, including sample programs and language. The information may be too general for your liking, but it is a good start if you do not have a disaster, emergency, or pandemic plan in place.

For my friends up North eh


1-833-784-4397 Interpretation services are available in multiple languages


Risk assessment for mass gatherings:

Ontario: Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ask questions. They also have translation available in many languages.


Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600, Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 8p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m


COVID-19 and Construction

Your email inbox has likely been flooded with sincere emails signed by CEOs, CMOs, and other executives of the companies you routinely patronize, whether it’s the pet store, your favorite Italian place, or the airline you’ve got the most loyalty points with – everyone has something to say about coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s great to hear about their plans for increased cleanliness: sanitizing common spaces more frequently, providing employee training to conduct such cleaning, and even sharing photos or videos of how said cleaning is done.

Coronavirus Illustration | Photo: CDC

OSHA has some great guidance available here, however their site is NOT optimized for mobile devices. This has caused some issues with people being unable to see OSHA’s guidance on the recordability of coronavirus if it is work-related. The blue call-out box below is not accessible on mobile devices when you visit OSHA’s COVID-19 landing page:

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OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidance

OSHA’s latest publication, Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, offers about 30 pages of content that is separated into guidance for employers with workers with low, medium, and high risk of COVID-19 exposure. Medium risk is defined by OSHA as “jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) other people who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2.” One could approach their jobsite as if it is categorized as medium risk, however, this is not likely the correct category for your typical construction site.

The OSHA guidance provides examples of impact a COVID-19 outbreak could have on your jobsite, including: absenteeism, change in patterns of commerce, and interrupted supply/delivery. Since the first news of coronavirus, the latter has been the most visual impact at jobsites, especially on sites where particulate respirators (“dust masks”) are frequently used. At the time of this blog post (10:17pm CST on Thursday March 12, 2020 to be exact), N95 masks are either out of stock or the price is severely inflated on Amazon. Your favorite local warehouse of PPE is likely still out of stock as well. If your workers have a need for N95s, you have already had to deal with interrupted supply/delivery!

Absenteeism may become a larger issue as more school districts are opting to cancel classes, start spring break early, extend spring break, or at least limit programming like after school activities. This is causing families to scramble for child care, changing schedules on the fly to accommodate earlier pickup times, and that’s just for families with more than one parental figure in the picture. For single parent households, or blended households in which an immunocompromised family member may live, there is increased stress with the daily balance of work and school priorities that are difficult on a day where there are no disease outbreaks in the world. Consider adopting more flexible leave policies at this time, or at least checking in with workers who appear to be stressed, or aren’t appearing at all – showing up late or leaving early.

The OSHA guidance goes on to honor the hierarchy of controls and offer engineering, administrative, work practice, and PPE controls for all employers before providing specific guidance for employers with high, medium, and low exposure risk.

Just the Facts

OSHA has pandemic resources available, including this Fact Sheet, which is perfect to share with supervisors and post at work sites. The Fact Sheet may be from 2014, but it has the same guidance you are hearing every day related to COVID-19 including social distancing, good hygiene, disinfection procedures, and providing updated pandemic-related communications.

On a construction site, some of these guidelines may play out in the following ways:

  • Post reminders for workers to keep 3′ to 6′ away from each other. On a construction site, many of us carry measuring tapes and can easily check this. I’m joking about that last part…but not kidding! Social distancing works because COVID-19 is spread via exhaled virus-containing droplets from infected persons.
  • Daily crew huddles, tailgate meetings, and toolbox talks can encourage social distancing by relaying visual information via text message or printed materials. I’ve given plenty of tailgate meetings to know that maintaining social distancing is NOT a problem! Often, even when telling workers to “gather ’round,” the closest people seem to get is 10′ away from whoever is speaking, and about 3′ away from the nearest coworker. Again, I’m joking…but not kidding.
  • Remind workers to wash their hands before eating, drinking, or smoking; and after using the bathroom. Some of you have really fancy jobsites with running water, soap, and single-use towels – please, stop bragging! Most jobsites have a combination of foot pump activated sinks with soap that is sometimes full and the single-use towels are hit or miss. In these cases, contact the rental company that provides the facilities, and request that soap and towels be refilled. For those working at sites without these facilities, it’s the portapotty and hand sanitizer combination – ensure the hand sanitizer is filled, and it is a good idea to keep your own stash as well. If you get a chance to leave the site for snacks or a supply run, never miss a chance to use a real bathroom with running water, soap, and single-use towels!
  • Maintain cleaning supplies like bottles of household cleaners and disinfectants that are on the list of EPA-registered disinfectants or pre-moistened and disposable cleaning wipes. These supplies should be available for ready use near bathrooms and common areas, i.e.: that big conference table that is used for EVERYTHING at a jobsite (lunch, planning meetings, etc).
  • If drinking water is provided in a commonly used container, either stop providing it and provide bottled water instead, or clean and sanitize the water jug or cooler frequently by following the manufacturer’s instructions.

These precautions will become part of our norms after coronavirus becomes a thing of the past. Workers and the public will become accustomed to the increased cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and it will be expected to uphold these procedures and improve upon them to prevent spread of the usual viruses, and viruses of the future.

For more info and updates

If you’ve read this far, you deserve some more resources! Here’s my now daily go-to sites and two podcasts that have recently provided some excellent information. The COVID-19 situation is changing daily so it’s important to bookmark these sites or subscribe to their updates.

OSHA COVID-19 landing page

CDC Coronavirus landing page

World Health Organization (WHO) Coronavirus landing page

University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Response and Policy (CIDRAP)

CIDRAP’s Michael Osterholm on Joe Rogan podcast 3/10/2020

Deborah Roy – What Employers Need to Know About Coronavirus podcast 3/11/2020

Fisher Phillips FAQ page for employers – updated consistently

I wrote this white paper what seems like months ago, and it contains several links to more resources you may find useful as well. Please share with others if you find value.

2020.02.27 Coronavirus white paper AF

Stay safe and healthy out there, and if you’re actually in need of toilet paper this week, I hope you find some!

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