The New C Word | Team Talk vol. 1

Editor’s Note: Welcome to a brand new column to C&R! Starting today, and over the next month, we will be introducing you to FOUR brand new columns, and their stellar authors. You can expect to see columns from these gurus every single month on and in our weekly eNewsletter!

Marcie Richardson is the Director of Human Resources for Guarantee Restoration Services. She brings more than 20 years of HR experience to her all-new Team Talk column. She will be covering topics like COVID, hiring, firing, culture, benefits, and everything in-between. Have a question for Marcie? Maybe she’ll answer it in a future column! Reach out to her: 

The Team Talk column will be featured the fourth Tuesday of every month in the Restoration Today eNewsletter.


Employers, today, are being faced with so many questions and challenges around COVID right now.

  • Should we mandate vaccines?
  • Should we require masks?
  • Do we need to pay people while out sick?
  • What to do if an employee refuses to comply with in-house protocols?
  • Should we offer vaccines?

COVID is a very personal, highly debated, and opinionated topic. And I get why! The unknown future health risks and side-effects, new variants, employer liabilities, and personal feelings are leaving employers and employees searching for the right direction. How do you know if you are making the right decision for your company?

Some employers are allowing the customer to decide COVID mandated protocols. Customers are giving employers deadlines to comply with fully vaccinated staffs in order to continue working on customer premises. Employers are left with possibility of losing employees. 

Other employers are choosing to maintain company culture by not forcing any mandates as it may negatively impact employee morale and send the number of voluntary terminations through the roof. Here, employers are left with the possibility of losing customers. 

For me, the option and choice are crystal clear. I choose safety.

OSHA Section 5(a)(1) – The General Duty Clause: 

“Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees’ employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

As employers, you must provide a safe place for all employees, including the high-risk and unvaccinated, to work…this includes health, not just injury and accidents. Masks, distancing, and proper ventilation are controls employers can implement to provide a workplace free from known hazards. COVID is a known hazard. 

Most employers would not allow their employees to be on a job site without steel toe boots, goggles, hard hats, protective gloves, and other forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) if the job called for it. Why are masks any different?

Think about it like this…ABC Restoration receives a call for a house that had been flooded due to a massive rain event. The flood waters have receded, leaving behind wet, slick, muddy, and in some spots, algae-covered floors. The company has made the decision that non-skid shoes are not a required PPE even though the company does acknowledge the work performed may be slippery and create known hazards. Technician Shawn goes to the job site in penny loafers, and immediately falls to the ground, breaking his ankle, the moment he steps inside the house. 

Even though we cannot see COVID, it is a known hazard we must be willing and are obligated to protect our employees from.

According to OSHA:

Personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE”, is equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses.”

In our new COVID world, employers must err on the side of safety. Protect employees. Bring back the human component and connection. Employees will all have different COVID perspectives, but for employers, the message must be safety. 

At the same time though, employees are directed to follow and adhere to controls and safety measures employers implement. 

OSHA Section 5(a)(2) – 

 “Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.”

Employers cannot protect employees if the employee fails to comply with safety measures put in place to protect them. Employees must take ownership of their own safety by following all safety rules and regulations…including wearing masks. 

Employers must educate and emphasize the importance of COVID safety. No means of production, quality control, or monetary value take away from the protection that safety provides. Employers who spotlight COVID as safety concern have a better chance of preserving company culture and reduce the possibility of high employee turnover.

If you could predict COVID exposure in the workplace, would your safety policies look different?

Having a solid COVID policy should be a big part of your company COVID safety plan. Adopt a paid time off vaccine policy to allow employees the time to get the vaccine and any possible side effects, or paid time off for the symptomatic and/or exposed. 

If it works for your company and culture, consider remote work to reduce the exposure. COVID controls include reducing exposure to the work force.

Companies are feeling a ton of pressure to comply one way or another on COVID issues. Employers will and can never go wrong when safety is your number one focus and concern. Masks, distancing, ventilation, and reducing exposure are all controls companies can implement to ensure employees are safe from known hazards. Focusing on safety shows a company’s due diligence for their employee’s safety and well-being. 

Marcie Richardson

With over 20 years of HR experience, Marcie understands the struggles companies face in compliance regulation and policy structure. She recognizes that effective company culture and policies start with how we treat employees. As the Director of Human Resources for Guarantee Restoration Services in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she values the need for a strong company culture to ensure operational continuity. Marcie obtained her IICRC in WRT and ASD because she believes to truly understand the needs of each employee, you need to understand their job. Marcie also holds a Louisiana Department of Insurance License in Health, Life & Accident.

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