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    Time to Start Wearing Pants Again: The Return to Work Amid COVID-19

    Especially with all 36 of Oregon’s counties now at least in Phase 1 of the state’s three-phase path toward a full reopening, you may be wondering what lies ahead for Portland District. How will we all return to on-site work and, once we do, what will that look like? How will life be different? What does the journey there look like? Where are my pants? (Well, that last question is really more of a personal one—but still important to address before returning to work.)

    For those of us whose work sites are located within a county still in Phase 1, the general plan is to maximize the use of telework. Simply put, to the extent that we can (unless doing otherwise is necessary), we will continue working from home. But you may have seen by now that all except for a few Oregon counties have either moved into Phase 2, or the governor has approved them to move to the second phase.

    Because all counties within the footprints of our Willamette Valley and Rogue river basin projects fall into this category, these two projects offer a glimpse into how various teams across our workforce are beginning the quest to some semblance of normalcy.

    -- Willamette Valley Project --

    The Willamette Valley Project’s vast geographical range has worked to its advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing leadership to spread employees out physically as precautions against the spread of the virus. In addition, approximately 50 percent of the project has teleworked and is continuing to do so at this time. This picture is similar to the project’s posture back in March and, as Deputy Operations Project Manager Dustin Bengtson sees it, mostly about adopting new habits and changing little behaviors.

    “We just have to be more thoughtful than we were before. It requires lots of planning in advance,” he said. “But we have to make sure that we don’t avoid it because it’s harder.

    “Maybe that means you eat cold sandwiches for a while so you don’t have to use the microwave.”

    (Good thing you make a mean PB&J!)

    Right now, only employees for whom it is necessary to remain on site are at project locations. That includes maintenance positions, dam/power plant operators, park rangers, and some others. Where moving employees hasn’t been possible, the project has managed to alter shift schedules to reduce the number of people in a given project or facility.

    Specific requirements vary from project to project—and facility to facility—but leaders are relying on the following general protective measures and controls to keep staff safe:

    • Promoting frequent and thorough hand washing (or hand-sanitizing)
    • Requiring that individuals keep the recommended six feet of space between one another
    • Requiring the wear of face coverings when/where social distancing is not possible
    • Requiring the wear of face coverings when staff are moving about the project or in common areas (kitchens, bathrooms, etc.). Word to the wise: If you’re not at a desk, you’re in a common area
    • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting work spaces
    • Requiring employees to “self-screen;” those who have a temperature and/or are not feeling well must stay home
    • Contact tracing to keep track of where employees are going and whom they’re exposed to from outside the project (how to best do this is partly still in the works)
    • Spreading maintenance crews out
    • Limiting the number of people in a single vehicle to two (if two people are in the same vehicle, then each must wear a face covering)

    In addition, the project is protecting staff by changing how it interfaces with non-employees by requiring contractors/partners entering the project to complete a self-screening questionnaire and have their temperatures checked daily.

    Of course, conditions are changing rapidly. Here’s what’s in the works:

    • Planning for the retrofit of different facilities to ensure employees’ safety prior to their return (e.g., upgrading building HVAC systems to modify airflow)
    • Developing project-wide training that will cover (1) how supervisors can successfully lead their teams in this new environment, (2) various site-specific requirements, and (3) how to deal with performance-hampering social-emotional impacts of COVID-19 (e.g., depression)
    • Planning out how the project will mitigate hazards and risks for projects that require “surges” of employees (e.g., PPE considerations)

    -- Rogue River Basin Project --

    Jackson County, which encompasses the Rogue project, has entered Phase 2. According to Operations Project Manager Chuck Grady, the Rogue is “open for business” (save for the cool neon sign in the window). More specifically, on any given day, about 16 of the project’s 22 employees are on site.

    And Chuck is honestly pretty eager to work with you again. “We’re ready for you!” He assured. “Come on down!”

    The Rogue team has implemented largely the same precautions as the Willamette Valley:
    • Lots and lots of hand washing!
    • Social distancing of six feet (face coverings when/where not possible)
    • Face coverings in all common spaces
    • Employees ride alone in a GSA (no sharing of a vehicle)
    • Cleaning/disinfecting GSA vehicles in between uses
    • Altering work schedules and moving some individuals to different locations
    • Project office is currently closed to the public

    Pro Tip: Employees at the Rogue project have taped off their cubicles, desks and workspaces to ensure that fellow staff and visitors maintain the proper six feet of distance. A la the taped-off bedroom between you and your brother in 3rd grade—gotta admire that creativity!

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 07.21.2020
    Date Posted: 07.21.2020 16:11
    Story ID: 374306
    Location: OR, US

    Podcast Hits: 0

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