Depending on your opinion, Major League Baseball either handled last year’s coronavirus outbreak successfully, or they bungled it for players and fans. Now the league must do it all over again in a new season.
This year, though, MLB and the players’ union appear poised to have a safe and healthy season.
The league is keeping reduced capacity guidelines for fans in stadiums and recently announced a litany of loosened protocols for vaccinated personnel.
Here, we review what the business world can learn from some of MLB’s health and safety measures.
First, a quick recap of last year:
Although the season ended strongly, many players and health experts questioned the league’s decision to play in stadiums across the country, not in a bubble like the NBA, WNBA, and MLS.
This season, MLB is allowing fans in stadiums although each team is capping attendance its own way. Teams have vaccination incentives, too. Once clubs achieve 85% vaccination, Tier 1 individuals — players and coaches with dugout access to games, primarily — will no longer need to wear face masks in dugouts or bullpens or wear contact tracing devices while in team facilities.
So, what hits did MLB make and how can businesses learn from the pros?
Testing: The league adopted testing-heavy protocols and it was able to mitigate major problems. This helped teams identify positive cases early and begin quarantine procedures. Players and other on-field personnel will be tested at least every other day during the 2021 season. The NFL took a similar route with equally good results. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the NFL administered nearly 300,000 PCR nasal swab tests and identified just 47 new cases from August 9 – September 26. Nearly 330,000 nasal swab tests between September 27 – November 21 resulted in 282 new cases reported.
How to Make it a Home Run for Your Business: Between 40-50% of people who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms. Secure, convenient COVID-19 tests can help prevent asymptomatic spread in your workplace. EBI has partnered with CRL Rapid Response™ to offer COVID-19 self-collected testing kits to keep employees safe. Our tests are secure, convenient, fast, and flexible. Our COVID-19 kit includes collection materials necessary for a RAPID RESPONSE test – a saliva-based molecular test, authorized by the FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), that can be self-collected and shipped to our labs. Best of all, employees can complete their tests and get their results from the privacy of home.
Messaging: It’s no secret that some players were scared to take the field. Several players abandoned the season altogether out of health concerns. But for those who did report, most players were confident about their safety and complied with the risk mitigation protocols laid out before them. While we can’t say for sure why they complied – maybe it was national messaging from the CDC, maybe it was the team culture, maybe it was watching fellow players get sidelined for breaking protocol – what we do know is most athletes bought into the messaging. When that messaging was delivered with their health and safety in mind, it increased player buy-in.
How to Make it a Home Run for Your Business: A health and safety app for mobile devices can deliver customizable health and safety information, alerts, and messaging to your employees before they come to work. An app keeps everyone informed with the most timely and relevant information, which in turn builds trust between you and your workers that you’re taking their personal safety seriously. You can boost an app’s effectiveness by also using it as an early screening device. Employees can fill out a CDC questionnaire about any symptoms they’re experiencing and even self-report their temperature. If the questionnaire spots an issue, the person will be instructed to stay home and set up a medical appointment. At the same time, an HR administrator or facility manager can be notified immediately of the potential risk.
Physical distancing: This is a catch-all category that included spacing guidance recommended by the CDC and restrictions on how players could interact on the field and in the dugout. Nothing could be shared. Hitters had to have their own equipment and players had to retrieve their own cap and glove if left on base at the end of an inning. There was no spitting or chewing tobacco allowed. Baseballs had to be disinfected and taken out of rotation for five days. There were no bat/ball girls or boys. The only contact allowed on the field were tags and other incidental contact that occured during normal play.
How to Make it a Home Run for Your Business: New for this year, MLB is requiring KINEXON contact tracing devices to be worn at all times while in club facilities, during club-directed travel, and while engaged in team activities including group workouts and practices. You can get the exact same ultra-wideband coverage and service through EBI Workplace Health & Safety. Many real-time tracking technologies have significant disadvantages; for example, GPS localization is not precise enough and is limited to outdoor use only. Even WiFi and Bluetooth/BLE positioning do not achieve the required precision and connection stability. One of the most reliable contact tracing devices is an extremely lightweight sensor (15 grams) that uses ultra-wideband technology to pinpoint employees’ proximity to one another and send an alert when an employee is too close to another person.
MLB’s 30 clubs took on more debt and suffered about $3 billion in operating losses over the 2020 season. Other industries also suffered significant economic damage because of the pandemic. But you don’t have to strike out on your own to protect your business or the livelihoods of your people. Even if you don’t have the same bandwidth as MLB to enact a health and safety protocol, EBI can help.
EBI Workplace Health & Safety is a secure U.S. cloud-based, customizable platform providing modular options for all organizations to protect their people and their livelihoods. The platform serves as a central data repository and analytics engine for data collected through employee mobile health apps, thermal scanners, and contact tracing systems. These analytics give you the insights you need to make critical business decisions to keep workplaces open and operational.
A coordinated technological health and safety umbrella like EBI Workplace Health & Safety can help all of us work confidently and safely, without interruptions. When you partner with us, it’s like hitting a walk-off grand slam.
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Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.