As of the end of March nears, several states have already ordered employees of non-essential businesses to stay home. However, if your office, warehouse or other workplace is still open for business, how do you prepare for and protect against coronavirus in the long run?
On March 9th, the US Department of Labor released its guidance on how to prepare the workplace for the current coronavirus outbreak. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, they’ve developed a thorough response to how businesses should prepare themselves in light of COVID-19. Below are a few of their direct answers to common questions.
How does the virus spread?
According to the CDC, spread from person-to-person is most likely among close contacts (about 6 feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unknown if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
What workers are at the highest risk of exposure?
Different parts of the United States are seeing different levels of COVID-19 activity. U.S. COVID-19 cases include those among travelers, cases among close contacts of a known case, and community spread. Many types of workers may have similar exposure risks as other members of the general American public. Exposure risk may be elevated for workers who interact with potentially infected individuals, including those involved in:
- Airline operations
- Border protection
- Solid waste and wastewater management
- Travel to areas where the virus is spreading
What safety standards should there be in the workplace?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the following are some of the current guidance on how you can protect employees in the workplace:
- Encourage sick employees to notify their supervisor of their symptoms and stay home from work.
- Sick employees should not return to work until they have fulfilled the CDC’s home-isolation criteria.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Employees should inform their supervisors if they have a sick family member.
- Practice social distancing with 6ft of separation between individuals.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection.
Information for this article was taken from the official CDC and Department of Labor websites.