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Steps to Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

With fear and uncertainty circulating about the continued spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, it’s no surprise that employers are wrestling with the best way keep employees healthy and to ensure that sick employees stay at home for as long as needed.

In particular, I am concerned about industries with heavy concentrations of hourly employees – such as retail and restaurants – that could be hit worse because sick employees will still try to come in to work so that they don’t miss out on pay. Managers will have to be vigilant and send people home.

Employers are considering new protocols for screening employees for illness. For example, some are already using or considering temperature checks; however, the efficacy of such measures is still not clear. It’s also been reported that some businesses have designated point people – Coronavirus czars, if you will – to implement company policies and help monitor employees’ health.

Prevention is key

For now, we can all follow the best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the torchbearer for sound public health information. Following these practices should substantially reduce the risk of infection and spread of ALL viruses, including COVID-19.

From the CDC:

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

For information about handwashing, see CDC’s Handwashing website.

For information specific to healthcare, see CDC’s Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. CDC does have specific guidance for travelers.

Adapting these general practices to specific practices – such as those that apply in a retail environment – would be something for each store manager to determine. For example, surfaces touched by customers, such as keypads and touch screens, need to be frequently sanitized.

Other resources for employers

In addition, OSHA has just released a new Prevent Worker Exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19) alert and a guidance document on COVID-19 to provide general practices that can help prevent worker exposure to coronavirus.

If Marathon HR can be of assistance during this time of uncertainty about COVID-19, please give us a call.