May 11, 2020: Staying Well During COVID-19 and Returning to Work
Many employers across the country are in the process of reopening or having employees return to work. Many states are continuing to see a steady decline in the number of COVID-19 cases. However, it is important that the proper safety measures are put in place and followed by all employees to continue to stop the spread and prevent a second wave. Here are helpful tips and precautions you can take to protect yourself, co-workers and loved ones when returning to work.
HOW TO HELP PROTECT YOURSELF
- Practice social distancing by maintaining approximately 6 feet from others at all times.
- Wear a mask or cloth face cover:
- Mask or cloth should cover your mouth and nose with a snug seal around your face.
- Routinely wash after each use and make sure it dries completely.
- When not in use (such as at home or in your car alone) store your mask or cloth face cover in a clean, airtight bag (such as a zip-loc bag) with your name labeled on the bag.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or use the inside of your elbow, when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands immediately after.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water is not currently available. Key times to wash your hands include:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after using the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Before and after work shifts
- Before and after work breaks
- After putting on, touching, or removing face mask or cloth face coverings
- Avoid handshakes or physical contact with others – use other non-contact methods of greetings like a wave or verbal communication.
- If you use public transportation, wear a mask and gloves, and limit contact with others throughout your commute. Do not use your phone or other devices during your commute to avoid transferring germs onto its surface. Use of a bike or car for means of transportation is recommended to limit exposure to others.
- Avoid non-essential air travel.
- If you are sick with a fever or cough, or if someone in your household is showing signs of COVID-19 — whether officially tested and diagnosed with COVID-19 or not — do not return to the workplace until at least 14 days since the onset of your symptoms and, ideally, up to 16 days.
- If you have concerns about a co-worker displaying symptoms of COVID-19 (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath), notify HR and your supervisor immediately.
- If you are at higher risk for illness (65 years old and older and/or have a underlying medical conditions) or have concerns about returning to work, contact HR and your supervisor to discuss your options.
HOW TO HELP MAINTAIN A SAFER WORK STATION
- Wear a mask or cloth face cover (routinely wash and properly store after each use) at your desk or work station.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or use the inside of your elbow, when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands immediately after!
- Wash your hands often throughout the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces throughout the day such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs. Consult HR prior to bringing any cleaning products from home. Disinfection options include:
- Clean non-technology and electric areas or items with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant spray or wipe.
- For technology and electronic equipment use a disinfectant wipe.
- Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used if appropriate for the surface and approved by HR. Ensure the proper protective cleaning equipment is worn, such as gloves and mask, to ensure safety.
- Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may also be used.
- Avoid sharing phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Avoid using a desk fan to not spread germs through the air.
HOW TO HELP MAINTAIN A SAFER WORK ENVIRONMENT
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has divided job tasks into four risk exposure levels: very high, high, medium, and lower risk. It is important for employers to take the appropriate precautions based on industry type and risk level.
- Continue telework to the greatest extent possible.
- Offer to return to work in stages instead of all at once. Offer in-office on a volunteer basis during Phase 1. Outline your company’s procedures regarding your return to work for employees to reference.
- Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, and ensure employees are aware and understand the precaution measures in place.
- Coordinate reasonable accommodations for at-risk employees or those with underlying medical conditions.
- If possible, utilize temperature checks and/or assess symptoms for all employees prior to individuals entering the work facility.
- Limit or remove reception area seating.
- Limit office visitors to only one area of the work environment.
- Rearrange workspaces so employees are not face-to-face and maintain social distancing (approximately 6 feet from others at all times). Use plexiglass, tables, or other barriers to ensure minimum distances between customers and co-workers.
- Use hallways in one direction to prevent face-to-face less than 6 foot conversations.
- Give work breaks to allow employees to wash their hands.
- Limit in-person meetings that require close contact – use videoconferencing when possible.
- Avoid non-essential air travel.
- When videoconferencing is not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces, maintain social distancing, and disinfect space before and after meeting.
- Limit large gatherings in the breakroom or eating facilities – eat outside if possible, and maintain social distancing even outside.
- Discourage use of shared refreshments and/or multiuser containers (i.e. coffee pot, water dispenser, vending machine).
- Utilize disinfectant wipes on all commonly used surfaces before each use, like doorknobs, light switches, elevators, remote controls, tables, desks, and other work tools and equipment.
- Add sensors and no-touch technology for hands-free operation of doors, garbage/recycling bins, elevators, etc. to minimize physical touch points.
- Increase ventilation rates and the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the facility.
Disclaimer: Each company has federal, state and local government rules to follow. The information provided above is general education only and not legal counsel.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)