COVID-19: How Businesses Can Promote Worker Health and Safety

Thursday, April 02, 2020

The rapid spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) across the country and the world has generated much uncertainty in all of our lives. In the U.S., responses have varied on the state, city, and county levels. In Chicago, IL, for instance, as of March 21st, 2020, residents have been ordered to shelter in place, and businesses deemed non-essential have been required to cease all activities except for minimum basic operations until at least April 7th. Similar mandates have been issued in other areas, while other regions have largely resumed the status quo.

Regardless of the regulations and recommendations of your region, if your business is “essential” or can’t afford to completely shut down (and is allowed to operate), you must adapt to this sudden change of pace and do everything in your power to keep your workers, partners, and guests healthy and safe. While there is no way to guarantee the prevention of COVID-19 in your facilities, let’s discuss the crucial steps businesses can take to promote worker health and safety and reduce the risk of infection.

Educate Employees

Proper preparation begins with education. While virtually everyone has heard of the coronavirus by this point, not everyone has the time, ability, or interest in learning more about it or staying up to date on recent developments. The more that your workers know about COVID-19 and their role in preventing or spreading it, the safer your facilities will be. As such, leaders must deliver updates, share official resources (i.e. from the CDC, OSHA, etc.), and provide training related to this virus to their teams.

Key information regarding COVID-19 includes:

  • Signs and symptoms (may appear 2-14 days after exposure)

    • Fever

    • Cough

    • Shortness of breath

  • Cases/symptoms can range from mild to severe and can result in death

  • COVID-19 spreads from person to person in close contact (within approx. 6 ft.) via respiratory droplets when the infected person coughs or sneezes -- these droplets can land in mouth or nose of other person or be inhaled into the lungs and cause infection

  • COVID-19 can spread asymptomatically, meaning those showing no symptoms may be contagious

  • The virus may be able to survive for hours outside of a host on certain surfaces after being touched, sneezed on, or coughed on

In addition to educating employees on the virus itself and the way it spreads, you must go over methods for preventing said spread to keep your people safe.

Perform Proper Hygiene

The first prevention method is performing proper hygiene. Namely, workers should wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds throughout the day, especially after touching surfaces, operating machinery, being in public, blowing their noses, preparing food, and using the restroom. Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol can also be used to wash hands if soap and water are not nearby. Employees should also do their best to avoid touching their faces, especially with unclean hands. All workers must abide by these practices to maintain a sanitary, clean office or workplace. Post detailed signage around your facilities as reminders.

Avoid Direct Contact with Others

Though difficult in certain work settings, employees must try to keep their distance from others. Once again, the virus can spread in the air at a range of about six feet, so maintaining at least six feet of space between one another is an effective way to reduce the risk of infection. It is especially important for everyone to avoid close contact with those who are at high risk of falling very ill from COVID-19, including elderly people, diabetic individuals, those with suppressed immune systems and/or underlying conditions, etc.

Acquire, Distribute, and Use PPE

Businesses can also protect their workers by acquiring and distributing necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including but not limited to:

  • Face masks

  • Respiratory apparatuses

  • Protective clothing

  • Boots and shoe covers

  • Face shields

  • Disposable gloves

  • Biohazard response kits

Due to shortages and high demand, it may be difficult to obtain some of these items. Businesses should do their best to purchase what they can for their needs.

Properly Clean and Disinfect Surfaces

Because coronavirus can remain viable on surfaces for extended periods of time, businesses must thoroughly clean and disinfect their facilities on a daily basis, with a targeted focus on frequently-touched surfaces and common areas. Those tasked with office cleaning and disinfecting should specifically use EPA-approved disinfectants that are proven to kill coronavirus per label instructions. Facilities lacking the resources to effectively disinfect surfaces should seek help from disinfecting services and/or commercial cleaning professionals who can properly apply these EPA-approved disinfectant products.

Prepare Accordingly for Cases of Infection

In the event that one or more of your workers is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, you should have proper protocols in place to prevent further spread. The infected individuals must not return to the facility and call a medical professional to seek further guidance. Any areas accessed or touched by the infected persons must either be temporarily sealed and banned from entry or thoroughly disinfected.

Partner up With Professionals

During this unstable time, businesses that remain open must do their best to promote worker health and safety. Hiring professional industrial cleaners like those at K-Clean USA, a division of Painters USA can give you and your people peace of mind. Wearing PPE, our team will apply EPA-registered disinfectant to your surfaces, providing photo documentation of our work. To learn more about our coronavirus cleaning services and everything else we do, call us at 1-800-999-8715.