What to Do When COVID-19 Comes to Your Workplace
Operations | Affinity HR Group | Jun 2 2020
With the number of coronavirus cases growing exponentially across the country, all companies can expect to have at least one of their employees diagnosed with COVID-19, if they haven’t already. By establishing and communicating clear expectations and procedures now, you will help your employees know what to do to stay healthy and what to do if someone becomes sick.
If an employee is sick outside of work, require them to stay home. If an employee arrives at work with symptoms, including a fever, send them home immediately. Common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of smell or taste, and/or gastrointestinal issues. Employees with a combination of these symptoms should contact their personal health care provider and, if possible, use the CDC’s Self Checker.
Require documentation from the employee’s health care provider whenever possible, including leave time needed and release back to work. If they can get tested, request the results as soon as possible so you know how to handle them at work. Advise employees they must stay at home until they are fever-free for 72 hours without medication and at least 7 days from the onset of symptoms, and/or until given a release to work by their health care provider. Provide employees leave (paid and/or unpaid) as required under Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, state-paid time off and disability laws, and your company policies.
If an employee with symptoms and/or having been diagnosed with COVID-19 has worked recently:
Notify other employees as soon as you know of a possibility of exposure; do not wait for a confirmed test result, which may never come. Inform employees, especially those who had regular and sustained contact. Advise employees of where the sick employee was and on what date so they can determine their risk of exposure and, if necessary, self-quarantine for 14 days to see if they exhibit symptoms.
You must keep the sick employee’s confidentiality, but you can state:
“We have been notified that an employee who worked in [our facility / xxx department / etc.] on [date] [has symptoms of / has been diagnosed with / is being tested for] COVID-19. We are taking the proper precautions and will notify you of any updates as they become available. Anyone who displays symptoms and who may have had regular and sustained contact in this area at the same time should contact [title of contact] immediately.”
If the sick employee was in the workplace within 7 days:
Close off areas used by the sick person; open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area for at least 24 hours or as long as possible. Clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick person, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines.
When cleaning an area where a sick employee was:
- Wear disposable gloves and gowns for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash.
- Gloves and gowns should be removed carefully to avoid contamination of the wearer and the surrounding area.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds immediately after removing gloves and after contact with a sick employee.
If it has been more than 7 days since the sick person visited or used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary but continue routine cleaning and disinfection. Follow the same protocols if you learn that a sick vendor or customer recently visited your workplace.
Practice prevention now to minimize the possible spread of germs through contact with sick employees, vendors, and customers later.
Encourage employees to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer regularly and to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth. Observe social distancing, avoiding close contact with other employees, customers, and vendors.
- Maintain at least six (6) feet of distance at all times;
- Hold meetings in open-door, open-air rooms;
- Allow employees to work remotely when possible;
- Provide for staggered schedules or minimize employees in the workplace at the same time;
- Limit or restrict business travel;
- Implement video conferencing when possible;
- Close common areas such as break rooms and lunch rooms;
- Require employees to eat at their desks, outside, or in their vehicles;
- Limit the number of people in the restroom at one time; and
- Prohibit scheduled or impromptu gatherings or minimize the number with a gathered group to allow room for proper distancing.
- Prohibit unnecessary visitors until further notice.
- Designate open areas for necessary visitors including vendors, delivery people, or customers.
- Post notifications of procedures to be followed by vendors, customers, visitors, or delivery people.
Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces with company-provided products:
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. Use gloves when cleaning.
- If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Clean soft surfaces such as carpeted floors, rugs, and drapes using soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for use on those surfaces.
- Disinfect with an EPA-registered disinfectant or use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol and dry surface thoroughly.
Continue to follow the guidance provided by the experts at CDC, OSHA, and WHO.
As always, Affinity HR Group is here to help you handle all your HR-related questions and issues.
Tags: Operations , Affinity HR , COVID-19 , Workplace Safety , Employee Safety