Safety Procedures for Preventing Covid-19 in the Workplace

As of the middle of June 2020, more than 2.2 million cases of coronavirus had been reported in the United States. On average, more than 30,000 new cases are still reported daily. 

Lowered quarantine restrictions nationwide have led to a public perception that the pandemic is petering out. Yet this isn't true. Infection rates remain high. 

As such, it is critical that businesses put in place and maintain appropriate safety procedures to protect their staff and customers. Keep reading now for the latest guidance on effective and responsible coronavirus prevention.

Basic Safety Procedures

Even the best-intentioned managers can become overwhelmed trying to keep up with the news about the COVID-19 pandemic. If attempting to put together a behavioral and PPE protocol seems challenging, it can be helpful to take a step back. 

For all its novelty, coronavirus is a respiratory illness. This means that the standard best practices that apply to slowing the spread of any respiratory illness, such as influenza, apply in this situation, as well. They make a powerful starting point for establishing a clean and safe workplace. 

Specifically, everyone should: 

  • Wash their hands often using soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitizers that are no less than 60 percent alcohol when handwashing facilities are not available
  • Keep their hands away from their faces, specifically their mouth, nose, and eyes
  • Cover their mouth and nose (ideally with an elbow rather than a hand) whenever they cough or sneeze
  • Self-isolate by staying home from work if they show symptoms of illness or feel unwell

Reminding your staff of these basics can lay a strong groundwork for additional layers coronavirus prevention. Experts recommend that you also provide your staff with information about the resources available to them, such as:

  • The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • CARES Act protections
  • Any employee support programs your company offers

Make sure your staff understands how to apply for these supports and set up a central contact point to handle their questions. Employees who are actively aware of their job protections, alternative sources of income, and other supports are more likely to actually stay home when sick and encourage others to do the same. 

Secondary Safety Procedures

Once you have taken the steps above, it's time to consider secondary steps. These may include:

  • Putting non-essential employees on leave
  • Having some staff work remotely via telecommuting 
  • Setting up rotating schedules so fewer people are on-site while essential operations continue
  • Canceling, rescheduling, or postponing unnecessary meetings, appointments, and conferences 
  • Establishing social distancing rules
  • Requiring everyone in your workplace to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Doing health checks on all parties when they arrive at your workplace

It is important to be specific and consistent with any PPE protocols you adopt. You will need to consider the actual effects on all of your staff, customers, and other visitors to your workplace and take steps to avoid policies that in any way result in discrimination.

Keep in mind that some of your staff and customers are likely to be at higher risk than others.

High-Risk Populations

Under current legal guidelines, businesses may be required to provide special accommodation for high-risk workers such as those who:

  • Are elderly
  • Have heart or lung conditions
  • Are obese
  • Are diabetic 

In some cases, your entire workplace may qualify as high-risk. Examples of high-risk settings include:

  • Healthcare and EMS workers
  • Funeral homes and morgues 
  • Certain food processing plants
  • Retail outlets
  • Essential infrastructure facilities
  • Laboratories

If your staff, customers, or industry are high-risk, it is critical that you take all possible precautions. In addition to the secondary safety procedures above, look at the following. 

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Increase how often your workplace is cleaned. Sanitize public spaces, equipment, and other high-contact areas regularly using EPA-approved disinfectants. 

Use disposable products or ensure that your reusable ones are adequately sanitized and appropriately stored between uses. 

Ventilation and Other Building Systems

Verify that your building's ventilation system is fully operational. As much as possible, keep your workplace well-ventilated to avoid promoting the spread of unwanted bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants.

Creating a Plan

COVID-19 is like any other emergency scenario. Thoughtful responses will be more successful than haphazard ones, no matter how well-intentioned. 

In order for your safety procedures to be effective, they need to be part of a larger plan. The CDC recommends beginning with a workplace-wide hazard assessment. This will help you identify your biggest risks and priorities. 

It will highlight areas where you can quickly and easily make safety improvements. It will also show you the more complicated areas you may need help addressing. 

Most importantly, having a plan puts everyone on the same page. It ensures that your new strategies are implemented consistently and effectively. 

Having a plan also sends a strong message to authorities, your employees, and your customers. It tells everyone that you are taking the pandemic and safety seriously. 

Coronavirus Prevention Training Made Easy

Trying to understand and implement the newest coronavirus prevention measures can be a challenge. Trying to put together guidance training for everyone else in your workplace can feel impossible. 

Fortunately, it isn't a task you to handle alone. HIPAA Exams has made COVID-19 guidance training simple with our Preparing the Workplace for COVID-19 online course. At just about one hour long, the course is comprehensive but concise. It covers, among other things:

  • What COVID-19 is and how it spreads
  • The symptoms of COVID-19
  • Specific OSHA and CDC approved best practices for workplace coronavirus prevention

The course includes a test at the end to verify user comprehension and a printable certificate of completion to help you track and document your coronavirus safety efforts. It is appropriate for all industries and a cost-effective way to get your workplace up to speed right away. 

Protect Your Workplace

COVID-19 may be the most pressing public health concern at the moment, but it's far from the only danger in your workplace. Once you've got your team up-to-date on coronavirus, check out our full suite of other online training courses covering the safety procedures your business needs to stay clean and safe during everyday operations.