In December 2019, Hubei Province at Wuhan, China announced a cluster of cases of pneumonia due to a then-unknown cause. It was later recognized to be a new strain of coronavirus, initially dubbed the book coronavirus or 2019-nCoV, and officially named SARS-CoV-2. This is due to its resemblance to SARS-CoV, the coronavirus which causes SARS.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially announced COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020. Even before then, health authorities around the world have worked and now continue to work around the clock to beat the disease. Most efforts are concentrated on preventing the additional spread of this virus, as labs develop and examine possible remedies and vaccines. Governments also have developed guidelines on the way offices that are essential, such as supermarkets and police departments, can continue operations without raising dangers.
UNDERSTANDING HOW COVID-19 SPREADS
COVID-19 spreads through viral droplets, typically released when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. Another individual could get infected if they directly inhale these droplets, or if they touch contaminated surfaces or objects and then touch with their mouth, nose, or eyes. This process of infection is largely similar to the frequent flu, although COVID-19 is discovered to be at least two times as infectious.
Utilizing this understanding, the United States of the American Ministry of Health has issued general guidelines for essential businesses. These include working from home when possible, limiting or eliminating physical interaction among employees, as well as the frequent cleaning of premises. All of these have been in a bid to slow down the spread of the virus and prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.
WORKPLACE SANITATION IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
Hygiene and cleanliness are the top ways to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Employees are expected to practice appropriate hand washing as often as possible, especially those whose jobs require human interaction. The standard is washing hands for 20 seconds, though hand sanitizers using 60% alcohol can be applied as an interim solution until one can access water and soap. Workplaces are anticipated to supply these supplies to ensure compliance.
Sanitation is also of paramount importance, even more so if the workplace has a suspected, probable, or confirmed COVID-19 case. There are two general principles to remember for comprehensive and effective cleaning. First, clean surfaces from top to bottom. This ensures that any particulates that fall upon the floor are going to be taken off. This technique also prevents recontamination. Secondly, it is best to start cleaning the “safest” areas first before moving on to more risky areas such as the showers and kitchens. If needed, avail deep cleaning services like Garland janitorial services, to make sure that even hard-to-kill pathogens are eliminated.
For regular daily cleaning, make sure to disinfect high-touch surfaces and objects such as desks, common phones, doorknobs, and elevator buttons. Supermarkets also need to sanitize EFTPOS and similar machines that are shared among employees. If you are not choosing a cleaning company to perform the disinfection, be certain you strictly follow the use directions on the cleaning products.
RISK MANAGEMENT FOR COVID-19
Another important component of workplace safety in the time of COVID-19 (or any other outbreak) is risk management. The most critical elements include educating workers about the illness and developing response matrices and business continuity plans at different threat levels. For example, all employees who should report to work must know what to do before and after leaving the workplace. They must also be trained to identify risks and what to do should they display symptoms or be vulnerable to COVID-positive persons.
Ideally, the answer matrix should be made in coordination with the workplace’s healthcare provider. In the same manner, an enhanced communication protocol should also be developed. Proper incident reporting is very important, as this assists with faster contact tracing. Designate a hotline together with the safety coordinator or person-in-charge for easier communications and information consolidation. If for any reason, an employee needs to travel to execute their jobs, the itinerary and schedule must be itemized. Afterward, the necessary self-isolation protocols must be followed.
ADDITIONAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS IN THE WORKPLACE
The U.S government is currently at Alert Level 4, which means all non-essential companies must be closed down. For essential businesses, additional precautions apart from physical distancing and regular sanitation have to be taken to further reduce risk. As you may notice, each of these measures prevents people from congregating as far as possible when leaving sufficient personnel to provide necessary services.
Access to the workplace premises must also be strictly controlled. If at all possible, only the workers have to receive an entry. In the event of supermarkets or pharmacies, there should be an on-site prevention protocol. At the very least, there has to be a health verification procedure before visitors or customers could enter the premises to minimize the risk of disease. Finally, assign someone who will be in charge of inspections and monitoring to ensure that everything is correctly implemented.
While the international situation seems to be dire, you will find several states that are making impressive strides in containing the virus. Specifically, the USA, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan have been known for their top-notch COVID-19 response. Germany and Finland have been commended on how they managed the pandemic.
Scientists are hard at work looking for effective COVID-19 treatments and developing vaccines. Meanwhile, the rest of the population can only wait and enforce health and safety measures to flatten the curve. The USA appears to be doing so; to keep this positive trend, everybody must stick to the regulations set by the government. This is doubly important for essential businesses and offices, who continue to brave the frontlines to deliver necessary services.