Protecting workers has long been a priority for business owners, but that responsibility took on new meaning in the wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in late-winter 2020. Business owners accustomed to traditional workplace safety protocols designed primarily to prevent accidents and injuries were now tasked with protecting workers from a deadly virus.
Though many businesses were forced to close their doors in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, many others remained fully or partially operational. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends employers provide the supplies necessary for good hygiene practices
- Provide tissues and no-touch trash cans.
- Provide soap and warm or tepid water in the workplace in fixed worksites. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained, and follow safe handling and storage requirements for sanitizer supplies and similar flammable liquids.
- Place touchless hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.
- Provide workers with time to wash their hands often with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) or to use hand sanitizer. Inform workers that if their hands are visibly dirty, soap and water is preferable to hand sanitizer. Key times for workers to clean their hands include:
- Before and after work shifts
- Before and after work breaks
- After blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After using the restroom
- Before and after eating or preparing food
- After putting on, touching, or removing PPE or face coverings
- After coming into contact with surfaces touched by other people
- Place posters that encourage hand hygiene and physical distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen. This should include signs for non-English speakers, as needed.
- Promote personal health monitoring and good personal hygiene, including hand washing and good respiratory etiquette. The OSHA and the CDC say covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, putting used tissues in the waste basket and coughing or sneezing into an upper sleeve when no tissues are available can help prevent the spread of germs.
- Supplies necessary for good hygiene should be provided to the workers at no cost.
Protecting their employees from COVID-19 is of the utmost importance for employers across the globe. Safety measures can be implemented rather easily and ultimately save lives.