Because the coronavirus outbreak is continuing to grow and evolve, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidance for businesses and employers to help reduce workplace exposures.
The guidance is based on what is known about the 2019 novel coronavirus as of February 2020, according to the CDC.
Other respiratory illnesses, like seasonal flu, are also widespread in the U.S. at this time, and this guidance is meant to aid in prevention of those as well, according to the CDC Interim Guidance page.
If sick, stay home
The CDC recommends employers actively encourage sick employees to stay home, and:
- not report to work until they are free of fever and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing or symptom-altering medicines
- ensure company sick leave policies are flexible and that employees are aware of these policies
- make sure leave policies are flexible enough to allow employees to stay home to care for sick family members
- talk to contractors or temporary agencies about the importance of sick employees staying home
- don’t require a doctor’s note to validate illness or return to work since healthcare offices could be extremely busy and unable to provide documentation in a timely manner, and
- be aware more employees than usual may need to stay home to care for sick family members.
Sick employees who do report to work should be immediately separated from other employees and sent home.
Good respiratory etiquette, hygiene
Other precautions to take in the workplace include:
- encouraging the practice of good respiratory etiquette and hygiene
- placing posters encouraging staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene at the entrance in areas where they’re likely to be seen
- providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for employees
- instructing employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or with soap and water, and
- ensuring adequate supplies of soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs are maintained in the workplace.
Clean surfaces regularly
All frequently touched surfaces in the workplace should be cleaned on a routine basis. The CDC says no additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
Likewise, employers should:
- use the same cleaning agents as normal and follow the directions on the label, and
- provide disposable wipes so doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls and desks can be wiped down by employees before each use.
Employees who are well but taking care of a sick family member with 2019 novel coronavirus should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of potential exposure.
If an employee is confirmed to have 2019 novel coronavirus, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure in the workplace while maintaining confidentiality (not naming the person with the virus) as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed to have 2019 novel coronavirus should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
Need more information?
Premier Learning Solutions is offering a workshop, Coronavirus in the Workplace: Employers’ Duty to Protect Employees.
The workshop covers:
- OSHA’s requirements for protecting against infectious diseases
- disease prevention & control best practices for employers, and
- employer responsibility for employee protection: What you need to know.
The speaker is Adele L. Abrams, a nationally recognized authority on Occupational Safety and Health law.
For this one hour program, you can claim 0.05 continuance of certification points (COCs) from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BSCP).
Click here for registration and more information.