COVID-19 in the workplace: employer guidance
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has spread from China to many other countries around the world, including the United States. This handout provides some basic guidance on how employers in non-healthcare settings can help prevent transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Prevention involves four strategies ― training; physical distancing; hand washing/personal hygiene; and cleaning and disinfecting. The handout is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) interim guidance for businesses and employers that were in place on April 9, 2020. Because guidance is changing as more information is known, it is important to check https://www.coronavirus.gov for the most current guidance, as well as for additional and more detailed guidance on how employers can prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Educate employees about how they can reduce the spread of COVID-19. Explain the policies and procedures related to issues such as illness, cleaning and disinfecting, and work meetings and travel. Items to cover include:
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. After use, throw used tissues into the nearest waste receptacle and wash your hands immediately.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. If hands are visibly dirty, soap and water should be chosen over hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid shaking hands. Use alternative greetings, such as "elbow bumps," waving, nods, bows, or other gestures.
- Avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use following workplace procedures.
- Practice physical distancing by avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance of six feet (2 m) from others when possible.
Physical distancing means avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance of six feet (2 m) or more from others when possible. Employers should consider the following strategies to maintain physical distancing:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
- Implement temperature checks of employees, vendors, and visitors entering the facility.
- Establish a procedure and an area to separate persons who arrive at work ill, or who become ill at the facility. Ill employees should be immediately separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home.
- Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Where feasible, avoid movement of personnel between departments or crews.
- Implement flexible worksites (e.g., telework).
- Implement flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts).
- Implement flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events).
- Consider canceling, adjusting, or postponing large work-related meetings or gatherings that can only occur in person. Consider using videoconferencing or teleconferencing when possible for work-related meetings and gatherings. When videoconferencing or teleconferencing is not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces.
- Increase the physical space between employees at the worksite. Consider the use of floor marking, partitions, barriers, etc.
- Increase the physical space between employees and customers (e.g., drive-through, partitions).
- Downsize operations.
- Deliver services remotely (e.g., phone, video, or web).
- Deliver products through curbside pick-up or delivery.
- In situations where employees cannot maintain physical distancing, they should wear face masks, face coverings, or face shields; gloves; and other protective equipment as needed.
Hand washing and personal hygiene
When you sneeze or cough, virus-containing droplets can be expelled into the air exposing others who are nearby. In addition, surfaces near the cough or sneeze can become contaminated as well. Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps to take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Germs are spread by touching your face after touching contaminated objects and touching objects after contaminating your hands. Employers should:
- Provide soap and water in the workplace.
- If soap and water are not readily available, provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles.
- Ensure that adequate supplies of soap, water, tissues, hand sanitizers, and disposal receptacles are maintained.
- Place posters that encourage hand hygiene to help stop the spread at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt and impurities, including germs, from surfaces. Cleaning alone does not kill germs. However, by removing the germs, it decreases their number and therefore risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but killing germs remaining on a surface after cleaning further reduces any risk of spreading infection. Employers should:
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs. Dirty surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water prior to disinfection.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks, other work tools and equipment) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
- To disinfect, use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2external icon, the cause of COVID-19, and are appropriate for the surface (https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2).
- Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility. Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html).
Employers should consider improving the engineering controls using the building ventilation system. Consult with a ventilation professional. This may include some or all of the following activities:
- Increasing ventilation rates.
- Increasing the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the ventilation system.
Copyright 2020, ISO Properties, Inc.
This material is provided for informational purposes only and does not provide any coverage or guarantee loss prevention. The examples in this material are provided as hypothetical and for illustration purposes only. The Hanover Insurance Company and its affiliates and subsidiaries (“The Hanover”) specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that acceptance of any recommendations contained herein will make any premises, or operation safe or in compliance with any law or regulation. By providing this information to you, The Hanover does not assume (and specifically disclaims) any duty, undertaking or responsibility to you. The decision to accept or implement any recommendation(s) or advice contained in this material must be made by you.