Tips to reduce COVID-19 in the workplace
As we all have come to learn these past few months, the COVID-19 virus is unpredictable. To reduce the impact of an outbreak at businesses, it's important that employers take a proactive approach to their operations in order to keep employees as safe as possible. While business still needs to operate as normal, there are a few things you can do to help control the spread of the virus in your workplace:
Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan
If you don't already have one, an infectious disease preparedness and response plan is a tool that can help guide your protective actions against COVID-19. Your plan should address the level of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites.
Implement basic infection prevention methods
One of the simplest ways you can protect your workers is by implementing good hygiene and infection control practices. These can include but are not limited to:
- Promoting frequent hand washing
- Encouraging employees to stay home when they're sick
- Encouraging proper respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes
- Discouraging workers from using other workers' phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment whenever possible
- Maintaining regular housekeeping practices including the cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of your work environment.
Revisit your building's ventilation
Having the right ventilation throughout your work environment can help to maintain a safe and healthy workplace for your employees. OSHA recommends that employers work with a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professional to help optimize the building's ventilation. A quality HVAC professional can make sure that the ventilation system is operating as it should be. The following ventilation procedures can help reduce the risk of exposure to airborne viruses:
- Check that all HVAC systems are fully functional, especially those shut down or operating at a reduced capacity
- Remove or redirect personal fans to prevent blowing air from one worker to another
- Use HVAC system filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating or 13 or higher, where possible
- Increase the HVAC system's outdoor air intake. Open windows or other sources of fresh air wherever, and whenever possible.
- Be sure that exhaust air isn't pulled back into the building from HVAC air intakes or open windows.
- Consider using portable, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to increase clean air, especially in higher-risk areas
- Make sure exhaust fans in bathrooms are fully functional, operating at maximum capacity, and are set to remain on
- If you happen to change any filters, be sure to wear the proper personal protective equipment. ASHRAE recommends N95 respirators, eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields) and disposable gloves
Don't forget to communicate!
Quite possibly the most important thing to remember is always to communicate clearly with your employees. If there is a policy change, staffing update, or other important information, it's crucial to maintain an open line of communication.