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January 07, 2022

Reducing the spread of Covid-19

With the spread of COVID-19 so rampant in the workplace, here are a few Center for Disease Control Guidelines to help employers keep their employees safe.

How do I keep employees who interact with customers safe?

To keep your employees safe, you should: 

  • Consider options to increase physical space between employees and customers such as opening a drive-through, erecting partitions, and marking floors to guide spacing at least 6 feet apart.
  • At least once a day, clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people.  This includes door handles, desks, tables, phones, light switches, and faucets.
  • Consider assigning a person to rotate throughout the workplace to clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Consider scheduling handwashing breaks so employees can wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Evaluate building ventilation systems and consider upgrades or improvements.
  • Consider implementing flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices.
  • Additional information on how to keep employees safe can be found in the CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers.  

What can be done to protect employees who cannot maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from other employees or customers?

Evaluate your workplace to identify situations where employees cannot maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other and/or customers.  Use appropriate combinations of controls following the hierarchy of controls to address these situations to limit the spread of COVID-19.  A committee of both employees and management may be the most effective way to recognize all of these scenarios.

It is important to note that control recommendations or interventions assigned to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 must be compatible with any safety programs and personal protective equipment (PPE) normally required for the job task. 

Approaches to consider may include the following:

Alter the workspace using engineering controls to prevent exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • Make sure the workplace is well-ventilated.
  • Change the alignment of workstations where feasible.  For example, redesign workstations so employees aren't facing each other.
  • Consider making foot traffic one-way in narrow or confined areas, such as aisles and stairwells, to encourage single-file movement at a 6-foot distance.
  • Set up, where possible, physical barriers between employees, and between employees and customers. 
    • Use strip curtains, plastic barriers, or similar materials to create impermeable dividers or partitions.
  • Use visual cues such as floor decals, colored tape, and signs to remind employees to maintain distance of 6 feet from others, including their workstation and break areas.
  • Place handwashing stations or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol throughout the workplace for employees and customers.
    • Use touch-free stations where possible.
    • Make sure restrooms are well-stocked with soap and paper towels.

When is a cloth face covering not appropriate at work, and what can employees wear instead?

Cloth face coverings can prevent the wearer from spreading COVID-19 to others, but they may not always be appropriate.  Employees should consider using an alternative under certain conditions at work, including: 

  • If they have trouble breathing.
  • If they are unable to remove it without help.
  • If it interferes with vision, glasses, or eye protection.
  • If other work hazards associated with wearing the covering are identified and cannot be addressed without removal of the face covering.

Cloth face coverings should not be worn if their use creates a new risk (e.g., interferes with driving or vision, contributes to heat-related illness) that exceeds their benefit of slowing the spread of the virus.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests that an employee wear a face shield if a cloth face covering is recommended but the employee cannot tolerate wearing a cloth face covering.  If used, a face shield should cover the entire front and sides of the face and extend below the chin.

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