Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 spreads
How COVID-19 Spreads
Although the first human cases of COVID-19 likely resulted from exposure to infected animals, infected people can spread SARS-CoV-2 to other people. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, including:
■ Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
■ Respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
How a COVID-19 Outbreak Could Affect Workplaces
- Absenteeism. Workers could be absent because they are sick; are caregivers for sick family members; are caregivers for children if schools or day care centers are closed; have at-risk people at home, such as immunocompromised family members; or are afraid to come to work because of fear of possible exposure.
- Change in patterns of commerce. Consumer demand for items related to infection prevention (e.g., respirators) is likely to increase significantly, while consumer interest in other goods may decline. Consumers may also change shopping patterns because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
- Interrupted supply/delivery. Shipments of items from geographic areas severely affected by COVID-19 may be delayed or cancelled with or without notification.
Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of Exposure to SARS-CoV-2
Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites. Such considerations may include:
- Where, how, and to what sources of SARS-CoV-2 might workers be exposed, including:
- The general public, customers, and coworkers; and
- Sick individuals or those at particularly high risk of infection (e.g., international travelers who have visited locations with widespread sustained (ongoing) COVID-19 transmission, healthcare workers who have had unprotected exposures to people known to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19).
- Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
- Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., older age; the presence of chronic medical conditions, including immunocompromising conditions; pregnancy).
- Controls necessary to address those risks.
Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures
For most employers, protecting workers will depend on emphasizing basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including:
- Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies.
Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People, if Appropriate
- Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and others at a worksite
- Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.
- Employers should develop policies and procedures for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
- Protect workers in close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) a sick person or who have prolonged/repeated contact with such persons by using additional engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE. Workers whose activities involve close or prolonged/ repeated contact with sick people are addressed further in later sections covering workplaces classified at medium and very high or high exposure risk.
Implement Workplace Controls
Engineering controls involve isolating employees from work-related hazards. In workplaces where they are appropriate, these types of controls reduce exposure to hazards without relying on worker behavior and can be the most cost-effective solution to implement. Engineering controls for SARS-CoV-2 include:
- Installing high-efficiency air filters.
- Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment.
- Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards
- Encouraging sick workers to stay at home.
- Minimizing contact among workers, clients, and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications and implementing telework if feasible
- Establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, allowing them to maintain distance from one another while maintaining a full onsite work week.
- Discontinuing nonessential travel to locations with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks. Regularly check CDC travel warning levels at: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers.
- Developing emergency communications plans, including a forum for answering workers’ concerns and internet-based communications, if feasible.
Safe Work Practices
- Providing resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
- Requiring regular hand washing or using of alcohol-based hand rubs. Workers should always wash hands when they are visibly soiled and after removing any PPE.
- Post handwashing signs in restrooms.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
All types of PPE must be:
- Selected based upon the hazard to the worker.
- Properly fitted and periodically refitted, as applicable (e.g., respirators).
- Consistently and properly worn when required.
- Regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced, as necessary.
- Properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of, as applicable, to avoid contamination of self, others, or the environment
Workers, including those who work within 6 feet of patients known to be, or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2 and those performing aerosol-generating procedures, need to use respirators
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-approved, N95 filtering facepiece respirators or better must be used in the context of a comprehensive, written respiratory protection program that includes fit-testing, training, and medical exams.
- When disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirators are not available, consider using other respirators that provide greater protection and improve worker comfort. Other types of acceptable respirators include an R/P95, N/R/P99, or N/R/P100 filtering facepiece respirator; an air-purifying elastomeric (e.g., half-face or full-face) respirator with appropriate filters or cartridges; powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) with high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter; or supplied-air respirator (SAR).