In the event of a pandemic like the coronavirus, there’s a lot of uncertainty—especially in the workplace. You might not know how to keep your employees and customers safe and your business afloat yet. All you know is that toilet paper is hard to come by and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging anyone who’s sick to stay home.
First, don’t panic. Panic creates fear, and fear results in rash decisions. Keep a close eye on the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) websites for real-time updates, developments, and recommendations. Visit the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) website to learn more about COVID-19 in the workplace.
Then develop a task force—one person or a team of employees dedicated to tracking the progression of the disease and keeping workers safe. The task force should monitor the situation closely, communicate updates to employees regularly, and answer any questions workers might have.
This task force should also be responsible for creating an epidemic health policy. The policy should detail when you expect employees to stay home, any travel precautions they must take, and who to talk to if they have questions or concerns.
Of course, these policies vary and ultimately need to work for your business and your employees. When in doubt, start with the recommendations of the CDC.
Once you’ve taken a few deep breaths and organized your task force, turn your focus to prevention.
5 steps for basic prevention
1. Wash your hands
The coronavirus travels on droplets of mucus or saliva, most likely from a cough or a sneeze, and enters through your eyes, nose, or mouth. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at regular intervals throughout the day, especially after you’ve been in public. In addition to that:
- Avoid touching your face, even with clean hands.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands immediately.
- If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Post hand-washing reminders and instructions throughout your workplace as a reminder for employees.
2. Disinfect surfaces often
Viruses can live on metal, glass, or plastic surfaces for up to nine days. A person who touches that surface could become infected or carry the virus to another surface. The CDC recommends disinfecting your working and living spaces daily, using an EPA-registered disinfectant. Common surfaces include tables, desks, doorknobs, light switches, phones, and keyboards. – Read more
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