The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is currently the top concern for environment, health, and safety (EHS) professionals. As of this writing (8:45 a.m. on March 19, 2020), Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center is reporting 9,415 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 150 deaths in the United States alone, with over 220,000 confirmed cases worldwide.
Health and safety professionals are at the front line of prevention for their organizations, and employers absolutely must recognize their responsibility in halting the spread of the virus.
Proper Measures for Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have COVID-19 response guidelines readily available for organizations and individuals. Stop by the CDC’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) resource page and review OSHA’s standards and directives as well as its Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 for specific details and frequent updates, but here are some general best practices all companies and individuals should follow.
To prevent COVID-19 infection:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
If employees become sick or think they are sick, advise them to:
- Stay home, except to get medical care, and call ahead to inform the caregiver about a possible COVID-19 infection. Sick employees should not come to work; go to school or public areas; or take taxis, public transportation, or rideshare services.
- Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; if no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into a sleeve.
- Separate themselves from family members and others at home.
- Avoid sharing household items such as cups, dishes, drinking glasses, utensils, towels, bedding, or other items with other people in the home; wash items thoroughly with soap and water.
- Wear a face mask when other people are in the same room and when visiting a healthcare provider.
A Huge Responsibility!
Employers have an enormous responsibility to do all that they can to halt the spread of COVID-19. Here are actions that your organization can take right away (if it has not already):
- First and foremost, follow all related directives and guidance issued at the state and federal levels, and take all precautions outlined by experts from agencies such as OSHA, the EPA, and the CDC.
- Restrict employee travel, especially travel to high-risk areas.
- Where possible, encourage (or, better yet, require) workers to perform their duties remotely.
- Make special consideration for employees in high-risk groups, including older workers and those with asthma, diabetes, or other preexisting conditions.
- Keep employees informed and updated on how your organization is taking precautions against COVID-19 infection.
The costs of an outbreak among your workforce are numerous. Lost productivity and reputational damage could be very steep—both externally and internally. As we noted in a previous blog post, employees notice when their employer takes a genuine interest in their well-being—and when it doesn’t.
As with all other things EHS-related, Dakota Software is here for its customers and partners during this challenging time. Stay safe!