COVID-19, Personal Protective Equipment, Personnel Safety

Reopening Guidance from CDC, OSHA, and EPA

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published guidance for employers reopening their businesses as states lift stay-at-home orders issued this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, first identified in Wuhan City, China in December 2019.

The CDC and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their “Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes.” The CDC also updated its “General Business Frequently Asked Questions,” (FAQs) a supplement to earlier interim guidelines for businesses and employers and critical infrastructure workers.

OSHA published English and Spanish posters depicting proper methods for donning and doffing filtering facepiece respirator and posted an accompanying video to YouTube.

The CDC and EPA recommended employers and school administrators develop, implement, maintain, and regularly revise plans for cleaning and disinfecting public-facing businesses, schools, workplaces, and other public spaces. EPA has compiled a list of disinfectant products that can be used against COVID-19.

The recommended framework for cleaning and disinfecting involves:

  • Normal routine cleaning with soap and water to decrease the amount of the virus on surfaces and objects, thereby reducing the risk of exposure;
  • Frequent disinfection of surfaces and objects touched by multiple people with EPA-approved disinfectants;
  • Using alternative disinfectants when EPA-approved disinfectants are not available, such as 70% alcohol solutions or 1/3 cup of bleach added to 1 gallon of water – being careful not to mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together, which can cause dangerous fumes.

Bleach solutions remain effective for disinfection up to 24 hours.

The CDC’s FAQs cover recommended precautions for employees with special risks. Older adults (65 years and older) and people with serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for severe illness and death if they become infected. The CDC suggested strategies that include implementing telework and other social distancing practices, such as maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, promoting handwashing, and wearing cloth face coverings in addition to social distancing practices.

The CDC also suggested providing supplies and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for cleaning and disinfecting workspaces.

Employers may want to screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms using temperature checks; but the CDC recommended protecting screeners with social distancing or physical barriers, such as a glass or plastic window or partition. Employers also could provide screeners with PPE that could include eye protection like goggles or a disposable face shields, disposable gloves, and gowns.

Respirator Refresher from OSHA

OSHA released remembers of proper respirator donning and doffing that include:

  • Washing hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol before putting on and after removing a respirator;
  • Inspecting respirators for damage;
  • Covering mouth and nose with the respirator, then pulling the first strap over the head so that it rests at the back of the head and pulling the second strap over the head so that it crosses over the other strap and rests at the back of the neck;
  • Using the metal nose clips on the respirator, molding it to the shape of the nose;
  • Establishing a tight seal on the respirator by placing both hands over it then inhaling and exhaling;
  • Readjusting the straps if air leaks from the respirator’s edges;
  • Avoid touching the respirator while wearing it;
  • Removing the respirator by grabbing the straps from behind, being mindful not to touch the front of the respirator; and
  • Discarding the respirator in a closed-bin waste receptacle if it does not need to be reused because of supply shortages.

A properly worn respirator can both help reduce the wearer’s risk of viral exposure and help prevent the virus’s spread to others.