Is Your Workplace COVID-Safe?
Most families need at least one person to have a job, in order to survive. But those jobs also need their employees in order for the company to survive. And according to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the heavy lifting for creating a healthy work environment falls entirely on the employer.
“A job must be safe or it cannot be called a good job. OSHA strives to make sure that every worker in the nation goes home unharmed at the end of the workday, the most important right of all… Employers MUST provide their employees with a workplace that does not have serious hazards and must follow all OSHA safety and health standards.”
In the time of the coronavirus, this is trickier than ever before, so we have a few areas you should be looking at to determine – “Is my workplace COVID-safe?”
In assessing the safety of your workplace, let’s look at how they’re handling three areas: people, places, and things.
People come first – as they should! Some of the basic coronavirus safety precautions taken outside of the workplace should still hold true on the job. Face masks should be worn whenever possible, and when masks are removed, they should be stored in a clean designated personal space, like a maskSAFE face mask case. Hands must be washed frequently. Social distancing should be encouraged – that means avoiding large gatherings, and even limiting the number of people who can be at your job site at any given time. Social distancing is different from physical distancing, which requires a minimum distance of six feet away from others. An easy acronym to remember this rule is “S-A-F-E.” This stands for Six Away From Everyone.
But as we said before, the responsibility doesn’t just land on the employees. Many employers are implementing a screening process as employees, customers, and vendors enter a building. The CDC guidelines for employee screenings include temperature checks – no one entering the building should have a temperature above 100.4 degrees (38 Celsius). Employees should be sent home if they are coughing or short of breath during the screening. They need to be checked for other signs of illness, like fatigue or flushed cheeks. And the screener should remain six feet away, or do the screening from behind a barrier.
Did we say “barrier?” These might not be exciting or visually pleasing, but putting up transparent barriers is one way an employer can enhance COVID safety when it’s not possible for their employees to remain six feet away from others.
There are additional steps to look for to make sure your employer is making the place of business as safe as possible. Are they limiting occupancy in elevators and other confined spaces, like breakrooms? Have they instituted traffic-flow policies, making narrow halls and aisles one-way? Is this being communicated and reinforced with signage? Are they limiting in-person meetings to the personnel who are absolutely necessary? If these steps aren’t being taken, then your concerns should be taken to the human resources officer.
The last area of scrutiny we’ll look at today is “things.” High-contact surfaces in the workplace need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly with an EPA-approved solution, applied according to the label’s instructions. Doorknobs, all contact surfaces in restrooms, desks, phones, these are just a few of the “things” that might be touched by multiple people over the course of a day. Every contact is an additional opportunity for the virus to spread through cross-contamination.
Beyond the steps we expect of our employers, you also need to take the extra step of tending to your own mental health. Working during a pandemic, or returning to a location that may have been required to close, this can be incredibly stressful. Multiple studies have shown that stress can lower the immune response, making you even more vulnerable to illness. That’s why it’s more important than ever to get a sufficient amount of sleep and to maintain healthy eating habits.
No matter how diligent any employee or employer is, there is no way to completely guarantee an individual’s safety. If you have serious concerns about the precautions being taken (or not) in your workplace, talk to your doctor, your supervisor, or contact the experts at OSHA. It may be uncomfortable to call your employer’s policies into question, but we all have a responsibility to protect each other, in addition to ourselves.
- the maskSAFE Family