Staying Safe in Your Workplace During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has people understandably worried and staying in their own homes whenever possible. Yet many Americans do not have the option to work from home, so heading out to their workplace each day is still a necessity.
If you need to go to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should be aware of a few precautions you can take to help reduce the chances of spreading the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a comprehensive outline of what they know about the virus so far and how the average person can help fight it. Google has placed this information on its homepage to get the information to millions if not billions of people across the globe.
The five keystone tips from WHO about coronavirus protections and how they apply to the workplace are:
- Hands: Washing your hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds or longer is a critical first step in containing the coronavirus. The combination of soap and water creates an emulsifying agent that scrubs viruses and germs off your hands, washing them harmlessly down the sink. Testing shows it is much more effective than relying on hand sanitizer alone. When you are at work, wash your hands after using your workstation, touching a door handle, handling products, and so forth. Anyone in the foodservice industry needs to be more proactive with handwashing than ever.
- Elbow: If you must cough or sneeze, do so into the crook of your elbow. The coronavirus likely spreads through contact with microscopic particulates in the air that are distributed through sneezes and coughs. By coughing or sneezing into your elbow, you help contain traces of the virus on your own person and a part of your body you rarely touch otherwise.
- Face: Try your best to not touch your face at any time. Illnesses like COVID-19 have a difficult time causing infection through skin contact, but mucus membranes are much more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria. Your eyes, nose, and mouth all have mucus membranes. To keep them clean and clear, do not touch your face. Talk to your supervisor about sending out company emails or flyers to remind people of this simple yet often forgotten rule.
- Feet: Not talking about a body part for this tip. WHO means feet as in a measurement of distance. Try your best to stay 3 feet away from your coworkers. When you sneeze or cough, traces of the virus may be expelled into the air, traveling a little less than 3 feet on average. For cramped workplaces, the 3-foot rule might not be possible. In such a case, some employees may need to be given different tasks to place them in areas away from others.
- Feel: COVID-19 manifests as mild, cold-like symptoms – coughing, sneezing, and low fever – for many young, healthy people. If you feel a little sick, you might be tempted to head to work with some over-the-counter medicine in hand. Please do not. You could be a COVID-19 carrier and not know it. Any of your older coworkers or those with respiratory illnesses could be put at serious risk if you show up with even mild symptoms. Stay home if you feel sick at all.
(Please visit the official WHO website by clicking here if you would like more COVID-19 information. You should only depend on reliable sources of information like the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] to avoid reading misinformation that can spread fear and panic.)
Sick Days, Working from Home & Unemployment Benefits
If you have any sick days provided through your employer, then now is certainly the correct time to use them. Ask your employer if they are considering an extension of sick days for anyone who has exhibited coronavirus symptoms. You can also talk to your employer about working from home, which is becoming more common in the tech industry and office jobs.
Many American workers are not provided sick days through their employment, though. This situation does not mean they are necessarily forced to go to work. Some employers have extended disability benefits coverage to employees diagnosed with COVID-19. It might also be possible to file for unemployment benefits through your state’s program, depending on what state you call home.
From all of us at Sam C. Mitchell & Associates in Illinois, we are wishing everyone the best health during the coronavirus pandemic. This feels like an uncertain time, but it helps to remember that there are always good people out there doing good things for people in need. We thank everyone at the CDC, WHO, and other agencies conducting tireless research to combat the novel coronavirus. We also want to show gratitude to everyone in medical professions who are on the frontlines of the pandemic, caring for those who have fallen ill to this tenacious virus. Together, with patience, calm, and confidence, we can all pull through and find a brighter tomorrow.