Workplace Safety: What to Do About Sickness After Reopening

When a disease as pervasive and novel as COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 enters society, it can be easy to forget that other illnesses are still around. Simply put, sickness is a reality, and if you run a business, you must expect your employees to come down with something at some point. In this current situation, however, the challenge is multi-faceted:

  • If someone does get sick, how can you be sure it is or is not COVID-19?
  • Regardless of the diagnosis, how can you ensure your workers feel comfortable and safe knowing someone has gotten sick amidst a global pandemic?
  • If it is COVID-19, what should your business do to ensure the disease does not spread inside your workplace?
  • How can you adhere to local and federal guidelines in the event that someone gets sick after reopening?

So, after months of waiting to reopen, how should your business deal with sickness in the workplace and avoid shutting down again?

Monitor Employee Symptoms

Maintaining routine health surveillance in your workplace is vital in ensuring your employees can safely work in the same environment together. This surveillance may be more or less involved based on your resources and needs. At the very least, employees should self-monitor their health each and every day, taking note of any symptoms they may have and reporting them to their supervisor(s) so a decision can be made. For a more thorough approach to surveillance, you might conduct daily temperature checks for employees prior to their entrance. The most rigorous (and costly) surveillance method, of course, is conducting regular COVID-19 testing on all employees. These tests can be hard to come by and are never 100% accurate, though, so other forms of monitoring should continue as well.

Ultimately, the purpose of these monitoring methods is to identify potential instances of illness before they can spread in the workplace.

Stay Updated on Current Exposure Guidelines

No matter how closely you monitor you people, disease can still spread. Indeed, health officials claim that COVID-19 can potentially spread asymptomatically (meaning a carrier showing no symptoms can transmit the disease to another). In the event of illness in the workplace (COVID-19 or otherwise), it is best to follow the most up to date guidelines, such as those outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of June 4th, 2020, their exposure guidelines mention that if a person has had close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with someone who has either tested positive for COVID-19 or displayed symptoms recently, they should remain home for at least 14 days after the previous exposure and maintain social distance (at least six feet) from others at all times, continue self-monitoring for symptoms, check their temperature twice per day, watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, and other related symptoms, and avoid contact with those at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

With this guidance in mind, your business must be prepared to send certain employees home for at least two weeks at a moment’s notice. Maintaining work-from-home protocols can help mitigate these issues in safety and productivity.

Identify Key Areas to Clean and Disinfect

Following the updated CDC guidelines mentioned above can also help you perform another important action to minimize the spread of infection: proper disinfection and cleaning. The most effective disinfecting and cleaning plans must not only account for high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces, but also consider specific areas that require remediation after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Before reopening, businesses should seek a thorough coronavirus deep clean service to ensure the safety and sanitation of all areas. Once business has resumed, consider hiring professional disinfecting services to routinely clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces like desks, light switches, door knobs, restroom features, phones, countertops, touch screens, etc. If and when someone gets sick in your workplace, do your best to identify where transmission most likely occurred and have your services pay special attention to these areas. Consider spaces where people might have remained in close contact for an extended period of time, such as meeting rooms, small offices, kitchen/break room areas, and more.

Determine Whether or Not Another Temporary Shutdown Is Necessary

Many businesses suffered significantly due to the temporary shutdown orders, and now that they’re finally reopening, none of them want to close their doors once again. That said, another temporary shutdown might be in order if someone in the workplace is confirmed to have COVID-19. Fortunately, according to the CDC, most businesses will not need to completely shut down their facility in this scenario. However, it is recommended that any areas that might have been used by the sick individual should be closed off. Furthermore, after closing off the area, the CDC suggests to wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting it to minimize potential transmission and to increase air circulation by opening any outside doors and windows.

Once it is time to clean and disinfect the area, it is best to follow the CDC’s disinfection guidelines regarding wearing proper PPE (personal protective equipment), using EPA-registered disinfectants for SARS-CoV-2 in particular, following instructed dwell time information, etc.

People get sick -- but during a pandemic, people can become easily frightened by this reality. If you want to keep your employees comfortable, safe, and healthy, have a plan for dealing with instances of illness in the workplace. And if you need help developing this plan and/or bringing it to fruition, The Budd Group is here. We offer a number of facility cleaning and disinfecting services, such as deep disinfection, electrostatic disinfection services, coronavirus disinfectant spray service, disinfecting remediation services, and more, that follow CDC recommendations, keep workers safe, and keep your business compliant.

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