Maintaining health and safety in the workplace is essential to successfully navigating COVID-19, as we move from crisis to a “new normal” and reopen the economy. To earn the trust of employees and customers, companies are encouraged to enact procedures and protocols that minimize the introduction, exposure or spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
From the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and MMAC have partnered to provide expert advice through webinars and various resources.
As we move to the next phase, MCW and MMAC continue to partner by sourcing and vetting information to develop a toolkit to help businesses identify risks and implement health and safety procedures. The toolkit provides a one-stop shop for information, guidance and resources to get your business up and running as safely as possible. Updates to the toolkit will be implemented as more resources and information become available. Disclaimer >>
Stop the Spread
COVID-19 spreads easily through touch and respiratory droplets. It’s important to take basic steps to protect your workforce, facilities and customers to reduce the spread.
As we learn to live responsibly with COVID-19 around us, these preventative measures are critically important for both your workforce and customers, here’s why:
Social/physical distancing prevents the virus from spreading through touch and proximity
Cleaning and disinfecting destroys the virus
Face coverings prevent the spread of the virus through speaking, coughing, or sneezing
Employees should stay home when not feeling well to eliminate personal interaction and remove the risk of transmission
Handwashing or using hand sanitizer (60% alcohol content) destroys the virus and prevents transmission through touch
As we continue to navigate life during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is normal for you and your employees to experience a wide range of emotions. It’s important to respect how you and others are feeling. When those feelings are acknowledged, understanding how to respond can be beneficial. Here are two resources to help you and your employees cope.
Below are some tools you can use for your Smart Restart and for continued health and safety over time.
Steps to prepare & protect
Your public health department
- Local health departments protect and promote the health of people where they live, work and play
- Local health departments are important partners through COVID-19 to:
- Help respond to cases and outbreaks
- Provide information on signs and symptoms
- Visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to locate your local health department
Health & Safety Checklist
The Business Restart Checklist was developed based on national and local best practice guidelines. Review the below checklist to identify risks and implement health and safety procedures to prepare and protect your workforce, customers, and facility.
…….▢ Identify an Internal Health & Safety Champion
…….▢ Identify your local Health Department Contact
Why Disinfect? Cleaning does not kill viruses. Disinfecting or sanitizing kills viruses on surfaces and reduces the risk of spreading COVID-19. If a surface was touched by a person with, or suspected to have, COVID-19, the surface should be cleaned and disinfected immediately.
- Refer to industry-specific guidelines for cleaning/disinfecting equipment and spaces
- Clean and disinfect all areas. Give special attention to tools, workstations, restrooms, food service areas, phones, computers, copy machines, shared printers, and other electronics. See MMAC’s List of Professional Decontamination services and a list of EPA approved cleaning products
- Use gloves and masks for cleaning and disinfecting
- Increase ventilation rates and/or the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the workplace
- Reduce the use of fabric seating (i.e., chairs, stools, sofas) to make disinfecting easier
- Reduce the number of frequently touched objects in common areas including magazine, pens, brochures, tables, etc.)
- Purchase tissues and no-touch garbage cans for employees and customers
- Place hand sanitizers or hand sanitizing stations in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene. Visit MMAC PPE MARKETPLACE source hand sanitizer materials.
- Use physical barriers, such as sneeze guards, extra tables or chairs, to protect employees who have direct interactions with customers and the public.
Many people are anxious and fearful about their personal and their community’s health. Providing and demonstrating safety measures such as those listed below will help to ease anxiety and provide a safer environment for your customers and employees. Also, some people may not feel that they are at personal risk, so it is important to take steps to increase their awareness of protecting other customers and employee’s health.
- Implement staggered work shifts, remote delivery services, touchless payment options, and other exposure-reducing measures.
- Consider options for downsizing operations or conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross-training workers across different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge services.
- Consider plans for continuing work from home policies.
- Discourage workers from sharing phones, desks, offices and other work tools and equipment if possible. Instruct employees to sanitize shared workplace items before and after each use.
- Evaluate traffic flow of employees and customers to avoid contact and maintain social/physical distancing guidelines (e.g., one-way aisles, wider aisles, waiting areas, etc.).
- Reduce maximum occupancy and count customers/employees entering and leaving to maintain distance requirements.
- Mark six-foot distances with floor tape/signage in checkout lines and common areas, open every other cash register, temporarily move workstations, or install plexiglass partitions or stanchions. See MMAC’s resources for safety signage.
- Offer options such as delivery or pick up for vulnerable populations (elderly, underlying health conditions).
- Post safety signage to show social/physical distancing policies.
Why be so diligent about personal protective protocols? COVID-19 is spread mainly through close contact between people. It can be transmitted through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. COVID-19 is spreading more quickly than influenza, so the best way to stay safe is to cover your mouth and nose as a form with a mask and to implement personal protective protocols.
- Source and provide proper CDC-approved PPE materials for workers. Visit MMAC PPE MARKETPLACE and/or WEDC’s WISCONSIN SUPPIER NETWORK to source PPE materials.
- Establish a business appropriate policy requiring employees, customers and vendors to wear face coverings or masks, or other industry-required PPE, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19.
- Develop language and literacy appropriate PPE training materials and train on proper usage and visit the (MMAC PPE MARKETPLACE).
Why is effective communication about COVID-19 important? As companies work to safeguard their employees, they must ensure everyone is receiving consistent, accurate and actionable information. Employees will be looking to their employers for ongoing guidance and regular communications. In addition, if businesses shift to a remote work policy, they will have to be more diligent than ever in demonstrating communication best practices to manage a work-from-home culture. As companies manage this shift, preparedness and planning are key to ensuring employees are safe, connected and engaged.
- Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information. There are resources available in multiple languages from both the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.
- Training materials should be easy to understand and cover these topics:
- Social/physical distancing measures that will be in place
- How to protect yourself and others through hygiene, PPE and sanitation
- The importance of not going to work or public places if you are feeling ill
- Place posters/signs that encourage proper hand hygiene and social/physical distancing at the entrance to your workplace and in other high-traffic workplace areas.
A workplace outbreak could severely affect daily operations and revenue, as well as create additional distress for employees and customers. By developing a plan for addressing a symptomatic employee in the workplace, you will be prepared to circumvent additional exposures and protect your workforce.
- Identify a place where sick employees can be safely isolated.
- Allocate safe transportation option for employees to get them home or to a healthcare facility.
- Have the appropriate materials on hand to disinfect the work area and any equipment/materials handled by a sick employee.
- Draft language to inform potentially exposed employees while maintaining confidentiality as required by privacy policies, reporting and regulatory guidelines. The employer should instruct exposed employees how to proceed based on the CDC Local health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure.
- Include your Local Health Department information in your plan.
Screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms is another strategy to prevent the infection and spread of the virus. It is important to use accurate and reliable testing methods to promptly identify a sick individual so they can be immediately removed from the environment and quarantined for 14 days, reducing the risk of exposure and preventing the disease from spreading throughout the workplace.
- Ask employees by phone or in-person if they have had a fever/chills, coughing, or difficulty breathing in the past 24 hours.
- Check employee temperatures at the start of each shift to identify anyone with a fever of 100.4℉ or greater.
- Ensure that screeners are trained, wearing PPE and maintaining 6 ft distance when possible.
- Employees should not enter the workplace if they have a fever of 100.4℉ or greater (or reported symptoms of fever) and should self-isolate and contact a healthcare provider.
- People who begin to show signs of illness should leave immediately and contact their healthcare provider for further assistance.
- If you have a potential case of COVID-19, contact your Local Health Department.
Why are customer communication strategies important for businesses? Customers want reliable, factual information that provides them with instructions on how to protect themselves in the business environment as well as information on the steps businesses are taking to protect them.
- Share any changes in service with your customers on your website, by email and in social media channels, and with posted signs at your place of business.
- Post signs about COVID-19 symptoms at business entrances with recommendations to postpone entering if experiencing symptoms.
- Arrange special hours for vulnerable people such as the elderly.
There is a risk that meeting attendees might unwittingly bring COVID-19 into the work environment exposing others and increasing the opportunity for transmission. While COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, it can make some very ill. Around 1 in every 5 people who catch COVID-19 needs hospital treatment.
- Retain the names and contact details of all meeting participants for at least one month from the date the meeting was held. This will help your Local Health Department trace people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 if one or more participants become ill shortly after the event.
- If someone at the meeting or event was isolated as a suspected COVID-19 case, the organizer should inform participants.
- Hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces when teleconferencing is not possible.
Why continue preventative measures? As businesses reopen, employees, customers and vendors will be sharing the same space and interacting more often. COVID-19 exposure is more likely in cases where interaction is high. By maintaining social/physical distancing and regular disinfecting practices, you reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission.
- Make sure disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizing stations are available to customers/guests and make sure employees are using them in front of customers. Visit MMAC PPE MARKETPLACE source hand sanitizer materials.
- Leave doors open to reduce the number of people touching door handles.
- Avoid physical contact such as shaking hands and hugging.
- Encourage customers and/or employees to report any safety and health concerns to management.
- Continue touchless payment options.
- Continue to clean and disinfect all areas. Give special attention to tools, workstations, restrooms, food service areas, phones, computers, copy machines, shared printers, and other electronics.
- Use gloves and masks for cleaning and disinfecting.