The Coronavirus – What can employers do to protect their workers?
- On February 12, 2020
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As the news floods our lives with stories of the newly named COVID-19 virus, some fact and some possible fake news is being spread. Employers are searching for answers to ease the minds of their employees and ensure their work places are kept safe.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) advises that there is no evidence of widespread transmission of COVID-19 in North America at this time. Without sustained human-to-human transmission, most North American workers are not at significant risk of infection.
Not to belittle or take lightly this virus, but it should be noted that in comparison, the CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.
Which workplaces and situations have elevated risks for coronavirus?
- Healthcare (including death care)
- Airline operations
- Border protection
- Solid waste and wastewater management
- Travel to areas, including parts of China, where the virus is spreading
- Exposure to those suspected of infection.
Employers need to raise awareness and implement specific steps employers can take to reduce the likelihood of workplace exposure and transmission.
- Install hand sanitizers stations available to all employees and encourage their use.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with a Roxton EPA or Health Canada approved disinfectant wipe. Discard used wipes immediately.
- Ensure employees are washing their hands frequently for 20-30 seconds using soap and water or sanitizer.
- Remind employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid travel to areas where the virus is spreading, particularly China. Follow government travel advisories due to the coronavirus. Encourage video-conferencing and other tools instead.
- Require employees to notify you if they are infected or exposed.
- Employees should stay home when they are sick. Monitor for fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Seek medical attention immediately if they may have been exposed.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with you arm or use a tissue then discard the tissue properly.
- Collaborate with your temp and contractor firms to do the same.
- Develop or update an infectious disease outbreak response plan (check WHO and CDC sites for more info), which details how you will deal with exposed workers and infected workers and contaminated workplaces.
- Avoid discrimination. Apply policies consistently to all employees, and avoid implementation of policies that discriminate against individuals within a protected class. For instance, ask all employees who travel (not just those of certain races or national origins) about recent travel locations.
Roxton Industries official statement on COVID-19 can be found at the link below: