May 6, 2020

COVID-19: measures to prepare and secure the workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency that directly affects the global economy. Companies have ceased operations due to social distancing to avoid contagion among their employees. It is expected that a return to economic activity will occur gradually and it will be essential to rethink, improve and optimize office workspace to ensure that business resumes safely. In this extreme period, it is recommended that a workplace improvement consulting firm be hired. These specialists will assist you in developing astructured plan to enhance the employee experience while ensuringtheir safety at work.

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus not previously found in humans. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause avariety of illnesses, including the common cold, Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). 

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, sorethroat, nasal congestion, diarrhea and difficulty breathing. Some people experience mild symptoms and recover without medical complications, but others develop very severe symptoms that can lead to death.  

The elderly and those with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, cancer and lung disease are more likely to develop severe symptoms.  

What measures are being taken in the workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19?  

This virusis highly contagious and is spread through contact with an infected person. Coughing, sneezing and talking release small droplets (mucus or saliva) that carry the virus.

Thedroplets can stay on objects and surfaces for several hours or be inhaled by people when they come into contact with an infected person.  

Workplace prevention measures to avoid infections include cleaning tables, ramps, door handles and other frequently used objects such as computers and mobile phones.

It is also essential to maintain social distance between employees. If possible, maintain one meter between people and avoid physical contact when greeting and saying goodbye.  

A plan should be established in the company on how to proceed if someone is ill. A practical measure is to set up an isolation room to house the person suspected of having COVID-19 and to notify the health authorities. 

In addition, areas of the facility where personnel are most at risk of infection should be identified and overcrowding should be avoided. For example, restrict the use of common areas such as the cafeteria, meeting rooms, parking lots, washrooms, etc. and establish appropriate health protocols in each area. 

Also communicate to employees the protocol to be followed within the company. Ask for understanding and cooperation in the event that it is suspected that someone is ill, in order to take isolation measures. The incubation period for the virus is five to six days, but the first symptoms may appear up to fourteen days later. In the meantime, the person may be asymptomatic and spread the virus without symptoms. 

The plan should indicate how to proceed if your business is located in an outbreak areathrough a sanitation perimeter controlled by health authorities. Due to local traffic restrictions, and if your business allows it, it is a good idea to consider telecommuting and home office for as long as possible.  

As recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), employees, contractors, customers, etc. and anyone else should wear a mask as a prophylactic measure. However, the use of a mask is not sufficient to ensure a sufficient level of protection, and other measures must be taken as well. 

WHO also recommends hand hygiene, which consists of covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze. Avoid contact with eyes, nose and mouth with dirty hands and use disposable wipes for personal hygiene. If you experience symptoms, stay home and consult health authorities.

These are general measures. For a complete plan, consult your local or national public health authority who can help and guide you in developing your safety plan.