By: Grace Hancock
For many Americans, this far along into the COVID-19 pandemic reminders like “stay at home,” “wear a mask,” and “practice social distancing” might as well be white noise. By now we have all likely heard and/or seen one version or another of the CDC’s guidelines on how to protect against the coronavirus. There are constant reminders on social media, signs in stores, and television to do such things as “avoid large crowds” and “keep 6 feet away from others.” If you work out of the home, at a retail store or in an office space, for example, you know you aren’t always able to keep away from large crowds or practice social distancing.
If this is the situation you currently find yourself in, you may be asking how you can best protect yourself and your loved ones from the coronavirus? We here at Hancock Injury Attorneys value your safety and well-being. We also understand that not everyone has the luxury of working remotely. We want to equip you with information on how to keep yourself and others safe throughout these unprecedented times. Here are five important safety tips to help you stay safe in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Make sure that your choice of face mask is both effective and well-fitted.
Not all types of face coverings are equally effective at protecting against the coronavirus. Lab testing conducted by CBS News Marketplace with the help of the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana school of public health uncovered which types of face masks and coverings are most effective at protecting against COVID-19 and which are not. The testing revealed that face coverings made of single-layered fabric, made of fabric with a low thread count, or are made of a loose-knit fabric like a scarf, a bandana, or a single-layered gaiter or balaclava, allow coronavirus particles to pass through the fabric and into the mouth and nose of the face-covering wearer. The testing also found that valve masks do a poor job at filtering particles and may even be contributing to the spread of the coronavirus. Surgical face masks and fabric face coverings and masks that were multi-layered, made with a tightly knit fabric, and/or made with fabric with a high thread count were shown to perform most effectively at protecting against the transmission of coronavirus particles.
It won’t matter how effective your face mask is at protecting you against COVID-19 if your mask is not well-fitted. Coronavirus particles can get around a mask that is not well-fitted to the face and infect individuals. That being said, a loose mask is better than no mask at all. CBS News hypothesizes that even a loose mask can lessen the amount of coronavirus particles entering an individual’s system, leading to mild or minor symptoms.
2. Wash and/or sanitize your hands frequently.
When you’re at work, you may not always have ready access to a bathroom to wash your hands. Consider purchasing hand sanitizer that you can keep in your desk or even in your pocket that you can use at your convenience. The CDC recommends that you choose a hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
3. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects in your workspace.
Frequently touched surfaces and objects in the workplace could include workstations, telephones, keyboards, doorknobs and handrails. While you may be able to socially distance yourself from your coworkers by being in your own office or cubicle, many times there are shared items that are frequently touched. Take for example a shared copy machine, while you may be the only one using it at certain times, imagine how many people before you have touched it. Talk to your workplace about instituting a policy to disinfect after each use if such a policy is not already in place.
4. Practice social distancing.
You might find that you are not always able to stay 6 feet apart from others at your work. In situations where you are unable to keep a 6 feet distance between yourself and your coworkers, customers, or employers, maintain as much of a distance as possible. If you find for example that your workplaces are placed too close together in your office or that there aren’t proper safety precautions in place at a retail store or a restaurant that keep you a safe distance from customers, talk to your employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published an alert containing steps that employers can take to help implement social distancing in the workplace; such as staggering breaks and rearranging seating in common break areas to maintain physical distance between workers and moving or repositioning workstations to create more distance. Your employer may be able to implement these guidelines in your workplace.
5. Remind your fellow co-workers to follow CDC guidelines
You can only do so much to keep yourself and others safe from coronavirus. A fellow co-worker who doesn’t wear a face mask or practice social distancing while in the workplace puts not only themselves in danger, but also you, your other co-workers, and any clients or customers that might come into contact with that co-worker. Politely correct a co-working if you see them not adhering to health and safety guidelines.
Legal Work Rights Regarding COVID-19
If you are concerned about facing retaliation from your employer: such as the denial of benefits, intimidation or harassment, or being fired or laid off, for raising health and safety concerns related to COVID-19 in your workplace, know that such retaliation is prohibited under OSHA. You can file a claim with OSHA if you find yourself in a situation where you have faced retaliation from your employer for asking that protections be put in place to protect against the coronavirus in the workplace and/or raising reasonable concerns about health and safety in the workplace related to the current pandemic.