Lucy Kokor March 5, 2020 No Comments

As the number of reported coronavirus cases continues to rise, employers are increasingly confronted with the possibility of a workplace outbreak – an outbreak that can create a number of safety and compliance concerns. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and public health experts have stated it’s simply a matter of time before the coronavirus spreads throughout the U.S.  Employers play a very significant role in averting the spread of the disease by preventing those who may be infected from infecting others in the workplace. Taking action now is the best thing to do. However, you may be wondering “what should, or can we do to avoid detrimental effects on our employees and business operations?”

As the situation quickly evolves, there are resources in place to help your business prepare for the onset of coronavirus.

Here are steps you can take to prepare your organization:

  • Track the coronavirus – Monitor the CDC website and WHO website daily to track the coronavirus, recently named COVID-19. It is important to check and follow these two organizations frequently for accurate updates rather than relying solely on the local news.
  • Review interim guidance from the CDC for employers – These strategies include how and when to encourage employees to stay at home and planning considerations.
    • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of signs of a fever and any other symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 24 hours.
    • Separate sick employees. Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (e.g., cough or shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.
    • Emphasize hand hygiene. Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60%-95% alcohol or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
    • Perform routine environmental cleaning. Employers should routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs.

In addition to following the CDC’s interim guidance, employers should consider these
best practices to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Educate employees on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and the precautions that can be taken to minimize the risk of contracting the virus, without causing panic. If they have recently traveled, it is important they inform their healthcare provider. Travel history is now being considered the fifth “vital sign.”
  • Appoint a single individual or department as the point of contact within your organization for employee questions about COVID-19.
  • Review safety programs and emergency action plans to ensure that they include infectious-disease protocols.
  • Implement travel guidelines and procedures for approving travel to and from China.
  • Review HR Compliance Bulletin & Additional Resources
    • Employer Compliance Bulletin – This document touches on issues related to coronavirus. Download Bulletin 
    • Employee Communication – The American Red Cross has assembled easy steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for individuals. Read here
    • Develop a written policy / response plan that covers communicable diseases transmitted in the workplace. Take the time now to plan your responses in the event of a transmission and how it would be addressed.