PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Reopening safely will not be business as usual.
“This is not a matter of just reopening again. Unfortunately, this is a matter of reopening in a pandemic,” says Dr. Christopher Martin, a West Virginia University Medicine professor of occupational medicine. “A plan needs to be in place. Think through all of the different scenarios that might arise.”
Key elements to workplace safety include distance, screening, cleanliness, and masks.
To maintain distance, workplaces should think about layouts, barriers and schedules.
“Can you keep people 6 feet apart? And keep the fewest number of people coming into contact with each other?” Martin said.
Screening employees with questionnaires about symptoms can be helpful in identifying cases.
“You want to be sure that the employee feels comfortable reporting those symptoms and doesn’t feel under any kind of obligation to show up at work when they might be having symptoms,” Dr. Martin said.
Dr. Martin does not recommend temperature screening, as large-scale efforts, at airports for instance, for other diseases have not been effective at identifying cases.
As for cleaning, surfaces are not a major route of transmission.
“I think people actually became overly concerned about contaminated surface transmission,” Dr. Martin said.
He does recommend paying more attention to high-touch surfaces and shared equipment and extra diligence when circumstances arise.
“If we found out a customer was infected, we’re going to have to do some disinfection,” the doctor said.
Because customers and staff could be infected without knowing it, masks are important.
“The mask protects others from the possibility that the wearer of the mask is infected,” says Dr. Martin. “Transmission can be effectively interrupted if a significantly high proportion of people wear masks, and I would encourage that as a recommendation for businesses.”
That goes for going to and from work, especially on public transportation.
“Public transportation is going to involve people coming in closer than 6 feet,” Dr. Martin said. “Everybody should be wearing facemasks in those kinds of situations.”
- Plan for outbreaks
Employers should also be ready for employees to get sick.
Workplace contact tracing and quarantines could follow.
“Hopefully it’s not everybody in the business, but those individuals are at a particularly high risk,” Dr. Martin said.
- The usual risks
Keep in mind, while everyone has been thinking about coronavirus, other risks haven’t disappeared.
If a business has been closed for a long time, there could be mold or Legionella.
Don’t forget the standard hazards in your comprehensive plan.