Coronavirus Infection in the Workplace
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is the illness caused by the deadly coronavirus which is now referred to as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
The Coronavirus infection was identified for the first time during an outbreak of respiratory illness, in the city of Wuhan, in the Republic of China.
It has since then spread all over the world with a rapid increase in the confirmed cases day after day across the world. This led to the implementation of control measures to tame the spread of the disease in each country all over the world.
These regulations including lockdowns, shutting down of major working areas across the world, closure of institutions such as churches and schools, social distancing, and high hygiene standards.
Unsurprisingly, it is also the ideal time for businesses that have gone paperless to thrive. Why? They are already used to operating in a “paperlight environment so they won’t be affected by regulations like social distancing.
Open Workplaces Seen as “Coronavirus Infection Hotbeds”
There are essential services that have to be offered even when the countries have resorted to lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus. This includes treatment and healthcare, security at both national and local levels, among others. The workers in these institutions such as doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, police officers, as well as staff in the institutions that partner with the aforementioned.
Members of humanitarian groups and Non-governmental organizations have chipped in to help in these critical times are still working to help the society. These institutions cannot be limited because their services are vital in helping us survive through the pandemic.
There offices and working areas have to remain open, and this is worrying most people. Over 52.9% of people in America believe that the open offices will only cause a higher infection rate, and 41% percent of them believe that the offices will be a "coronavirus infection hotbed."
Practicing some safety measures can help prevent you from contracting the coronavirus infection. Habits like washing hands time after time, not touching your face, and disinfecting the workplace regularly are the first moves towards staying safe.
These measures can be of great help to the essential service providing workers, who cannot work from home.
Protecting yourself in a High-contact Zone
However, otherstaff who work in jobs that involve interacting with a huge population can be worried about how to effectively avoid coronavirus infection while in their workplace.
If you work in such an environment, here’s how to increase your safety as you perform your daily duties at your workplace.
Wash your hands time and again, with soap and warm water. It is also advisable to use running water while rinsing the hands to minimize the chances of leaving the virus in the hands after washing.
This is very important because you will often handle shared items such as mobile phones, computer parts such as the mouse and the keyboard, coffee pots, record books, and pens. The other items that are commonly shared in the workplace are elevator buttons, on and off switches, electrical appliances, landline phones, and door handles.
According to Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, the director of global health at Northwell Health, hand washing is the most important thing you can do to prevent yourself from any disease in the workplace, COVID-19 included.
"In the case of COVID-19, the major route of transmission is going to be touching surfaces that someone has coughed or sneezed on and then touching your face. So washing your hands all the time is your best defense strategy," says Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena.
CDC recommends that you wash your hands for 20 seconds, butyou can do it longer than that.
Carry sanitizers in case your workplace doesn’t allow you to wash your hands with soap and water all the time.
Ensure that you have a bottle of hand sanitizer near you always and sanitize your hands often. Both the CDC and Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena recommend the use of sanitizers proven to containmore than 60% alcohol content.
The use of hand sanitizer, as stated by Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, is a quick way to keep your hands free of infections. It can, however, be done in between hand washes with soap and water because it is less reliable as compared to the soap and water hand wash.
"Hand sanitizer is a superficial clean, so if you've got no dirt or no grime on your hands, it is effective at killing most things that are on your hands. However, when you’ve touched dirt and germs could be hiding underneath, a hand sanitizer won’t suffice but soap and water will." Said Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena.
As you are aware, the virus stays in plastic, metal, and wooden materials for over 8 hours each.
This means that this virus can be harbored in your work desk, door locks, your working table, the toilets seats, among the other services for some time.
Dr. Cioe-Pena advices that we clean and sanitize everything that we are going to touch through the day in the morning, before settling for work.
An average desk has over 800 bacteria per square inch, which is almost 14 times more than the number of bacteria in the office toilet seat. This is according to the Wall Street Journal.
It is therefore important to ensure that your working area is sanitized all the time. While cleaning, focus on the areas you touch most often such as the desk surface, your desk phone, monitor buttons, switches, and computer components such as the mouse and keyboard.
4. Avoid touching anything in the workplace with bare hands.
It is very important to limit hand-to surface exposure as much as possible. Wear hand gloves when handling items in the workplace to protect yourself from the coronavirus infection.
If you don't have a glove, put a barrier in between the surface you are touching and your hand. The barrier can be a piece of tissue paper or a clean clothing such as handkerchief that you won’t use before a thorough cleaning.
This could be a real challenge to those who do not have their own offices, but if possible, it could be a great step. If this is not possible, make sure that you work in a secluded place inside your workplace.
Studies show that over 52.9% of people in America believe that the open offices will cause a higher infection rate than any good, and 41% percent of them believing that the offices will be an "coronavirus infection hotbed."
It is therefore important to have a secured personal place in the working area such as a corner desk, a booth cubicle, or an isolated personal desk in the workplace. This will help maintain social distancing and personal hygiene.
"One of the ways to get the virus is being close to other people," Dr. Cioe-Pena said. "If you work within a six feet diameter near an infected person for more than two minutes, you are exposing yourself to a high risk of coronavirus infection."
To avoid contracting COVID-19, CDC states that you should avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and the nose at all costs. This is one of the safest ways to prevent the spread of the disease.
People are used to touching their faces, averaging to 24 times per hour with the most touching parts being the mouth, eyes, and nose. This is according to a study that was done back in 2015.
Other risky nervousness habits such as nail-biting and touching of eyes may also expose you to high risk of getting infected.
"Things like the ones you do habitually with unclean hands can put you at risk." Dr. Cioe-Pena told Business Insider.
You must avoid such nervousness habits, not just while at your workplace but also in every other place.
Limiting physical contact is the global message for everyone, with some companies advising their workers to avoid handshakes and hugs while at work.
You can also shift to digital documents like PDFs to avoid much contact
This is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and other diseases such as common cold and flu.
"The handshake is a hard thing because it's so in-built in our culture," Dr. Cioe-Pena said. "Touching elbows is a more harmless choice than a handshake, evading the exposure of areas that might come in contact with your mouth, eyes, and nose. Even a slight nod or bow will serve the purpose well. I think people feel awkward about not reciprocating a handshake if someone extends their hand, so this is the time to be creative. It's a common-sense change in our society that we need to be mindful of."
The CDC has recommended that sick workers should be allowed to stay at home. Most workplaces have also encouraged to allow their employees work remotely.
If you are unwell, don't go to work. This will protect both you and your workmates. You can inform your employer to help you find a better working approach that will enable you to execute tasks remotely.
"The idea right now is to practice social distancing, so that if you work with someone who is sick, you're not within 6 feet of them," Dr. Cioe-Pena said. "Employers were a little slow on the uptake, butmany of big employers have made this move and it has helped us control corona so far. It also cuts out the commute, which is a risk if you're taking public transit where you have to share with too many people.
As you follow these guidelines in your workplace, it's also important to remain calm and trust that the coronavirus infection will go away in the long run. Without this calmness, you won't be able to effectively offer the services you are supposed to.
"We need to keep calm," Dr. Cioe-Pena said. "We have to take this with the appropriate level of seriousness, protect the people who are most at risk, but the rest of us have to take the anxiety down one notch to get through this. Be smart and avoid panicking."
Calmness and peace of mind are good for your mental and physical health, and your work too.