Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 07/28/2020 --As businesses open back up and people begin to go back to work, many states are experiencing an increase in positive cases of COVID-19. While not completely unexpected, one of the areas of concern where COVID-19 can spread easily is the workplace.
"When people are in close contact with each other for a prolonged period of time indoors – like at work or a social event – the opportunity for COVID-19 to spread can increase, said Cherie Frame, RN, CIC, Intermountain Healthcare infection prevention director. She offers four suggestions to create a safe work environment.
1. Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
"Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, before meals and especially after being in a public area, or after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or using the restroom," said Frame. She adds that if soap and water are not available, individuals should use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
3. Wear a face covering
"COVID-19 can be spread by individuals who don't feel sick," said Frame. "Wearing a face covering greatly limits an infected individual's ability to spread disease, and also provides protection for individuals who aren't sick."
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that cloth face coverings are an effective tool in the fight against COVID-19, particularly when used universally within communities.
"Wearing a face covering over your mouth and nose is important, as viruses can infect an individual through those openings," adds Frame. "But a cloth face covering is not a substitute for social distancing. Individuals still need to remember to keep about six feet away from others."
4. Cover coughs and sneezes
"If you do not have on a cloth face covering, remember to always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow," she said. Frame also says to throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or clean your hands with a hand sanitizer.
5. Clean and disinfect at work
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily. "This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, common areas, break rooms, toilets, faucets, and sinks" said Frame. "When bringing a laptop from home, clean and disinfect it before using. If surfaces are dirty, clean them with a disinfecting wipe or other household disinfectant."
6. Practice social distancing during meetings, conversations and tasks
Frame says if you attend a meeting in person, be sure to sit six feet apart from other people. "If this is not possible, or for further protection, wear a mask." If you need to work near or talk to a co-worker, stay six feet apart. If you need to be in closer contact, wear a mask.
7. Maintain social distance during meals and breaks
The break room and meals at work should look different during the pandemic. "This is a challenge, because breaks are typically when employees like to socialize. When you are eating or drinking you need to take off your mask, so you should stay six feet apart from co-workers. Best practices would be to eat outside if possible or eat your meal away from your co-workers," said Frame. She addes that before and after eating, be sure to disinfect any common eating areas and wash your hands.
For more suggestions on creating a safe work environment, see the following resources:
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.