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Getting your workplace ready in case COVID-19 arrives in your community

Develop a contingency and business continuity plan for an outbreak in the communities where your business operates.

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  • The plan will help prepare your organisation for the possibility of an outbreak of COVID-19 in its workplaces or community. It may also be valid for other health emergencies.
  • The plan should address how to keep your business running even if a significant number of workers, contractors and suppliers cannot come to your place of business – either due to local restrictions on travel or because they are ill.
  • Inform your workers and their representatives as well as your contractors about the plan and make sure they are aware of what they need to do – or not do – under the plan. Emphasise key points such as the importance of staying away from work even if they have only mild symptoms or have had to take simple medication (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen) which may mask the symptoms.
  • Be sure your plan addresses sick leave arrangements (see #Certifying absence from work), and the mental health and social consequences of a case of COVID-19 in the workplace or in the community and offer information and support.
  • For small and medium-sized businesses without in-house occupational health support, consult the information available online from your occupational health service, public health and labour authorities in advance of any emergency. Consult any guidance given by your sectoral organisations (employers’ associations, chambers of commerce, sectoral social services).

Preventing spread of infection

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Prevention measures such as those described below should be taken now, even if COVID-19 countermeasures are not in place in your community. The measures should be included in the workplace risk assessment that covers all risks, including those caused by biological agents, as set out in EU and national occupational health and safety legislation.

Employers should:

  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to the workplace and in other areas where they will be seen.
  • Provide workers with tissues and waste bins lined with a plastic bag so that they can be emptied without contacting the contents.
  • Instruct workers to clean their hands frequently, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds or with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60-95% alcohol.
  • Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace in multiple locations and in common areas to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Continue routine environmental cleaning and consider additional measures as described later in this document.
  • Brief the workers, contractors and customers that anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at home. They should also stay home (or work from home) if they have had to take simple medications, such as paracetamol/acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection
  • Any workers who develops flu-like symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath, fever) should go home immediately and contact the public health service. If there is any reason to suspect that they may have been in contact with COVID-19, then follow the measures described in #What to do if an employee or a member of the public becomes unwell and believe they have been exposed to COVID-19.

If it is feasible for your business, promote teleworking across your organisation and allow workers to work flexible hours to minimise crowding the workplace. As part of the COVID-19 countermeasures in your community, the health authorities may advise people to avoid public transport and crowded places. Teleworking will help your business keep operating while your workers stay safe.

Routine environmental cleaning:

  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and door handles. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
  • No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by workers.

Guidance on facemasks

The use of face masks may be considered when working in closed spaces with other persons, or when it is not possible to maintain a safe distance from other people. Such situations may arise not only in the workplace, but also at clients premises, when carrying out visits or deliveries, or when using public transport.

Face masks should only be considered as a complementary measure and not a replacement for established preventive practices, such as physical distancing, cough and sneeze etiquette, hand hygiene and avoiding face touching.

It is essential that workers use face masks properly so that they are effective and safe.

  • It should fit properly, completely covering the face from bridge of nose to chin.
  • Clean hands properly before putting the face mask on or taking it off.
  • Only touch the cord or elastic at the back of the face mask when removing it, not the front.
  • If the face mask is disposable, be sure to do so safely in a proper container.
  • If reusable, wash the face mask as soon as possible after use with detergent at 600C.

The best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person. Any worker who deals with members of the public from behind a screen should be protected from airborne particles.

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