By: Deborah Hollander, Esq.
One of the most critical issue for many businesses, and employees, is what to do after a possibly exposed worker has been on the site. Despite “stay at home” and shut down orders, many work places remain open to provide essential services.
The Center for Disease Control has issued guidance statements for how a work place should react to the presence at the workplace of an employee who has COVID-19 or who has been possibly exposed, including protocols for continuing with essential workers and sanitizing.
The CDC’s Interim Guidance for Workplaces Where A Potentially Exposed Worker Has Been Present.
The CDC has issued an “Interim Guidance” called “Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19.”
This guidance begins by defining when an employee or customer should have seen
“A potential exposure means being a household contact or having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The time frame for having contact with an individual includes the period of time of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic.”
A. EMPLOYEE ISSUES
If the employee is sick, they should not come to work. If they become sick during the day, they should be sent home immediately.
Workers who have had an exposure but remain asymptomatic should adhere to the following practices prior to and during their work shift:
- Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the facility.
- Regular Monitoring: As long as the employee doesn’t have a temperature or symptoms, they should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
- Wear a Mask: The employee should wear a face mask at all times while in the workplace for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue face masks or can approve employees’ supplied cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.
- Social Distance: The employee should maintain 6 feet and practice social distancing as work duties permit in the workplace.
- Disinfect and Clean work spaces: Clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment routinely.
Special Sanitation Procedures for Office Space for Seven Days After Presence of Potential Exposure
The CDC recommends that special cleaning and sanitation efforts for up to seven days after the employee (or visitor) with potential exposure has been present. Therefore, if the workplace can be closed for a full calendar week after the potential exposure, then no special disinfecting is necessary.
If that is not possible, CDC recommends:
1. Close off areas used by the person who is sick;
2. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. Wait 24 hours before you clean or disinfect. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible;
3. Clean and disinfect all areas used by the person who is sick, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines; and
4. Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting.
The CDC recommends the following disinfecting procedures be used.
First Clean dirty areas:
a. Wear disposable gloves and gowns for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash.
b. Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) might be required based on the cleaning/disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splash.
c. Gloves and gowns should be removed carefully to avoid contamination of the wearer and the surrounding area.
d. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
- Always wash immediately after removing gloves and after contact with a person who is sick.
- Hand sanitizer: If soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used. However, if hands are visibly dirty, always wash hands with soap and water.
- The CDC has detailed recommendations on precisely how to disinfect different areas of a business. These are summarized below:
For Hard Surfaces, Use an EPA-registered household disinfectant.
- Keeping surface wet for a period of time (see product label)
- Follow safety procedures for that product, including wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation.
- Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used if appropriate for the surface.
- Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. (This can create chlorine gas).
- Leave solution on the surface for at least 1 minute.
- Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol may also be used.
For Soft Surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes,
- Clean the surface using soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces.
- Launder items(if possible) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely OR Disinfect with an EPA-registered household disinfectant.
Electronics: For electronics, such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATM machines:
- Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics.
- Follow manufacturer’s instruction for cleaning and disinfecting.
- If no guidance, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol. Dry surface thoroughly.
Laundry: For clothing, towels, linens and other items
- Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water settingand dry items completely.
- Wear disposable gloves when handling dirty laundry from a person who is sick.
- Dirty laundry from a person who is sick can be washed with other people’s items.
- Do not shake dirty laundry.
- Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to guidance above for surfaces.
- Remove gloves, and wash hands right away.