The new type of virus caused the pandemic, which leads to the non-standard situation and respective measures from government affairs. At the same time, which measures should take the business and the way to behave correctly in the time of uncertainty remains for many business owners unclear. Below you may find FAQ prepared by Signature Water and Fire Restoration to help you determine your action plan for this period depending on different situations.
What actions should be taken in case somebody from employees was infected with COVID-19 (confirmed by medicals) or the infected person visited office recently?
The priority should be given to recommendations provided by CDCs, which also called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are the competent authorities regarding managing all issues connected with Coronavirus.
The first step to being done according to their guide is to make such a person leave the office immediately in the same way they came to you. Before this, if possible, you should provide such a person with gloves and mask to avoid further spreading of the virus in the office. The next step is to identify areas visited by the sick person, isolate them from other employees. In case these areas belong to someone’s working space you should find another working space for such an employee and ensure no one has access there.
According to the law business owners obligated to provide all hired personnel with a safe working space, which safe, free of threats or hazard able to cause significant harm or, which is worthier, death. This legislation document called The Occupational Safety & Health Act’s General Duty Clause was interpreted by OSHA, with the clarification of the following matters:
- The General Duty Clause is relevant only for hazards, where there’s no specific standard regulating it. Employers, who violated this law and requirement to provide employees with safe working and, at the same time, do nothing with existing dangers can be called to account. The following events may serve as evidence of the law breaches:
- The hazard related to the working space was detected and recognized;
- The recognized hazard caused (could cause) the death or physically harmed an employee;
- There was a method to eliminate the hazard;
- The business owner didn’t properly keep the workspace of employees free of threats.
- OSHA provides employers with standards to follow in order to handle the COVID-19 in the working space.
- If the employer allowed the situation when the infected with COVID-19 person came to the work and spreads the disease among other employees and no correction actions were taken this will be considered as a violation of the General Duty Clause. The mentioned correction measures include the quarantine of the employee, who has the confirmed diagnose, which will not allow him to come at work, and further disinfection of the premises.
- There’re also requirements to documentation and reporting, which however doesn’t include flu cases or other types of cold infections:
- For cases of infecting by Coronavirus at the workplace employer should report in the OSHA 300 log;
- Cases of hospitalization or death from the COVID-19 should be reported as well;
- For cases with a fatal outcome, OSHA will initiate the investigation. In case the violations will be found the business owners can be fined.
Is room fogger effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing COVID-19?
Room fogger used for disinfection of facilities from the bacteria and some types of viruses. At the same time, it’s usage is not listed in the CDC procedure for disinfection from Coronavirus. Instead of this, the main recommendation includes:
- The first step of surfaces cleaning;
- Applying disinfectants that are EPA Registered, which immediately fight the virus.
Can the disinfection step be skipped? How long the virus stays active at the surfaces?
When it comes to the virus’s activity in the air the average time till deactivation is 3 hours after initial aerosolizing. But the period of being active at the surfaces is much longer and can achieve 17 days depending on the type of the surface. Although you should be noted that currently not all types of surfaces were tested. As there’re still no direct recommendations from CDCs regarding the time of the quarantine required to the area for being fully eliminated from the virus affection from the contacted area we at Signature Water and Fire Restoration highly recommend do not to skip the disinfection step.
Can an employee perform the disinfection of working premises?
In spite of the fact, there’re no restrictions for the way of disinfection of working space there’re still some limitations provided in regulatory documents, which should be followed in order to stay compliant with EPA and OSHA regulations. They include the following:
- OSHA provides the PPE standards, which consider a separate training for using gloves, eyes protection, face protection and respiratory;
- For cases, which require the respiratory protection of the employees the business owner must have the respective program implemented according to OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard. This complex respiratory program should include:
- A written document;
- Respirators fit tests;
- Medical allowance for using specified respirators;
- Do not confuse the respirators to the surgical masks. The last ones are aimed just to protect surroundings from spreading viruses, but not for personal protection, and don’t have fitting tests or other medical documents to be considered.
- There’s also a requirement regarding waste handling connected with COVID-19, which comes down to the necessity to apply the following attributes in order to safe employees from infecting through waste they manage:
- standard controls (administrative & engineering);
- Safe practices applied to the working process;
- These measures are aimed at the protection of employees from harm caused by sharps or any other items, including infections. Improperly managed waste can cause cross-contamination and risks connected with infection.
- CDC mentions that in spite of the fact that the majority of disinfectants used in housekeeping can also be applied against the virus gathered at surfaces there’s still a recommendation to use EPA registered ones, which are considered to be more effective as their action comes faster. Some of them have a special mark evidencing the effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2.
- In case you need more details you can also apply to the OSHA’s brochure, which includes Guidance for maintaining working space in time of spreading the Coronavirus aimed to help in determining risk areas and employees working under higher risks and protecting them.