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THURSDAY, July 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Lockdown measures helped reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in countries around the world, a new study finds.

Moreover, earlier stay-in-place restrictions such as closing schools and workplaces were tied to a greater reduction in cases, according to British researchers.

The findings, published July 15 in the BMJ, were based on data from 149 countries and regions.

"These findings might support policy decisions as countries prepare to impose or lift physical distancing measures in current or future epidemic waves," study co-author Nazrul Islam said in a journal news release.

Islam is a research fellow and medical statistician at the University of Oxford.

He and his team compared new cases of COVID-19 before and up to 30 days after the introduction of physical-distancing measures, such as restricting large gatherings and closing schools, workplaces and public transit.

On average, such measures were implemented nine days after the first reported case of COVID-19. However, some countries took longer to implement measures, including Thailand (58 days), Australia (51 days), Canada (46 days), and Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom (45 days). Finland and Malaysia issued orders after 42 days, while Cambodia, Sweden and the United States did so after 40 days.

Implementation of any physical distancing measure was associated with an overall 13% average reduction in COVID-19 incidence, the study found.

In combination, restrictions on mass gatherings and closures of schools and workplaces appeared to play a significant role in the reduction of COVID-19 cases. But shutting down public transit when the other measures were in place wasn't associated with an additional decline in COVID-19 cases, likely because fewer people were using public transportation, according to the authors.

The study provides important early evidence for the effectiveness of lockdown measures in controlling the new coronavirus pandemic, Thomas May, of Washington State University, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

However, the study can't prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship. And, May said, the findings need to be interpreted with caution due to shortfalls in testing practices and data collection in many countries.

"We must be careful not to mislead or overplay politically convenient findings and risk violating the public trust necessary for an effective pandemic response," May wrote.


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A substantial number of face masks, claiming to be of KN95 standards, provide an inadequate level of protection and are likely to be poor quality products accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork. These face masks may also be known as filtering facepiece respirators.

KN95 is a performance rating under the Chinese standard GB2626:2006, the requirements of which are broadly the same as the European standard BSEN149:2001+A1:2009 for FFP2 facemasks. However, there is no independent certification or assurance of their quality and products manufactured to KN95 rating are declared as compliant by the manufacturer.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) cannot be sold or supplied as PPE unless it is CE marked. The only exception is for PPE that is organised by the UK Government for use by NHS or other healthcare workers where assessments have been undertaken by HSE as the Market Surveillance Authority.

Action required

KN95 must not be used as PPE at work unless their supply has been agreed by HSE as the Market Surveillance Authority.

Masks that are not CE marked and cannot be shown to be compliant must be removed from supply immediately. If these masks have not been through the necessary safety assessments, their effectiveness in controlling risks to health cannot be assured for anyone buying or using them. They are unlikely to provide the protection expected or required.

For those that are CE marked, suppliers must be able to demonstrate how they know the documentation and CE marking is genuine, supported by Notified Body documentation showing compliance with the essential health and safety requirements as required by the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (EU) 2016/425.

Relevant legal documents

● Personal Protective Equipment Regulations (EU) 2016/425
● Personal Protective Equipment (Enforcement) Regulations 2018


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A recent article by the New York Times gives readers an understanding how events have unfolded since the doctors first detected the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. For many, this pandemic has felt like it has lasted much longer than six months, but you might be surprised at the notable events (good or bad) that have happened in a short amount of time.

The Times’ coronavirus timeline walks you through the pandemic’s notable events, starting with Chinese authorities treating dozens of cases of an unknown pneumonia in December 2019 until current day, when Brazil’s president tests positive for the virus in July of 2020.

The coronavirus has covered all corners of the globe and affected nearly every facet of life including the global economies, politics, education, workplace culture, pandemic planning, retail, the healthcare industry and much more. The world has gone from one confirmed, official death in China on January 11 to nearly 544,200 in less than a year.

Since then, the World Health Organization declared the situation a global health emergency and global pandemic, international travel halted and the U.S. became one of the leading hotspots for the virus with over 3 million cases to date. There is still no approved vaccine for the public.

The Times’ coronavirus timeline helps readers have a more tangible understanding of just how much has happened over the last few months, and how much a pandemic can affect. And as much as this crisis took the world by surprise, experts, scientists and even Bill Gates has been warning of an outbreak like this for years.

The gravity of the situation is much bigger than a “flu” with a “low death rate.” With thousands already dead, economies tanking and the world struggling to breathe, the coronavirus pandemic has shown us just how much is at stake in our interconnected world.

Hopefully, the Times’ coronavirus timeline helps readers understand the crisis in relative terms of time, expanse and internationality. This fight, many say, is only beginning.


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Response Initiative is an online platform that serves as an intermediary between buyers and sellers of PPE and other medical supplies, allowing companies to register at no cost.

Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has launched Response Initiative (RRI) to help ease the growing demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) among businesses and healthcare providers as they continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19.

RRI is an online platform that serves as an intermediary between buyers and sellers of PPE and other medical supplies. Companies that buy and sell PPE and medical equipment can register at no cost.

The platform was initially launched with 15 approved suppliers from the UAE providing a wide range of products, including surgical and reusable facemasks and shields, safety goggles, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, medical gowns and coveralls, ventilators and thermometers.

“This first-of-its-kind initiative supports Dubai Chamber’s efforts to enhance ease of doing business in Dubai and facilitate trade, while it also positions the emirate as a global smart city leveraging digital tools to help fight the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Belaid Rettab, Senior Director, Economic Research and Sustainable Business Development Sector, Dubai Chamber.

“Businesses using the marketplace can benefit by reducing costs when buying PPE, generating new leads, building long-term partnerships with reliable suppliers. We encourage companies operating in this field to leverage the platform to capitalise on new business opportunities and boost their online exposure,” he added.


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The government have announced a relaxation of the guidelines around working on site for many industries. So, we've complied some handy information to help you keep your facility clean and hygienic during the Coronavirus crisis.

Given how infectious the COVID-19 virus is, there is now an even greater focus on keeping workplaces clean. The government’s recent announcement of a phased relaxation of social distancing rules means that people are gradually returning to work. Therefore, it is more important than ever that we, as employers, do all we can to ensure our facilities comply with guidelines around hygiene and cleaning. There is a wealth of information out there, so to help you protect your workforce quickly and effectively, we have we have compiled a selection of the measures that we think are most relevant. We have also given a few examples of things we are doing here at A-SAFE to keep our essential workers safe at this time.

In this guide we will explore:

● How cleaning your facility can help in the fight against COVID-19
● The appropriate cleaning products and equipment
● How to implement enhanced cleaning measures
● Areas in a busy work environment that require additional attention

How effective cleaning can help limit the spread of COVID-19

Coronavirus spreads easily between individuals through close contact and airborne particles from coughs or sneezes. It can also be contracted through contact with surfaces that are contaminated with the virus. As these government guidelines suggest, cleaning your work areas and surfaces can help to reduce the chance of infection.

At A-SAFE, we have performed a series of risk assessments to highlight priority areas and touchpoints around our factory, warehouse and offices. These are the surfaces and areas with which our employees are most likely to come into physical contact. Therefore, they need to be cleaned and disinfected more frequently.

The current situation poses a lot of unknowns and variables, so it is important to be reactive. As our Health and Safety Advisor, Jaroslaw Borek, explains, “Aside from the government guidelines, there is little research or evidence available to inform the risks we should be aware of, meaning we have to implement suitable and sufficient assessments to the best of our ability. However, as the guidelines change and adapt, so too will our risk assessments.”

How long does the virus remain on surfaces and objects?

The government states that “…in most circumstances, the risk is likely to be reduced significantly after 72 hours.” Therefore, if you believe the virus has been introduced to an area or part of your facility, it is crucial that you isolate this area for the suggested time and then perform a deep clean.

Are there any areas of my workplace that require more frequent cleaning?

Areas that will require more cleaning are those with high levels of contact, such as bathrooms, guide handrails, tables, door handles and office equipment such as telephones and keyboards. This is known as touch-point cleaning.

Government guidelines state: “Public areas where a symptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time, such as corridors, but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids can be cleaned thoroughly as normal.”

Are strict cleaning routines only important if areas have come into contact with someone carrying the virus?

The government and the World Health Organisation have stated, it is important to maintain enhanced cleaning processes regardless of whether cases have been found on site or not. As customers who have visited our site will already know, at A-SAFE we have always maintained a very high standard of hygiene at all times.

Some of our standard cleaning processes include:

● A daytime cleaner focusing on offices, kitchens, toilets and corridors
● A team of evening cleaners who perform a deep clean across our offices
● Shift cleaners on the production line and in the warehouse who clean machines and equipment regularly
● Informational areas encouraging all staff to clean up after themselves, load dishwashers, etc.
● Rigorous implementation of 5S for an organised, clean and productive workplace

How has A-SAFE increased cleaning processes on site?

Since the Coronavirus crisis took hold, we have done all we can to enhance our cleaning processes even further. This includes:

Regular cleaning rotas
Our cleaning staff continue to thoroughly clean our offices, toilets, shower rooms and communal areas such as canteens and kitchens. This includes cleaning and disinfecting all areas and mopping floors. In addition to this, we have introduced a series of cleaning rotas for each office that focuses specifically on any touchpoints identified in the risk assessments.

These rotas have a regular cleaning cycle of every hour, so staff can share the responsibility of maintaining hygiene in their office throughout the day. Each time someone cleans down these touchpoints, they add their name along with a timestamp to the rota, so we can be sure they are being maintained.

Handwash and sanitiser stations

We have converted existing toilets, washrooms and drink-making facilities into dedicated hand wash stations that are clearly signposted around our offices, warehouse and shop floor. We have also installed hand sanitiser stations at each entrance and exit with visual reminders to staff. A member of management also reminds staff to wash their hands at regular intervals during their shift.


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OSHA has issued Frequently Asked Questions that explain the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators.

The resource is extensive, but some highlights include:

Cloth face coverings do not constitute personal protective equipment. Surgical masks are not considered to be PPE if they are being used solely to contain the respiratory droplets of the person wearing them (referred to by OSHA as “source control”). Although employers are not required to provide their employees with cloth face coverings or surgical masks, the use of such face coverings and/or surgical masks would constitute part of “a control plan designed to address hazards from SARS-CoV-2” under the General Duty Clause.

OSHA suggests following CDC guidance on washing face coverings. OSHA explains, “Employers may choose to use cloth face coverings as a means of source control . . . [where] transmission risk cannot be controlled through engineering or administrative controls, including social distancing.”

OSHA also reiterates guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing.

OSHA also emphasizes that surgical masks and cloth face coverings, including in the construction industry, are not acceptable substitutes where respirators are required due to exposures to contaminants such as asbestos or silica.

"In general, employers should always rely on a hierarchy of controls that first includes efforts to eliminate or substitute out workplace hazards and then uses engineering controls (e.g., ventilation, wet methods), administrative controls (e.g., written procedures, modification of task duration), and safe work practices to prevent worker exposures to respiratory hazards, before relying on personal protective equipment, such as respirators. When respirators are needed, OSHA’s guidance describes enforcement discretion around use of respirators, including in situations in which it may be necessary to extend the use of or reuse certain respirators, use respirators beyond their manufacturer's recommended shelf life, and/or use respirators certified under the standards of other countries or jurisdictions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA have described crisis strategies intended for use in healthcare in which surgical masks or cloth face coverings may offer more protection than no mask at all when respirators are needed but are not available. Such information is not intended to suggest that surgical masks or cloth face coverings provide adequate protection against exposure to airborne contaminants for which respirators would ordinarily be needed. Although OSHA's enforcement guidance describes equipment prioritization that includes surgical masks, employers must still comply with the provisions of any standards that apply to the types of exposures their workers may face. For example, the permissible exposure limits of all substance-specific standards, such as asbestos and silica, remain in place, and surgical masks are not an acceptable means of protection when respirators would otherwise be required (e.g., when engineering, administrative, and work practice controls do not sufficiently control exposures).

If respirators are needed but not available (including as described in the OSHA enforcement guidance noted above), and hazards cannot otherwise be adequately controlled through other elements of the hierarchy of controls (i.e., elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and/or safe work practices), avoid worker exposure to the hazard. Whenever a hazard presents an imminent danger, and in additional situations whenever feasible, the task should be delayed until feasible control measures are available to prevent exposures or reduce them to acceptable levels (i.e., at or below applicable OSHA permissible exposure limits)."

According to this latest OSHA guidance, if respirators are not available where a Permissible Exposure Limit is exceeded, worker exposure should be avoided by delaying the task until feasible control measures are available to reduce the exposures below the Permissible Exposure Limit.


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Safety pros undoubtedly are experiencing déjà vu or “already been there” when they view the negative reactions to the recommendations from public health experts for preventing the spread of the coronavirus—from sheltering at home and maintaining a six-foot interpersonal distance to wearing a face mask.

They’ve heard all the excuses for noncompliance before—“It won’t happen to me,” “This PPE is too uncomfortable and inconvenient,” “We have freedom of choice in our country; and if I want to risk receiving an injury or illness, it’s my personal right to do so.”

Given that human nature or the soon, certain and positive consequences of at-risk behavior overpower the delayed, uncertain and negative consequences of safe behavior, organizations implement interventions to influence compliance with safety rules and regulations. Here again, blatant non-compliance with state and community mandates to perform certain behaviors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is commonly observed in the workplace with regard to safety-related behavior.

Psychologists refer to such contrary behavior as “countercontrol” or “psychological reactance,”—presumed to be a reaction to the threat of losing one’s personal freedom or individuality. Thus, safety pros realize the need to accompany top-down mandates with education/training sessions and sometimes behavior-based incentive/reward contingencies.

Taking Prevention to a Higher Level

Employees are urged to perform a variety of safety-related behaviors in order to prevent a workplace injury—from wearing safety glasses and a hard hat to using a vehicle safety belt and fall protection. These and other desirable behaviors are performed to: a) protect workers from adverse environmental conditions (e.g., air pollution, loud noise, and fire), b) decrease bodily harm from a mishap (e.g., vehicle collisions, human slips, trips, and falls), and c) reduce the likelihood of an injury-causing behavior (e.g., non-skid shoes and Hi-Viz. clothing). When workers do not perform these injury-protective and injury-preventive behaviors, they put themselves at risk for personal harm.

However, behaviors performed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have a higher-level, actively caring for people (AC4P) purpose. Sheltering at home, maintaining a six-foot social distance and wearing a facemask prevents the spread of COVID-19. Such behavior helps others as much if not more than it helps those who perform those behaviors.

Reaching the Highest Need Level

Almost every college class or workshop on motivation includes a presentation of Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs. Categories of needs are arranged hierarchically, and it’s presumed we don’t attempt to satisfy a need at one level until our needs at the lower levels are satisfied to some degree. We are first motivated to fulfill our physiological needs—basic survival requirements for food, water, shelter and sleep.

After these needs are under control, we are motivated by the desire to feel secure and safe from potential dangers. Next, we have our social-acceptance needs—to have friends and feel a sense of belonging. When these needs are gratified, our concern focuses on self-esteem—earning self-respect and feeling worthwhile.

After enjoying a boost in self-esteem, we become self-actualized when achieving our full potential. While many have learned that self-actualization is atop this need hierarchy, Maslow revised his need hierarchy near the end of his life by placing another ultimate achievement at the top—self-transcendence. We are the best we can be when we reach beyond our own self-interests and contribute to the needs of others. Whenever we perform AC4P behavior.

How satisfying to realize that you reach the top of Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs every time you act on behalf of another person’s health and/or safety. And doing this, helps to satisfy your lower-level needs that really never get completely satiated—social acceptance, self-esteem and self-actualization.


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The risk of gas leaks has been a common concern for decades in many industries, including oil and gas, petrochemical, utilities, mining, public safety and beyond. Combustible gases are commonly used throughout processes that produce raw materials needed to support our economy and result from biological breakdown of waste. Employees face the risk of gas-fueled explosions that can result in severe injuries, loss of life and destruction of property. These risks are amplified when several gases are present on a worksite, which can further complicate how to reliably monitor, identify and react to a potential leak.

To help ensure worker safety in hazardous environments, organizations continually review their strategies for how they address and prevent the threat of gas leaks, from real-time detection to proactive measures that mitigate future incidents.

Many personal gas monitors feature specialized combustible or flammable gas sensors. However, innovation in combustible gas detection has been stagnant for the last few decades, producing sensor technologies that must be calibrated to accurately measure the presence of just a single gas, resulting in higher or lower sensitivity to other flammable gases.

With many businesses conducting their digital transformation, connected safety innovations are keeping people safer and more efficient than ever before. An excellent example of this is a new sensor technology that just emerged and is set to disrupt flammable gas detection — and when connected — expands the overall situational view from digital transformation programs.

Accurately detecting multiple gases at once

While traditional flammable gas sensors, such as catalytic bead and non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors, have been the primary conventional solutions to detect the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) of flammable gas, they are calibrated to accurately detect one gas at a time. But what happens if an employee encounters another type of combustible gas on-site? This presents the potential for false alarms if the detected gas reads high and a lower reading than actual will present a higher level of risk to the worker.

For the first time in flammable gas detection, a new technology is available that equips users with a sensor that responds accurately to the 12 most common combustible gases. Blackline Safety has partnered with NevadaNano to bring their revolutionary micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) flammable gas sensor to market as part of a cloud-connected gas detection ecosystem. The NevadaNano Molecular Property Spectrometer (MPSTM) Flammable Gas Sensor simultaneously detects multiple gasses as precisely as it does a single gas.

The best of both worlds

The two work-horse sensors of explosive gas detection, the pellistor and NDIR sensor, each have advantages and disadvantages to support their use. For example, pellistor sensors can detect hydrogen and acetylene detection well but are easily poisoned by silicones. NDIR sensors cannot be poisoned, but they don’t detect hydrogen or acetylene so are unacceptable for use in many petrochemical facilities. While NDIR sensors are susceptible to false alarms with high-rate environmental changes, pellistor sensors remain unaffected.

With the ability to detect hydrocarbons, hydrogen and acetylene, its intrinsic silicone resistance, as well as built-in environmental compensation, MPS technology has combined the best of the NDIR and pellistor capabilities to set the new standard for explosive gas detection in portable instruments. The MPS sensor has the ability to accurately identify and quantify the true lower explosive limit of single gas and mixtures at one time, called TrueLELTM — increasing gas detection performance, employee confidence and visibility into business operations. Additionally, this technology is immune to poisoning, meaning your sensors will last longer, read more accurately and most importantly, protect your people and assets to a greater extent than traditional pellistors. It also features a higher immunity to temperature and humidity shifts than an NDIR sensor, reducing the number of false alarms that can erode employee confidence in their personal gas monitors.

Combustible gas classification

Going a step further, the MPS sensor delivers the industry’s first classification system that places detected gases or mixtures into one of six categories:

Class 1: Hydrogen
Class 2: Hydrogen mixture with other flammable gases
Class 3: Methane or natural gas
Class 4: Light gas or a light-gas mixture
Class 5: Medium gas or medium gas mixture
Class 6: Heavy gas or heavy gas mixture

Whether it's a single gas or a mixture of gases, MPS delivers an accurate measurement of the actual LEL, factoring into the reading the current temperature, pressure and humidity.

Data science in the cloud

In conjunction with the latest combustible gas sensor technology, data science is a key component in attaining full worksite visibility, contributing to digital transformation goals. By combining the MPS sensor with wireless connectivity, gas readings and corresponding gas classifications can be streamed to cloud-hosted software. There, health and safety professionals can easily view interactive data analytics that present the classification, level, and location of each flammable gas reading workers encountered. This allows them to identify abnormalities, such as the new presence of hydrogen in one area of the facility, and proactively address the leak before personnel or the facility is placed at risk.


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Manufacturing plants and industrial sites are opening up again after COVID-19 lockdowns, but the people returning to work will notice many changes in their safety protocols.

Here are five safety guidelines recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other organizations and experts:

1. Enforcing social distancing when possible

People often think of social distancing as methods intended to keep at least 6 feet between themselves and others. Some facilities have graphics on the floor to show occupants where to stand, for example. Other options include staggering shifts and limiting the number of people simultaneously allowed in communal spaces, like cafeterias or break rooms.

Employees at an automotive plant in the United Kingdom recently made the first Range Rover built while adhering to social distancing practices. Plant managers also implemented other measures to support worker safety, including offering every employee a reusable face visor. Having warehouse safety procedures to protect people when social distancing becomes difficult is a crucial part of an all-encompassing return-to-work plan.

2. Discouraging the sharing of equipment and supplies

One of the OSHA updates released about COVID-19 practices advises against equipment sharing. Many people naturally want to help their colleagues, so letting others use their supplies seems natural. However, researchers identified the risk of the coronavirus spreading through surfaces. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers disinfection tips for facilities that managers can follow.

One of them recommends using solutions containing at least 70% alcohol for maximum effectiveness. It's also important to consider items that people may share without others asking to borrow them. For example, a job site process where everyone signs a sheet upon arrival needs revisiting because of the number of people touching and using the same pen.

3. Increasing the number of hand-washing stations

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance about the installation of hand-washing stations in highly trafficked areas. It suggests putting them at the entrances of every public and private commercial building, for example. Facility authorities should also make hand-washing an obligatory action before someone crosses a threshold to go into a building, WHO officials said.

Job site rules determined before the pandemic required companies to provide one washing station per 20 employees, but employers may wish to install more. When workers see washing stations readily available, it's easier for them to get in the habit of cleansing their hands before eating. They can also decontaminate personal protective equipment (PPE) that may have touched harmful materials.

4. Implementing temperature checks and well-being assessments

Many warehouse safety procedures involve ensuring employees are fit for work. For example, they may have their temperature checked when entering a site or have to fill out a questionnaire at home that confirms they have not experienced any of the most common COVID-19 symptoms within the last 24 hours.

Companies recognized a need in the market and rushed to develop technologies that help employers screen their workers for symptoms. Despite the rapid adoption of these technological solutions, privacy concerns remain. Some analysts say that these options may not be as effective as advertised for identifying potentially ill workers. Another issue is that the COVID-19 health apps now on the market and purchased by workplaces may not adequately protect privacy.

Nevertheless, businesses are frequently adopting these measures. Some low-tech approaches may prove useful, too. For example, OSHA updates recommend companies to stay abreast of public health recommendations about the coronavirus and give workers access to those tips.

Companies can also plan for sending workers home if they mention feeling sick. If employees see that employers will accommodate them needing to leave early, they'll be less likely to keep quiet about suspected illnesses.

5. Restricting workplace visits

Preparing a workplace to operate safely in the COVID-19 era means thinking differently about site visitors. Perhaps a former process required a person to confirm their arrival time at least 24 hours in advance, plus sign in and out of a site visitor log.

Many industrial sites hosted tours or open days to attract potential clients or get high school students interested in manufacturing careers. Those activities will likely become less commonplace in the new normal where the coronavirus remains a threat. Companies can consider alternatives such as virtual product demonstrations or livestreamed glimpses at factory premises.

In cases where facilities must admit visitors, they should consider having precautionary procedures in place. Those might include giving people disposable masks and having them follow the same sanitation procedures that employees do when entering new sections of a factory or worksite.

Make support available in these changed times
Besides informing workers about warehouse safety procedures such as those above, workplace representatives should emphasize how they are there to respond to any feedback and uncertainty employees may have. For example, people may feel nervous about returning to work, and some may not know how to use masks and other protective equipment properly.

Businesses should create specific communication methods for people to use if they have questions about the new rules or want to suggest changes to safety procedures. When employers show they take worker input into account, it becomes easier to get the workforce on board with what's different now versus before the pandemic.


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As states lift stay-at-home orders and workplaces reopen, employers must plan for potential hazards of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and routine workplace hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminded employers. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 currently is widespread in most U.S. communities and considered a workplace hazard.

OSHA cautioned that the pandemic may cause employee distraction, fatigue, and stress. The agency also cautioned that employers should:

● Plan their employees’ return to work to ensure operations resume in a safe and healthful manner;
● Carefully plan before attempting to increase production or tasks to make up for lost time to avoid exposing employees to greater safety and health hazards;
● Provide workers with refresher training on safety and health and revisit and update standard operating procedures;
● Address maintenance issues they may have deferred during a shutdown and remember that exposures to hazards may increase during shutdown and start-up periods; and
● Review and address process safety issues, including stagnant or expired chemicals, as part of their reopening efforts.

OSHA also reminded employers that retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions is a violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Employees are encouraged to file whistle-blower complaints with the agency, which OSHA will investigate. OSHA suggested employers adopt the agency’s recommended practices for anti-retaliation programs.

The agency recommended employers develop and communicate workplace flexibility to protect employees during the ongoing pandemic, including instituting flexible sick leave policies that encourage workers to stay home when they are sick. OSHA also suggested not requiring a healthcare provider’s note when an employee is absent due to an acute respiratory illness.

Employers should identify and isolate individuals (customers, employees, supervisors) with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. They also should clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants, according to OSHA.

Employers also should recognize that workers may need to stay home to care for a sick family member, according to the agency, and employers should consider implementing flexible leave policies to accommodate employees with sick family members.

OSHA also recommended implementing engineering controls for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including:

● Installing high-efficiency air filters and increasing ventilation rates in the work environment;
● Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, and drive-through windows for customer service; and
● Using specialized negative pressure ventilation in certain settings, such as airborne infection isolation rooms in healthcare facilities and specialized autopsy suites in mortuaries.

The agency also suggested employers train workers in the signs, symptoms, and risk factors associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as practices like frequent hand-washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water; social distancing; and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Workers who have been hospitalized or self-isolated with COVID-19 should following recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state, local, tribal, or territorial health department before returning to work. The CDC continually updates its guidance on the recommended length of isolation.

The CDC issued and continues to update more extensive precautions for office environments.


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