The National Safety Council has updated its original statement from Jan. 31, 2020, on the coronavirus (COVID-19). The organization works to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes, in communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education, and advocacy, so its standing in the facility management world has a strong foundation.

In its statement regarding the virus, it is urging employers to assess their risk of exposure and ensure procedures are in place to control transmission effectively. Likewise, workplace illness prevention training is imperative for all employees, the NSC adds.

Given the prevalence of the virus and its worldwide spread, governments and organizations are taking extra steps in an attempt to protect employees and occupants. As the Centers for Disease Control, sanitation is your best defense.

Since there is no vaccine, prevention is vital. The best way to prevent illness is by avoiding exposure to any virus. For facilities, this means working to education occupants and limiting exposure. The CDC recommends:

  • Avoiding contact with those who are sick.
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Requiring employees to stay home when sick.
  • Encouraging people to cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue and immediately throwing the tissue in the trash.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch objects and surfaces with a household cleaning spray or wipe.

Contrary to popular thought, the CDC does not recommend that those not afflicted with coronavirus wear a face mask (those in the healthcare setting aside). "CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19."

Those with the virus should not be at work. The use of facemasks should be only for those people with symptoms to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Washing hands

Everyone should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Per the CDC, if soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is suitable for use.

An extra step to help prevent the spread of any virus — including influenza — is to place hand sanitizer in areas where soap and water are not available. Hang signs in the office letting people know to wash hands, how to wash hands, and how to stay protected from viruses.

Replace HVAC and indoor air filters often to prevent any buildup and minimize the number of airborne particles in the building to help reduce the risk of indoor health concerns and the possibility of germs spreading through ventilation.

Additionally, develop a clear desk policy requiring staff to keep items tucked away when they’re not in use so that surfaces are easily cleaned. Additionally, keep pens and other handhelds in drawers. This also will allow cleaning professionals to avoid any cumbersome obstacles.

Facility managers may also wish to provide UV sanitizing wands around the office, which can kill up to 99.9% of germs, viruses, bacteria, and allergens from hard surfaces and fabrics. The devices are small and easy to locate through various locations in any building or facility.

Wash your dishes

Employees must take their cups and dishes home regularly and wash them in the dishwasher or with hot water and dish detergent.

Other items that need attention are cellphones and keyboards, both of which are filled with copious germs and dirt — more than a toilet seat.

Regarding the management of the cleaning staff, ensure their cleaning techniques are appropriate for the given situation. Ensure a deep clean of all surfaces and pay attention to high touch areas.

The NSC follows the recommendations from OSHA and CDC. These include:

  • Avoid shaking hands
  • If a worker becomes infected, insist they recover before coming back to work
  • Employees who have traveled to areas with heightened levels of exposure should inform their employers immediately
  • Employers are urged to ask employees traveling home from level 3 areas to self-quarantine for 14 days
  • Avoid sending staff on business trips to level 3 regions as defined by CDC