Essential workers across the United States continue to work in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines defining “essential workers” vary by state and should be checked on a daily basis. This is a rapidly changing situation and every employee and employer has the responsibility of staying up to date with developments, both for the safety of themselves and for the safety of the public.
The following guide should not be considered comprehensive, but it is designed to provide both employers and employees in outdoor professions, like utility work and construction, with a helpful foundation of safety in regard to COVID-19.
About the Virus
Coronavirus is currently believed to spread from person to person, primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus is also believed to spread by people touching surfaces or objects and then touching one’s mouth, nose, or possibly eyes.
Social distancing is the practice of deliberately increasing the distance between people to slow the spread of the virus. Six feet of distance is believed to be enough to effectively limit the chances of contracting the disease through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. Workers and employers can maintain social distancing on job sites by:
- Staggering work shifts when two crews use the same area. For example, staggering construction work and trade work on a construction site.
- Holding meetings outdoors when possible
- Scheduling multiple, smaller meetings with no more than ten staff at any time in a location. Apply the same strategy for breaks.
- Prohibiting gatherings of ten or more people on the job site.
- Allowing only one person in an elevator at a time. Additionally, encouraging stair use.
Employer Action Plan
- Require that all sick workers stay at home or go home if they begin to feel ill. Communicate this requirement to workers.
- Establish a ‘Social Distance Monitor’, a person responsible for monitoring the proper execution of social distancing.
- Promote and practice frequent hand washing by setting up additional stations throughout the job site.
- Increase the frequency of, and strictly enforce, regular cleaning of job sites. Place additional focus on commonly touched areas. Commonly touched areas include but are not limited to:
- Taps and washing facilities
- Toilet handles and seats
- Door Handles and push plates
- Staircase and safety rails
- Equipment controls
- Telephone equipment
Employee Action Plan
- Do NOT go to work if you are feeling ill.
- Wash hands frequently, especially before consuming food, water, or tobacco products.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Avoid face touching of all kinds.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash hands immediately following.
- Do not shake hands or practice any handshake alternatives involving physical contact with another person. No fist-bumps, elbow touches, etc.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds each time.
- Pay close attention to CDC news and new information about best practices.
- Do not share tools with others on the job site
- Do not share food on the job site.
- Follow disciplined hand washing and social distancing outside of the job.
This guide was developed using information from The Center of Disease Control (CDC), OSHA, and The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries