Corona Virus – How to Manage Protections in Your Power Sweeping Business

The good news is that globally, Corona Virus cases are decreasing in some areas. Nationally, however, we are still approaching the peak of the curve, and therefore statistics on Corona Virus cases are still increasing daily in many areas of the US. Here’s some guidance on what leading public health experts, including OSHA, are recommending to help you keep your employees safe during this pandemic and some information on federal economic relief programs to help small commercial pavement sweeping businesses through a potentially challenging financial period during this national emergency.

What is the Corona Virus?

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It’s caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Corona Virus has spread internationally over recent months to the extent that it is officially classed as a global pandemic. It is affecting virtually all aspects of business operations and daily living for employers and their workers, including everything from managing hygiene and sharing workspace, to obtaining materials, repairs, and even food supplies, to managing finances and ensuring the very sustainability of many small businesses.

COVID-19 Symptoms

The Corona Virus can cause mild to severe or even fatal illness. Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, and difficulty breath. non-respiratory symptoms have also been reported in some people with the virus. Some people with the virus experience no symptoms, but can spread the virus while they remain asymptomatic. The CDC has advised that COVID-19 symptoms can appear within 2 to 14 days from the time of exposure to the virus.
Keeping Your Employees Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak
There are some basic steps that employers are advised to take to help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Measures vary depending on workplace environmental risk factors and the nature of tasks involved in each individual’s work role.
See the OSHA employer guidelines for COVID-19: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf, for specific protocols, suggested for employees at each of the various levels of risk. Generally, are the minimum OSHA recommendations for workplace management during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Stay informed on updated information for businesses from federal, state, local health agencies, and determine the best way to implement their recommendations into your unique workplace.
2. Workplace safety plans and controls should address levels of risk specific to each worksite, task, and worker, for example:
a. Sources of the virus to which individual workers might be exposed.
b. Non-occupational risk factors for workers at home and out in the community.
c. Personal risk factors, such as age, existing medical conditions, pregnancy.
3. Implement cross-training and other preparations for operating during periods of increased worker absenteeism.
4. Implementing emergency policies of downsizing operations, staggering work shifts, delivering services and supplies remotely, social distancing, wearing PPE, infection-prevention hygiene practices, and other measures to reduce exposure for workers, customers, and vendors.
5. Prepare for interruption of supply chains and delivery delays.
Hygiene Measures for COVID-19 Infection Prevention
In most workplaces, protecting employees will rely on instilling basic habits, as appropriate, for the prevention of infection. To help minimize the spread of the virus, it is recommended to implement at least this set of baseline practices:
• Strongly encourage workers to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently. Provide facilities for all visitors and workers to wash their hands using soap and running water. For workers in the field, provide hand-sanitizing cleansing agents containing at least 60% alcohol.
• Discourage workers from touching their faces, and from sharing others’ offices, desks, phones, equipment, tools, etc.
• Emphasize the importance of covering coughs and sneezes.
• Encourage employees to stay at home if they are ill. If appropriate, formulate policies and procedures to promptly identify, isolate, and obtain treatment for sick people.
• Encourage employees to stay home, if feasible.
• Prominently place supplies of tissues and trash cans for use by workers and visitors.
• If possible, implement flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting, flex schedules, and other measures that help increase the physical distance between workers and between workers and other people, to maintain a minimum of 6 feet of separation.
• During regular housekeeping, use disinfectant on all surfaces, as appropriate, and on equipment, tools, and other parts of the employee’s work environment. Check to ensure you are providing EPA-approved disinfectants that claim to be effective against viral pathogens. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Encourage workers to maintain self-monitoring for COVID-19 signs and symptoms, if they are concerned that they may have been exposed.
• Establish a policy and procedure for workers to report when they feel ill or are experiencing potential symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
• Provide face masks (also known as a surgical mask), if possible, and encourage workers to wear them, as appropriate, and if tolerated.
• Restrict the number of employees entering areas, as appropriate.
• Discuss with your suppliers and other associated businesses the importance of having sick employees stay home and maintaining non-punitive policies for leaves.
• Do not require verification notes from doctors for employee absences due to acute respiratory symptoms during this time while healthcare professionals are over-burdened.
• Allow flexible work policies that enable employees to stay home to provide care for sick family members or children who cannot be in school or daycare due to the pandemic.
• Address employees’ concerns about leave, pay, health, safety, and other potential issues due to the pandemic. Employers who help workers feel that their workplace is safe are less likely to experience unnecessarily high rates of absenteeism due to fears about COVID-19 infection.
• Cooperate with your employee health insurance company as well as your local and state public health agencies, to provide your workers and customers with information about medical care for COVID-19 infection.
Implementing COVID-19 Workplace Environment Controls
The most efficient way to control a health hazard in a workplace is to remove it systematically, instead of depending on employees to manage against exposure. While it may not be possible to eliminate the risk of viral infection with COVID-19, here are some engineering and administrative controls and practices recommended by OSHA:

Some key engineering controls for SARS-CoV-2:

• Install high-efficiency air filters.
• Increase ventilation.
• Install sneeze guards and other physical barriers.
• Implement remote meetings and customer service practices to replace in-person communications.
• Discontinue nonessential travel to areas with increased rates of COVID-19 outbreak.
• Create a virtual forum for answering workers’ questions, if possible.
• Provide updated employee training on COVID-19 risks and protective equipment and practices.
• Familiarize yourself with the information for employers offered about COVID-19 at the OSHA website www.osha.gov, the CDC website: www.cdc.gov, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website: www.cdc.gov/niosh.
COVID-19 Counseling for Small Business Owners
During this period before the development of a vaccine against COVID-19, outbreaks of the virus may be prolonged. This means that, like so many other types of businesses throughout the country and around the globe, commercial power sweeping companies may experience higher than normal rates of absenteeism, altered patterns of local commerce, interruption in their supply chains, frequent delays or cancellations of deliveries, and other disruptions without notice.
Many small business owners may benefit from help by a qualified business counselor to navigate through this complicated period. Contact your area’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), SCORE chapter, and/or your local Women’s Business Center (WBC), for an abundance of small business owner counseling and other important support. These resource centers are receiving emergency government funding to enable them to expand their support services in small business owner counseling and information updates on COVID-19.

SOURCES:
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf
www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html
https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/9/7/97ac840c-28b7-4e49-b872-d30a995d8dae/F2CF1DD78E6D6C8C8C3BF58C6D1DDB2B.small-business-owner-s-guide-to-the-cares-act-final-.pdf

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