News & Information Blog

List of Steps to Manage Return to Work After the Quarantine

By Susen Trail | 03/30/2020

Recently I came across with a map of all the countries in the world and the statistics about the disease at each location.  Very user friendly with small dots for few confirmed COVID-19 cases and large dots for hundreds of cases and really large dots for cases over a thousand.  Like many people following the spread of the disease I look for the mortality rate, number of fatalities divided by the total number of cases, indeed, this seems to be the focus of the media as well.


However, the category of data provided by Bing includes Active Cases and Recovered Cases and I noticed that, for a disease that has been ramping up since January there only 21% of the cases have recovered.  On January 24, 2020 China had 571 Total Cases, (the US had 1), it wasn’t until February 24th that the cases started to slow to a trickle.


Our economy and our wage earners are going to need to get back to work, possibly long before the virus is contained.  COVID-19 has some sneaky characteristics that make it especially hard to contain, such as asymptomatic disease carriers, people shedding viral particles before they even have any symptoms, and recovered patients testing positive weeks after they tested negative and left the hospital.  For more specific information click here.

Here are some strategic actions you can take to control sources of infection, whether human or surfaces, COVID-19 or seasonal flu, at your manufacturing plant:

Actions to take until there is a vaccine for COVID-19:

  1. If your employees are working from home at the same, or better, productivity level as at work then let them stay home.
  1. Spread out all onsite employees as much as possible both in the office and on the manufacturing floor. Six or more feet apart is best practice.
  1. Instruct all office employees to take breaks and eat lunch at their desk.
  1. Instruct employees working in production, or supporting roles such as maintenance, that they should eat in their work area, unless there are chemicals, including ink, paints and spray cans. Provide a large disposable placemat the employee can put on a surface before getting out their meal.  Store them next to places they can wash their hands before lunch, as a reminder.
  1. Stagger shift times to minimize the number of people crowded around the time clock, in locker rooms, or at exit and entry doors.
  1. Where possible designate one door for entry and one door for exit with hand sanitizer dispensers along the pathway for each.
  1. When an employee cannot safely take breaks or eat lunch in their work area stagger break and lunch times so that there will be as few employees in the break room at one time as possible. Instruct them to sit at least 6 feet apart.
  1. Assign one employee per break/lunch time to disinfect the room after the last person leaves.
  1. Develop a checklist for cleaning the lunchroom and be sure to be specific about disinfectant chemical use and hazards. Laminate the list so it can be disinfected, or better yet, use Simple Safety Coach’s form builder to create the list so you can verify that it was done, when, and by whom, and they can build up their participation points!
  1. If the disinfectant arrives as a concentrate include the steps to create the diluted form and if the process will generate heat or vapors.
  1. Be specific about how long the disinfectant must remain, wet, on the surface before wiping it off. This will vary between disinfectants as well as between different types of pathogens.  If there is no specific direction for COVID-19 then use the longest suggested duration.
  1. Allow time between shifts for the room to be cleaned which will also reduce the likelihood that people leaving their work area for the break room will pass those returning to their work area.
  1. Be specific about what to clean and how to clean it, where and how to dispose of chemical containers and paper waste. It is not considered a biohazard because you killed the bio that was the hazard, if you did it right.
  1. Doorknobs or pull/push handles are surfaces where an employee’s hand must go making it a transfer point for infectious material.
    • Is it possible to make it a swing door?
    • Can you install a doormat that will open the door like they have at old grocery stores?
    • Can you take off the doorknob and put in a wide blunt hook employees can open with the crook of their arm on the pull side?
    • Can you put a disinfectant wipe stand next to the door?
  1. Bring in a higher percentage of outside air and increase ventilation rates. When you fly on an airplane you can turn the air vent on yourself both creating a positive pressure zone around you keeping your neighbor’s germs off you and pushing your germs to the floor.  The air is recirculated but the frequency and filtration exceeds the requirements for an office building.
  1. Identify and disinfect all surfaces that employees touch between shifts. For buttons and other controls provide disinfectant wipes at the employee’s workstation.  NOTE: DO NOT LET THE DISINFECTANT ON THE WIPES EVAPORATE.  Instruct employees to replace the containers if the wipes are dry.  Many wipes use 65-70% alcohol which has a high vapor pressure.
  1. Because the use of disinfectants is going to be more frequent than they would experience at home the Hazard Communication standard, 1910.1200, requires the employer to train the employee in their hazards.
  1. Did you know that paper money make good transfer media for pathogens? COVID-19 can live on cardboard for 48 hours.  Coins are even worse.  Reduce the amount of paper handling in your facility, again, Simple Safety Coach provides many paperless options.
  1. Send sick employees home! When an employee has no sick leave or other money coming in while they are off work they still have bills to pay.  It is common for them to deny being ill and try to just work through it.  Unfortunately, this often makes their illness worse, last longer, and extend the time they are infectious to their fellow employees.
  1. Reduce the amount of movement required by employees to do their jobs because this will increase the number of people they must encounter some of whom may be infectious, or places and things they touch if they are infectious. Remember, it is not uncommon for a person to shed active viral particles before they experience any symptoms and after they’ve recovered. 
  1. Utilize Just In Time staffing when you have work that is dependent on a product from another part of the plant or there are downtimes during the process, such as waiting for cement to cure. When you have employees waiting they will want to get together and talk or wander around. 


This may be avoided if you can tighten up the schedule, send employees home early, or have a list of things to do during production downtimes.

Create a form on Simple Safety Coach they can pull up on their cell phone or work tablet that lets them select what they want to do and gives them participation points to recognize their extra effort.

If you have a Safety Committee our safety software can keep all the members actively involved and in constant communication without the need to meet face to face until what every cold or flu is going around dies off. 

These are only a few ways you can reduce the transmission of infectious diseases in your workplace.

Keep all hands-on deck right when you need them the most: getting your business back on track!

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