It's no secret that 2020 has provided us with a lot of challenges... even more this time of the year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, learn, and socialize. It’s been a struggle to understand when and how to open facilities while keeping everyone involved safe.
The good news is that we’ve come a long way. We’ve learned a lot about how to keep people safe from coronavirus in public places. The bad news is that cold and flu season is here. Why is that so bad? When a body is fighting a cold or the flu, it can be even more susceptible to other viruses. No one wants to battle COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.
While we have a solid understanding of how to combat cold and flu viruses, we’ve never had to try it while worrying about a pandemic as well. Here are some of the challenges you will likely face if you’re opening your facility during this extra dangerous time.
People Don’t Wash Their Hands
Believe it or not, people still don’t wash their hands as often, or as well, as they should. The CDC calls handwashing “ one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.” Handwashing is essential for pretty much all diseases that transfer through germs, bacteria, or viruses. That means we can battle colds, flu, and COVID-19 by simple hand washing.
In your facility, your job is to make it easy for people to keep their hands clean. Post signs by appropriate places, like restrooms or food, is prepared, reminding people to wash their hands. Add some signs that show the correct way to wash hands. Most people know the right way to clean their hands, but it’s easy to get a little lazy, but it’s never been more important to do it often and do it right.
When handwashing isn’t possible, hand sanitizer is a decent backup option. Have hand sanitizer readily available and marked so people can find it.
Clean hands slow the spread of disease!
Social Distancing Isn’t Easy
For many of us, the concept of social distancing was unheard of at the beginning of the year. Now it’s a part of everything we do once we leave the house. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
In public spaces, it can be easy to forget about social distancing as you focus on whatever you are doing at the moment. That’s why it’s great to have reminders anywhere you are likely to be around people. While you wait in line at a store or gather with a group, gentle reminders to keep social distance can serve two purposes. They’ll remind people to maintain social distancing, and floor markers can help them visualize the proper spacing.
The good news is that social distancing, while not required for colds or flu, will effectively slow down their spread and protect the coronavirus.
People Forget To Wear Masks
The same is valid for masks. Wearing face masks is an essential part of slowing the spread of coronavirus, but it can also help keep colds and flu viruses at bay. But we’re all human, and sometimes we forget.
Suppose people are required to wear masks in public buildings in your city or state, post signs at all entrances, and remind them throughout your facility. If it’s not needed, signs can still remind those who mean well to put their mask on when they forget.
Even though people are wearing masks, it’s still a good idea to block the face with an arm when coughing or sneezing. The trick is not to touch the cover in the process.
Viruses Live on Surfaces
Think about the things in your facility that are touched by dozens, if not hundreds of people, every day. Handrails, door handles, keypads, and tabletops are just a few of the more apparent touchpoints that frequently need to be cleaned and disinfected.
Hand sanitizing stations or sanitizing wipes can go a long way towards helping people keep their hands clean even after touching a tainted surface. If they can clean their hands before touching their face, there’s a good chance they’ve removed the danger.
Keep those surfaces as clean as possible and ensure that people know where they can find hand sanitizer or somewhere to wash their hands when they need it.
Someone Will Get Sick
No matter how many precautions you take, someone will get sick at your facility. That’s just life. But, it’s not the same as it used to be. If someone shows illness symptoms, even if they believe it’s a common cold, they should be sent home. Why? Some of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and headache.
Be prepared to remove the person from crowded areas by having a sick room used solely to isolate ill individuals until they can be sent home. It may seem like an overabundance of caution, but it’s necessary for everyone’s sake. Remember, a person sick with the common cold or the flu could be more susceptible to the coronavirus as well.
Proactive is the Way to Beat the Big Three
It’s a cliche, but a good one: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If your facility is opening back up or ramping up its traffic, you want to have safety precautions in place before you need them. Don’t worry about overkill. People need reminders and gentle nudges to do what is necessary to stay safe, like wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping their distance from others.
As cold and flu season gets ready to rear its ugly head, take an inventory of your precautions, and make sure that you’re prepared to take on these old adversaries even while we fight the coronavirus. Be prepared, and be safe.
Lockout tagout is a safety procedure that ensures machines and equipment are properly shut off during maintenance or repair work.