As the state of New Jersey gradually allows more business to resume normal operations, the Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance to employers on making sure office spaces are safeguarded against the spread of COVID-19. Among the recommendations:
Check the building to see if it’s ready for occupancy. Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly, especially ones that have been shut down for several months. Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, and other methods.
Evaluate the building and its mechanical and life safety systems to determine if the building is ready for occupancy. Check for hazards associated with prolonged facility shutdown such as mold growth, rodents or pests, or issues with stagnant water systems, and take appropriate remedial actions.
Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Conduct a thorough hazard assessment of the workplace to identify potential workplace hazards that could increase risks for COVID-19 transmission.
Identify work and common areas where employees could come within six feet of others — for example meeting rooms, break rooms, the cafeteria, locker rooms, check-in areas, waiting areas, and routes of entry and exit.
Include all employees in the workplace in communication plans, and if contractors are employed in the workplace, develop plans to communicate with the contracting company regarding modifications to work processes and requirements for the contractors.
Develop hazard controls to reduce transmission among workers. This can include isolating workers; modifying or adjusting seats, furniture, and workstations to maintain social distancing between employees; and installing transparent shields or other physical barriers where social distancing is not an option.
Arrange reception or other communal seating areas by covering, spacing, or removing chairs to maintain social distancing. Use signs, tape marks, or other visual cues to indicate where to stand when physical barriers are not possible.
Replace high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks, with alternatives such as pre-packaged, single-serving items.
Take steps to improve ventilation in the building. Increase the percentage of outdoor air, and increase total airflow supply to occupied spaces, if possible. Disable demand-control ventilation controls that reduce air supply based on temperature or occupancy. Consider using natural ventilation (i.e., opening windows) to increase outdoor air dilution of indoor air when environmental conditions and building requirements allow.
Change the way people work. Actively encourage employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have a sick family member at home to notify their supervisor and stay home.
Employees who appear to have symptoms upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from others, provided a face mask if they are not using one, and sent home with instructions and guidance on how to follow-up with their health care professional.
Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after anyone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in the workplace. Consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks of employees before they enter the work site.
Develop and implement a policy to prevent employees from congregating in groups while waiting for screening, and maintain a six-foot separation between employees.
Stagger shifts, start times, and break times to reduce the density of employees in common areas such as screening areas, break rooms, and locker rooms.
Consider posting signs in parking areas and entrances that ask guests and visitors to phone from their cars to inform the administration or security when they reach the facility. Also consider posting signs that ask guests and visitors to wear cloth face coverings if possible, to not enter the building if they are sick, and to stay six feet away from employees, if possible.
Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces. Develop, follow, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings to reduce the risk of people’s exposure to the virus on surfaces.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, printer/copiers, drinking fountains, and doorknobs. If hard surfaces are visibly soiled (dirty), clean them using a detergent or soap and water before you disinfect them.
Provide employees with disposable wipes and other cleaning materials so that they can properly wipe down frequently touched surfaces before each use. Provide employees adequate time to wash their hands and access to soap, clean water, and single use paper towels.
Establish policies and practices for social distancing. Remind employees that people may be able to spread COVID-19 even if they do not show symptoms. Consider all close interactions with employees, clients, and others as a potential source of exposure.
Prohibit handshaking, hugs, and fist bumps, and limit use and occupancy of elevators. Encourage the use of outdoor seating areas and social distancing for any small group activities such as lunches, breaks, and meetings.
For employees who commute to work using public transportation or ride sharing, consider offerings incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others. Allow employees to shift their hours so they can commute during less busy times, and ask employees to wash their hands as soon as possible after their trip.
Post signs and reminders at entrances and in strategic places providing instruction on hand hygiene, COVID-19 symptoms, and cough and sneeze etiquette. This should include signs for non-English speakers, as needed.
Use no-touch waste receptacles when possible. Remind employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth. Employees should wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in all areas of the business.
Educate employees and supervisors about steps they can take to protect themselves at work. Communication and training should be easy to understand, be in preferred languages spoken or read by the employees, and include accurate and timely information. Topics should include signs and symptoms of infection, staying home when ill, social distancing, personal protective equipment, hand hygiene practices, and identifying and minimizing potential routes of transmission at work, at home, and in the community. Other topics may be considered based on local context and need.