News Release Staying safe at work & personal protective equipment (COVID-19)

March 20, 2020

We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of infection and simple measures can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at your workplace and in your community:

  • Clean shared workstations and equipment.
  • When possible, encourage workers to work from home.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the elbow and wash hands afterward. If you use a tissue, throw it away.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practise social distancing as much as possible.

Other health and safety measures your workplace can implement are outlined below.

Workplace Screening Tool

It is recommended that workplaces adopt an employee screening process for staff and visitors before they enter the workplace. A sample self-screening tool for employers with recommendations for implementation is available here.

WorkSafeNB also recommends that workers who must enter homes or offices, other than their own, to perform their work such as contractors, plumbers, appliance repair, etc., should use a screening process to ensure their safety. Ideally, the screening would take place when the homeowner or business requests a service call. A sample self-screening tool for these workers is available here.

Social distancing

Social distancing requires us to make changes to our everyday routines and to minimize close contact with others. You may need to limit the number of workers on site, to ensure these distances are kept.

Here are some tips for implementing social distancing measures in your workplace:

  • Evaluate your work tasks and workspace.
  • Can you reduce or suspend non-essential work, to allow some workers to stay home?
  • Can any of your workers perform work tasks remotely (such as working from home)?
  • Can you alternate and/or add additional shifts to reduce the risk of exposure and improve social distancing?
  • Can you position the workers who are performing your essential business tasks further apart and still get the tasks done?
  • Can any of your workers perform work tasks in a location that allows them to put more distance between themselves and their co-workers or customers?

Involve your joint health and safety committee

Get your joint health and safety committee (JHSC) or worker representative involved in brainstorming social distancing measures that could work in the spaces they work in.

Have your JHSC consider the interactions they have with others.

Get your JHSC involved in promoting approved social distancing measures.

Change the way space is used and shared at your workplace

Minimize sharing of office space, including work vehicles. When you do share, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces before you leave the space (like you do at the gym). For vehicles, this includes the steering wheel, gear shift, and radio. For desks this includes the computer keyboard and mouse, desk surface, and phone.

Schedule rotating coffee and meal breaks to allow for a two-metre distance between workers in all break rooms, and do not share food or drink (no buffets).

Cancel in-person meetings and hold meetings by teleconference, video conference, or email instead.

Use work vehicles as satellite offices, for workers who can download work on their phone or portable computer.

Field workers should muster from home, rather than from an office, where feasible.

Communicate broadly

Make the message clear that the friendliest thing your workers can do for their co-workers and customers is to keep a two-metre distance between themselves and the people they work with.

Encourage workers to use a standard greeting with each other that is positive but reminds others to keep a safe distance.

PPE: Respiratory Protection

Respirators are currently only required for certain tasks.

Surgical/procedure masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmission to other people. A mask will help keep a person's droplets in.

It may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves. Masks may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face (such as to adjust the mask).

Workers in the health care sector may have a higher potential risk of coming into contact with infected persons. Health care workers, who interact with potentially infected patients, should wear surgical masks, eye protection, gloves, and gowns in order to protect themselves and patients. During health care procedures in which aerosol sprays may be generated (for example, when giving certain inhaled medications), health care workers must wear specialized masks (such as N95s) that have been fit-tested.

Protecting mental health

Workers in the workplace may also be affected by the anxiety and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 situation. It’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health, and to take measures to support mental well-being. Here are some resources that can assist with maintaining mental health in the workplace during this time.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak (World Health Organization) – These mental health considerations were developed by the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use as messages targeting different groups to support for mental and psychosocial well-being during COVID-19 outbreak.

Coronavirus: Managing Stress & Anxiety (Canadian Mental Health Association) – Tips and information on how to reduce and manage anxiety in the workplace due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Need more information?

For information and assistance with health and safety issues in the workplace, including COVID-19, please contact our Prevention Team at prevention@ws-ts.nb.ca.

 

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