Work Safe Kentucky: The KEMI Safety Blog

COVID-19: Keeping Custodial & Environmental Service Workers Safe

All places of employment require regular cleaning. A clean workplace and good housekeeping are an important component of maintaining a safe work environment. It is best to clean work areas when other employees are not present. Employers may use their employees or contracted employees/services to perform custodial work. These employees perform duties such as taking out the trash, cleaning restrooms, disinfecting work stations, cleaning break rooms, etc.

It is important to protect your custodial and environmental service workers from potential exposure to COVID-19. Employers need to conduct a hazard assessment to determine what hazards may be present in the workplace. The employer should evaluate the risk of exposure then choose, implement, and ensure custodial workers use controls to prevent exposure.

  • Evaluate the Exposure Risk Level
    • Low-Risk
      • Routine cleaning in low-volume offices, manufacturing, and industrial facilities.
      • Routine cleaning in spaces not occupied by members of the general public.
    • Medium-Risk
      • Routine cleaning in offices, manufacturing facilities, industrial facilities, and other spaces frequented by staff/employees.
      • Routine cleaning in spaces occupied/frequented by members of the general public.
    • High-Risk
      • Cleaning up visible blood, body fluids, respiratory secretions, or mucous that came from individuals suspected of having or known to have COVID-19.
      • Cleaning up any other potentially infectious materials that came from individuals suspected of having or known to have COVID-19.
  • Choose and Implement Engineering and Administrative Controls/Safe Work Practices
    • Ensure the area being cleaned is well ventilated.
    • Wait 24 hours before cleaning the contaminated area if possible.
    • Restrict access to the area.
    • Post DO NOT ENTER signs.
    • Avoid cleaning procedures that could re-aerosolize infectious particles.
      • Dry sweeping
      • High-pressure cleaning
    • Avoid touching the face, eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Practice thorough hand washing after completion of the cleaning/disinfecting work or removing PPE.
    • Provide and encourage the use of hand sanitizers (60% alcohol base).
  • Provide and Require Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • Gloves (all risk levels)
    • Masks (covering both the mouth and nose, snug fit) (all risk levels)
    • Gowns (high-risk levels)
    • Eye/face protection (high-risk levels)
  • Educate Custodial and Environmental Service Workers
    • To recognize the symptoms of COVID-19.
    • On what to do if they develop symptoms.
    • How to use, put on, take off, and when to use PPE.
    • On the hazards of the cleaning chemicals.
    • On Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030).
    • On proper disposal of regulated waste & PPE (29 CFR 1910.132).

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.

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Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Use for the COVID-19 Pandemic

As businesses are starting to reopen and employees are getting back to work, it is important to understand what personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed to protect employees against the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Gloves, N95 respirators, surgical masks, and cloth masks are some personal protective equipment that many companies and organizations are starting to put in place for employees to wear. Employers need to make sure these items are needed for their operations. Employers should first perform a hazard assessment of the workplace to identify and determine what PPE is needed.

The employer and employees must follow all OSHA standards and company guidelines when identifying, selecting, maintaining, training, and wearing PPE.

The following are tips to help with utilizing personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

Gloves

  • Gloves may not be necessary for you to wear for the job you are going to do, if they are needed then make sure they are worn properly and not used to cross-contaminate yourself and work areas.  
  • Keep hands away from face. 
  • Limit the surfaces that are touched.
  • Make sure you change gloves when they are torn or heavily contaminated. 
  • Perform proper hand hygiene once gloves are removed by washing hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available. 
  • It is important to take off gloves properly, so you do not contaminate yourself:
    • Using a gloved hand, grasp the palm are of the other gloved hand and remove the glove. 
    • Roll the removed glove up into the palm of the gloved hand. 
    • Slide fingers of ungloved hand under the remaining glove at the wrist and remove the glove turning it inside out, trapping the other glove inside the glove you are removing.  
    • Grasp the inside part of the glove and discard into a biohazard container. 

N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator

  • N95 respirators are used to protect employees from both airborne and fluid hazards such as splashes or sprays. If available, use a face shield over an N95 respirator for added protection and to try prolonging the use of the respirator (due to low supply).
  • Use NIOSH approved N95 respirators. 
  • The respirator must fit snugly against the user’s face to ensure there are no gaps between the user’s skin and the seal of the respirator. 
  • The respirator should filter out 95% of the particles in the air that passes through it. 
  • Make sure employees are properly trained over the proper use, putting on, and taking off of the N95 respirator.
  • Here are tips to putting on and taking off an N95 respirator:
    • Wash your hands thoroughly before putting on and taking off the respirator.
    • Inspect the respirator for damage and if damaged, Do Not Use. Replace with a new one. 
    • Make sure facial hair, hair, jewelry, glasses, or other items do not prevent proper placement and come between your face and respirator. 
    • Make sure you are complying with the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard and all manufacturer’s recommendations. 
    • Putting On:
      • Position the respirator in your hands, nose piece should be at your fingertips. 
      • Cup the respirator in your hand around your face. The headbands should hang below your hand. Hold the respirator under your chin with the nosepiece up. 
  • Position the bottom strap over your head and around the neck below the ears. 
    • Position the top strap over your head and let it rest at the top back part of your head. A single strap should go over your head and rest at the top back part of your head. 
    • Place fingertips with both hands over the metal nose clip. Slide and push down metal clip forming a seal around the nose. 
    • Check the seal by placing both hands over the respirator, take a quick breath in, and exhale. Make sure there is not any leakage. If air leakage, then re-adjust straps and nosepiece. If you cannot get a proper seal, then ask for help or try a different size or model if available. 
    • Removing:
      • Do not touch the front of the respirator. 
  • Remove by pulling the bottom strap over the head, followed by the top strap. 
    • Make sure you do not touch the respirator. 
    • Discard and Wash Your Hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer until soap and water is available. 

Surgical and Cloth Masks

  • Surgical and cloth masks help protect against large-particle droplets, splashes, and sprays, but offer limited to no protection against small airborne particles. 
  • The CDC recommends wearing a face-covering in public settings where other social distancing measures may be difficult to maintain.  
  • A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable mask that creates a physical barrier for your mouth and nose from a possible contaminated environment. 
  • A cloth mask can be made and worn by employees. 
  • The CDC has information on quick and easy steps to make sew and no-sew cloth masks. 
  • Here are some tips on wearing surgical or cloth masks/face coverings:
    • Make sure they fit snugly but comfortable against the face. 
    • Secure with ties or ear loops. 
    • Make sure you can breathe without restriction. 
    • Surgical masks are generally disposable after use, but shortages may cause them to be reused multiple times. Cloth masks can be and should be laundered. 
  • Here are some tips to putting on and taking off a surgical and cloth mask:
    • Wash your hands thoroughly before putting on and taking off the mask.
    • Inspect the mask for damage or contamination and if found, Do Not Use. Replace with a new one or launder. 
    • Putting on:
      • Grasp the ties or ear loops of the mask with your hands and place loops over ears or secure the ties in the middle of the head and neck. 
      • Fit the flexible band to the nose bridge and push down to create less of an opening between the mask and skin. (You will not be able to create an airtight seal.)
      • Make sure the bottom part of the mask fits under the face and chin for a snug fit. 
    • Removing:
      • Do not touch the front of the mask when removing. 
      • Remove by untying the straps or grasping the ear loops. Make sure you do not touch the front of the mask. 
      • Discard (if disposable) or launder for a cloth mask. 
      • Make sure to Wash Your Hands or use a hand sanitizer (if hand washing is not available) after removal.   
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COVID-19: What to Do if an Employee Feels Sick

There are times at every place of employment when an employee may start feeling ill. There are various things that may cause illness, and it may not always necessitate medical treatment, and there may also be times when an ill employee may not be able to leave the workplace immediately. If the worker is unable to drive, the employer may have to wait for a family member to arrive or, if serious, an ambulance. The illness may not be serious and may not be related to COVID-19. However, with the current concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be a good idea to have safety procedures in place.

  • Encourage employees not to report to work if they feel ill, have a temperature, nausea, etc.
  • Consider taking temperatures of employees upon arrival to work.
  • Encourage employees to report feelings of illness promptly if already at work.
  • Designate specific individuals that will assist with ill employees.
  • Ask ill employees about their symptoms (individuals with these symptoms or combination of symptoms may have COVID-19):
    • Cough;
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing;
    • Fever;
    • Chills;
    • Repeated shaking with chills;
    • Muscle pain;
    • Headache;
    • Sore throat; or
    • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Notify EMS/911 if symptoms appear serious or life-threatening.
  • Designate a specific isolation area for ill workers.
    • Do not use the area for any other activities.
    • Do not allow unauthorized personnel to enter.
    • Locate the isolation area away from others and as close to an exterior exit as possible.
    • Place DO NOT ENTER signs on entry doors.
    • Ensure the area has good ventilation.
    • Do not eat food or drink beverages in this area.
  • Ensure proper PPE is available and used by the individuals designated to assist with ill workers:
    • Mask (covering both mouth and nose and fits snuggly);
    • Gloves;
    • Hand sanitizer;
    • Disinfecting wipes;
    • Respirators; and
    • Full bodysuits.
  • Ensure the ill employee is wearing appropriate PPE:
    • Mask (covering both mouth and nose and fits snuggly);
    • Gloves; and
    • Hand sanitizer.
  • Provide handwashing stations.
    • Place signs listing handwashing instructions.
    • Use soap and running water.
    • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds.
    • Scrub all surfaces of the hands, between fingers, and around/under nailbeds.
    • Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available (60% alcohol).
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice social distancing of at least 6 feet.
  • Clean and disinfect the isolation area and any other areas/surfaces the ill worker may have contacted.
    • Use soap and water followed by an EPA-registered disinfectant.
    • Read and follow the instructions on the disinfectant’s label.
    • Maintain good ventilation in the area.
    • Wear gloves, masks, gowns, and other PPE while cleaning
    • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks, tools, equipment, machinery, and electronics.
    • Use appropriate cleaners for soft surfaces such as carpeted floors, rugs, and drapes.
    • Launder soft surfaces, if possible, according to manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Disinfect soft surfaces with an EPA-registered disinfectant if cleaning/laundering is not possible.
    • Place used gloves, facemasks, and other contaminated items in a lined trash can.
    • Use gloves when removing, handling, or disposing of trash and garbage bags.
    • Wash hands after handling trash and garbage bags and when cleaning is complete.
    • Use a dedicated and clearly marked trash can (biohazard container).
    • Close off areas used by the person who is sick.
    • Open outside doors and windows and use fans to increase airflow.
    • Once the area has been appropriately disinfected, it can be reopened for use.
  • Educate workers that will assist ill employees and that will be performing cleaning, disinfecting, and trash pick-up.
    • To recognize the symptoms of COVID-19.
    • On what to do if they develop symptoms.
    • How to use, put on, take off, and when to use PPE.
    • On the hazards of the cleaning chemicals.
    • On Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030).
    • On proper disposal of regulated waste & PPE (29 CFR 1910.132).

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.

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Returning to Work Safely

As we transition back to a new normal working routine, actions must be taken to protect the health of our workforce. By following the safe work practices below, worker exposures to COVID-19 can be minimized.

  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick or have symptoms such as fever, coughing, or shortness of breath.
  • Implement a daily screening process consisting of temperate checks and/or health questionnaires.
  • Take measures to ensure social distancing is being observed, such as:
    • Stagger start and stop times to avoid close contacts around exits and in parking areas.
    • Consider extra shifts or modified schedules to keep numbers down at any given time.
    • Develop guidelines to prevent congestion in and around breakrooms and restrooms.
    • Develop guidelines for pedestrian traffic such as one-way traffic in aisles and walkways.
    • Refrain from conducting in-person group meetings. Keep essential meetings (such as safety briefs) as short as possible and ensure social distancing.
    • Require employees to go to their own vehicle during breaks to help prevent employees congregating in one place.
  • Encourage workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.
  • Continue to use other normal control measures, including personal protective equipment (PPE), necessary to protect workers from job hazards associated with normal activities.
  • Advise workers to avoid physical contact with others and direct employees/contractors/visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet, where possible. No Handshaking.
  • If work trailers are used, all workers should maintain social distancing while inside the trailers.
  • Train employees on proper PPE usage prior to work resuming.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes with elbows.
  • Promote personal hygiene and implement a handwashing schedule. If workers do not have immediate access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Keep all commonly touched items clean and sanitized. Develop a surface cleaning schedule and consider designating a person(s) to perform such cleaning. Commonly touched items may include: tools, equipment, phones, office equipment, doorknobs, desk drawers, steering wheels on forklifts, keypads, credit card readers in retail settings, etc. Consider utilizing a checklist to track cleaning efforts.
  • When tools or equipment must be shared, provide and instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use. Ensure these measures are in accordance with manufacturer recommendations for proper cleaning.
  • Clean and disinfect break areas, restrooms, and portable job site toilets regularly.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers should be filled regularly.
  • Develop a protocol for visitors and vendors.
  • Have a plan for employees who become ill at work.
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
  • Train employees on the new work practices prior to resuming operations and communicate frequently. Consider posting guidelines in prominent locations.

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.

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Ten Steps to Reduce the Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus in the Workplace

  1. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Develop a non-punitive policy and ensure employees are aware of this policy.
  2. Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and properly dispose of tissues after use. If tissues are not available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  3. Provide a place for employees to wash hands or use alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol. If hands are visibly dirty, always wash your hands with soap and water, if available.
  4. If possible, limit worksite access to only essential workers. However, regardless of how many employees are coming into the workspace, continue to practice social distancing and hygienic guidelines.
  5. Consider engineering controls to aid with isolating employees from work-related hazards. Install high-efficiency air filters. Increase ventilation rates in the work environment. Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards. Install a drive-through window for customer service. etc.
  6. Establish flexible worksites and flexible work hours, if feasible. Options may include telecommuting or staggering shift times.
  7. Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, or other work tools and equipment.
  8. Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. Always wear the appropriate PPE when cleaning/disinfecting and thoroughly wash hands after removing gloves.
  9. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved cleaning chemicals with label claims against the coronavirus and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
  10. Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.

 

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.

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