Back on the Job? Here’s How to Protect Yourself From COVID-19

As states re-open, millions of retail, restaurant, and other customer-facing employees are clocking into their jobs.

While working may be a relief to some, many are worried about exposure to COVID-19.

To help protect customers and returning staff from COVID-19 infection, businesses across the country are enacting new safety measures, such as increasing cleaning and encouraging social distancing. Some are changing how they do business too. They’re shifting hours of operation to limit face-to-face interaction with the public, for example, or offering online, pickup, and delivery options.

Fortunately, there are steps employees can take to help protect their own wellbeing, as well as that of their family, coworkers, and customers. Here’s what you need to know.

Reducing your risk on the job

To safeguard against COVID-19, the most important thing any employee can do is follow their workplace procedures. These rules can affect everything from worker responsibilities to facility layout. They may include precautions such as daily health checks and temperature monitoring or may involve special safety training. They could change as the pandemic evolves, too—maybe even from day to day.

Beyond observing company rules, workers can take personal precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19, including the following:

  • Stay home if you’re ill. If you or someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, inform your supervisor and do not go to work. Instead, take steps to isolate yourself and call your doctor or primary care provider for advice.

    Should you or a family member test positive, alert a manager of your diagnosis and ask about the company sick leave policy. Many businesses have changed their rules to help workers and their loved ones during the pandemic.

  • Wash up. Keeping your hands clean is vital when your work puts you in contact with the public. Scrub your hands with soap and water or rub them with sanitizer containing at least 60 percent ethanol or ethyl alcohol until they’re dry. If your job involves handling food, wash your hands before and afterward. Otherwise, wash:

    • Before and after shifts and breaks
    • Whenever you handle payments or merchandise
    • After using the restroom
    • Before and after handling your face covering
    • Whenever you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose

    Remember not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless your hands have been washed.

  • Maintain social distance. Though it may be difficult sometimes, try to stay 6 feet apart from coworkers and customers whenever possible. Your employer will likely have taken some measures to reinforce distancing, such as spacing out workstations, tables, and merchandise displays, or placing signs around the facility or markers on the floor. They may even have installed plastic barriers or closed certain common areas completely.

  • Wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone wear a face covering in public settings where social distancing is a challenge. Your employer may require a mask or other personal protective equipment, such as a face shield or gloves.

  • Minimize touch. Try to reduce your contact with merchandise, cash, and credit cards. Ask customers to use mobile payment methods or to place payments on a surface between you, rather than give it to you directly. Limit your use of communal work equipment, if you can.

  • Clean often. Your workplace may be conducting cleanings more frequently and thoroughly, but it’s still a good idea to wipe down things you touch often, including registers, keyboards, workstations, phones, counters, and handles.

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