By Brian McFadden
Protecting people is important, and right now, many people and places continue to struggle with the changes in COVID-19 policy and protection. As the coronavirus outbreak continues to impact the world, there are public health rules that help limit the spread of the disease. Yet, some of the most cost-effective and easiest actions to take are important in the management of this global health crisis. These tools include various forms of communication and ensuring understanding.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is mostly transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets, which are produced when a person sneezes, coughs, or speaks. Importantly, not all people with the virus will know that they are sick or even know how long they have been actively infected. While some people might have mild symptoms, others can have health problems long after, and some others die.
Since most victims don’t know how their bodies will respond, protective measures must be in place before there’s an obvious illness. Being proactive is the only viable solution.
The single most effective step that we can take to reduce infection rates is to wear masks whenever we are in a public or shared space. Even simple, inexpensive cloth masks have been shown to dramatically reduce transmissions of the virus, because they can block or slow down the respiratory droplets produced by the wearer.
But masks are only one step in reducing the overall risk of infection. Paired with other approaches, they can be more effective. And often, those other approaches can provide additional benefits.
To protect employees, visitors, and others, clear visual communication is important. Masks can muffle voices, new traffic patterns can confuse, and requirements for safe distancing can be difficult to maintain. Visual signals can offer effective solutions, and can even become key parts of a newer, safer, and more efficient workspace.
For example, maintaining a safe distance between workers is a key step in limiting exposure and reducing the risk of infection. This often means rethinking the location of workstations. Rather than having people side-by-side or face-to-face, stagger positions and space them apart. Then, mark the new spaces with floor tape to identify where people should be.
Many places are providing hand sanitizer stations, often placing them near building entrances to encourage people to use them. Signs can highlight the location of these sanitizer stations and clearly state a policy on their use. Adding further details, such as who to contact if a station runs dry, can help ensure that this protective step remains useful in the future.
Periodic cleaning has always been a part of most routines, but this task attracted more attention when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Many places increased the frequency of cleanings and added sanitizing steps for equipment and areas that were shared or frequently touched. Visual cues to remind people of when the new cleaning steps should be taken, and where to find the appropriate supplies, can help streamline the process.
If your building has instituted new traffic controls as part of the effort to maintain safe distances between individuals, these controls must be integrated into existing efforts to be effective.
Vehicle traffic is still just as dangerous for pedestrians as it was before the pandemic. Signs to show directions of travel, warn of blind corners, or mark mandatory stopping points or speed limits can be an obvious help. Additional steps, such as outlining approved paths of travel in different colors for different traffic or processes, can help make these new traffic controls useful for a variety of needs.
Here are a few tools to help communicate safety during COVID-19:
- Signs: Place signs to remind people to stay at least 6 feet apart, that face masks are required, sanitation schedule times, illness protocol, and more. Moveable and light, A-frames are a great solution for managing customer traffic flow, calling attention to pedestrian traffic, alerting visitors of social distancing protocols, and more.
- Awareness posters: Large format, full-color awareness, and information posters to #StopTheSpread of coronavirus and COVID-19.
- Floor Marking: Floor signs allow you to easily communicate where customers, visitors, and employees should stand, walk and find essential safety items.
Additional steps or requirements may be in place in your area. Your facility must follow the guidance of experts and authorities to keep your community safe.
How to Respond to Illness
Despite our efforts, COVID-19 continues to be a threat. What happens if someone does get sick? How will they know, and what should be done in response?
The most common symptoms of an infection include fever (or chills), coughing, or shortness of breath. Additional symptoms have included fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, a loss of smell or taste, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
Often, only a few of these symptoms will appear, and they may be mild or severe. However, many victims experience serious complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. Other complications have included kidney failure, strokes, and auto-immune problems, which can also be life-threatening or permanently debilitating.
If any person develops these symptoms, they should immediately remove themselves from public spaces. Then, they should contact a healthcare provider for advice. A person who develops COVID-19 should not be out in public until any fever has been gone for three days (without the use of fever-reducing medication), and any other symptoms have improved or cleared up entirely.
Upon being notified that someone has contracted COVID-19, the places where that person has visited have certain obligations. First and most importantly, they should act to protect others. Identify, clean, and sanitize the places the victim inhabited, in case it had been contaminated while they were still pre-symptomatic. Encourage people who may have had close contact with the victim to be tested. Maintain clear communication.
Additionally, make a reasonable investigation to see if the transmission of the virus is likely to have occurred at your facility. Have several people in an area all gotten sick, or did the person’s duties include direct contact with the public? If a case of COVID-19 is determined to be work-related, it may need to be recorded as a workplace illness, using the same OSHA 300 form that is used for significant workplace injuries.
This investigation is not meant to show that anyone did anything wrong; instead, it’s meant to help identify what happened, and help to prevent it from happening in the future. The goal is to protect everyone, making our communities safer.
Brian McFadden is a compliance specialist and writes for Graphic Products, makers of the DuraLabel line of industrial label and sign printers, which quickly produce custom, compliant COVID-19 messaging and more, www.GraphicProducts.com.