How Do I Ensure My Office is Clean and Safe to Re-open?
March 24, 2020
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many essential businesses remain open. Further, as the virus subsides, most offices and businesses will be safe to re-open.
To ensure that offices are safe, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations relating to the Coronavirus. The guidance governs community, non-health care facilities, such as offices and businesses that do not house persons overnight.
What Does the CDC Recommend?
The recommendations apply to those rooms or areas visited by those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Given the widespread exposure to the virus, and the possibility that some carriers have few, if any symptoms, it is advisable for all offices to follow CDC’s procedures.
How Should Surfaces Be Cleaned and Disinfected?
Fortunately, cleaning requirements suggested to avoid Coronavirus are not onerous. With respect to surfaces, if surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70 percent alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
What about Linens, Clothing or Other Laundry Items?
With respect to linens, clothing and other laundry items, CDC recommends that dirty laundry not be shaken, to avoid dispersing the virus into the air. Items can be washed as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Hampers and carts should be disinfected according to the guidance relating to surfaces. Cleaning staff should wear disposable gloves and gowns for all tasks in the cleaning process, including handling trash, and, not surprisingly, should wash hands often.
Where Can I Find CDC’s Interim Recommendations for US Community Facilities with Suspected/Confirmed Coronavirus Disease?
What Does OSHA Recommend?
In addition to the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also issued Guidance with respect to COVID-19. OSHA notes that the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
What Does This Mean for Employers?
Under this general provision, employers arguably have an enhanced obligation to protect workers from exposure to the Coronavirus. Many businesses have temporarily closed their offices to prevent all risks to workers. For businesses that provide essential services and remain open, in addition to recommending that all workers frequently wash their hands, avoid touching their faces and avoid close contact with others, OSHA recommends decontamination of work areas occupied by people suspected of having the virus, and training of all workers on how to avoid exposure.
Is There Guidance for Specific Worker Groups Such as Healthcare and Airline Workers?
OSHA also provides interim guidance for specific worker groups, such as healthcare and airline workers, who could have increased potential exposure to COVID-19.
Where Can I Find OSHA’s Guidance?
For more resources and LP’s response to COVID-19, visit this webpage.