As a small business owner, you need to prepare for the future and prepare for a variety of different circumstances or events that could occur. Some you can predict and plan for. Others, such as the COVID-19 outbreak can catch businesses off-guard, potentially impacting its revenue and future.
It is important to stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak. Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.
Why Should Businesses Care?
It is important for employers and employees to know and be aware of COVID-19. There is a risk that people attending your meeting, event, or workplace area might be unwittingly bringing the COVID-19 virus to the meeting.
Others might be unknowingly exposed to COVID-19. While COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, it can make some very ill. Around 1 in every 5 people who catch COVID-19 needs hospital treatment.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a Coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illness in animals and humans. Some coronaviruses commonly circulate in the United States and usually cause upper respiratory symptoms such as cough or runny nose, although some can cause more serious illness.
The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus causes the illness coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease that was identified in Wuhan, China, and is now being spread throughout the world. People are encouraged to take common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of all infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Here are SMART Steps you can take to take care of your health and protect others:
Wash your hands frequently
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Maintain social distancing
Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
Stay informed and follow the advice given by your healthcare provider
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow the advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
Employee Protection Measures
Protection measures for persons who are in or have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading.
- Follow the guidance outlined above.
- Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and a slight runny nose, until you recover.
- Why? Avoiding contact with others and visits to medical facilities will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition. Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.
- Why? Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also help to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 and other viruses.
Business Protection Measures
If you have employees who have traveled to high-risk countries or have been impacted a little closer to home, establish a policy or protocol on what to do if they do become ill.
Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace
The low-cost measures below will help prevent the spread of infections in your workplace, such as colds, flu, and stomach bugs, and protect your customers, contractors and employees.
Employers should start doing these things now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate. They can already reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives at one of your workplaces.
- Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic
- Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly. Contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads.
- Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors, and customers.
- Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace.
- Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled.
- Display posters promoting hand-washing – ask your local public health authority for these or look at www.WHO.int.
- Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings and information on the intranet to promote hand-washing
- Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water. Washing kills the virus on your hands and prevents the spread of COVID19
- Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace o Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefing at meetings and information on the intranet, etc.
- Ensure that face masks and/or paper tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them. Good respiratory hygiene prevents the spread of COVID-19
- Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips.
Check-in with your legal counsel is a good idea, as they will inform you of the legal ins and outs. But there is no need to create panic within your team, as that can impact your whole business. It is important to protect your employees.
There is a lot of misinformation out there. It is important to stick to the facts. If you work in a customer-facing environment, make sure you have the customer’s protection in mind as well.
If you have a medical business, for example, it is important to step up your hygiene standards. You can also think about getting things like PCT conformal coating for equipment, as the coating helps to protect and lubricate hypodermic needles.