5 Workplace Hygiene Habits To stay Safe and Healthy During COVID-19

And it involves more than just washing hands.

Annabelle D’Costa

After the first case of COVID-19 was reported on January 30, 2020 in India, it was only a matter of time for the infection to spread among the large populace. Two months later, Coronavirus, now declared a global pandemic, has claimed 56 lives already and 2,301 people have tested positive in India (as updated on April 3, 2020). We have already reached stage 2 (local transmission), and we’re on the path to stage 3, which is community transmission.

Self-isolation and social distancing is being enforced in forms of a 75-district lockdown and an extended Janata Curfew, in efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ and manage the spread of coronavirus. But there are many who do not have the option of staying at home. Essential services such as healthcare, police, banking, limited retail and delivery personnel still need to function, so that the rest can sustain and survive the pandemic.

Note that each state has shared a separate list of services that offices that will be exempt from the lockdown. As part of the lockdown, Kerala's borders will remain closed, state-run KSRTC and private buses would be off the roads, but private vehicles would be allowed. Banks would be open only till 2 pm. Petrol pumps would not be shut and LPG distribution will not be affected. Hospitals will function as usual," Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said. In Kerala, buses, trains, taxis or autos won't be plying, even flyovers will be off-limits. Non-essential government offices and private businesses, industries, offices, shops and commercial establishments will remain shut for a week from now. However, shops selling food, ration, milk, vegetables, groceries, meat, fish, fruit and wholesale and retail markets will remain open in the nine districts where the lockdown has been implemented. Maharashtra's Chief Minister took to Twitter to share a detailed list of services that will be exempt from the lockdown:

While the government and civic authorities are aggressively sanitising almost every “passenger contact area”, experts emphasise on the need for strict personal hygiene to avoid the spread of coronavirus. If you are a frontline employee, you will find yourself spending more time either getting to work or at work, so here are some workplace preventive measures as suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):


Clean Hands, Always


  •  As soon as you reach your workplace, wash your hands with soap for no less than 20 seconds, even before washing your face. Make sure to also dry them off completely.
  • A study by hygiene service provider Rentokil Initial, found that 25% of office workers do not wash their hands after using the toilet. Umm, do not be part of that 25% is all we can say! Also, wash your hands before touching food.
  • Door handles and door knobs are one of the most touched spots in any workplace making them the chief carrier of viruses. Since you can’t do away with not touching them, it’s best to use your hand within a sleeve, your elbows or a tissue to open the door.
  • Since our hands touch many surfaces, they can pick up viruses, which is why you need to keep them off your eyes, nose and mouth.


2. Sanitise Hard Surfaces

  • Even on a regular day, your office desk is home to over 10 million bacteria, which is 400 times more than a toilet seat, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. There are more than 3,000 micro-organisms per square inch on keyboards and over 1,600 bacteria per square inch on a computer mouse, says a study conducted by Gerber. The coronavirus etiquette in workplaces, therefore, requires employees to clean down their own workstation and equipment. This includes sanitising your desk, chair, telephone, laptop and any other high-touch hard surface with disinfectant or wet wipes.
  • In case your office has shared resources such as photocopiers and ATM machines, no matter what precautions are being taken by your office to disinfect these most-touched surfaces, as a rule of thumb, always sanitise them before using and avoid direct contact.


3. Avoid Sharing

  • Simple rinsing of office mugs may not remove a colleague’s germs. And the outside surface of the mug could become contaminated by their hands especially if they’ve had a cold. To the extent possible, use your own mug and water bottle, and avoid sharing it with others.
  • Give borrowed pens, diaries and other such shared objects a rubdown with anti-bacterial wipes. In case you’re a pen/pencil-chewer, it’s time you break the habit as you could be ingesting bacteria or viruses left by someone else, especially if it has been shared around.

Image courtesy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

4. Cover Your Mouth

  • While governments in some states have already penalised spitting in public, the rest are to follow suit soon. Coronavirus or not, you shouldn’t anyway be spitting or shooting mucus out of your nose in the public as a matter of hygiene and civic sense.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze. Once done make sure you dispose the soiled tissues correctly and follow proper hand-hygiene.
  • While masks may not be the most effective way to protect yourself, they reduce the spread if you are infected, even if you just have a common cold. Besides masks, handkerchiefs, dupattas and even shawls work fine.

5. Know When to Go Home

  • If you’ve got a mild cough, low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) or even difficulty breathing, the WHO recommends you to stay at home. Even if you’re on medications such as paracetamol/acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection, it’s best not to show up at work and instead, follow the directions of your local health authority.
  • Make sure to check with your employer if, in such cases, your time off will be considered as a sick and/or paid leave.

Image: Shutterstock.com


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