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Keeping employees safe as state returns to work

As West Virginia businesses return to the new normal Thursday, things will be different at your favorite taproom, tanning salon or sit-down restaurant.

People will be spaced six feet apart, your server may wear a mask and a lot of surfaces will continually be wiped down. Nothing personal, it’s for your own good.

And with West Virginia getting ready to open for business, Mark Fullen, a West Virginia University Extension Service Safety and Health professor, said it’s important for companies to have an employee who is responsible for responding to all COVID-19 concerns at the workplace. Workers should know who that person is and how to contact them, he said.

“Business should encourage or consider requiring sick employees to stay home,” Fullen said. “If an employee shows symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, they should immediately notify the employer or designated safety officer and stay home. Having employers be supportive and encouraging by having employees report symptoms and stay home are both critical to reducing the spread of the virus.”

To protect workers, cancel or postpone in-person meetings and trainings whenever possible. If the meeting has to take place, then maintain social distancing, he said.

Sick workers should self-isolate at home and remain there until quarantine criteria is met and the employee has been to see a health care provider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person should be able to end his or her home quarantine if 72 hours have passed without a fever and respiratory symptoms have improved. Also, 10 days must have passed since the symptoms first appeared.

If a person tested positive for the novel coronavirus, then he must go three days without a temperature and also have improved respiratory symptoms. And, 10 days must have passed without the person showing symptoms and he must have been tested twice for the virus and tested negative 24 hours apart, he said.

“To reduce virus transmission, employers need to establish and implement work safety practices,” he said. “When possible, allow employees to work from home. If that is not feasible, employers should consider modifying work schedules to stagger work to reduce the total number of workers on a job site at any given time.”

Fullen said access to all confined and enclosed areas in the work place should be restricted. Employees should maintain six feet of social distancing at all times and personal protective equipment should be used.

“Employers must remember to educate workers on the importance of proper hand-washing and decontamination” Fullen said.  “Provide employees with access to soap, clean running water and materials for drying their hands.”

If hand-washing is not possible, then have alcohol-based hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations for workers, he said.

“In addition to proper workplace hygiene, each job site should develop cleaning and decontamination procedures to be done at least once a day or more often, if possible.”

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