The Illinois Department of Public Health provides this guidance and recommendations to large businesses to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business operations, workers, customers, and the public. For employers who have already planned for influenza pandemics, COVID-19 planning will require updating to address the unique characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including how it is spread, prevention strategies, monitoring for symptoms, and instructions for cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Lack of continuity planning can hamper an employer’s ability to address challenges of COVID-19 with insufficient resources and workers who might not be adequately trained for jobs they may have to perform under pandemic conditions.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed COVID-19 planning guidance based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as considerations for doing so.
This guidance is intended for planning purposes and employers and workers should use it to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine implementation of appropriate control measures. Additional guidance may be necessary as COVID-19 outbreak conditions change, including as new information about the virus, its transmission, and impacts, becomes available.
Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan. If one does not already exist, develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19.
Stay abreast of guidance from federal, state, local, tribal, and/or territorial health agencies, and consider how to incorporate those recommendations and resources into workplace specific plans.
Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites to:
- The general public, customers, and coworkers.
- Sick individuals or those at particularly high risk of infection (e.g., travelers who have visited locations reporting widespread and ongoing COVID-19 transmission; health care workers who have had unprotected exposures to people known to have, or suspected of having COVID-19).
- Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
- Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., older age; presence of chronic medical conditions, including immunocompromising conditions; pregnancy).
Follow federal and state, local, tribal, and/or territorial recommendations regarding development of contingency plans for situations that may arise as a result of outbreaks, such as:
- Increased rates of worker absenteeism.
- The need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsizing operations, delivering services remotely, and other exposure-reducing measures.
- Options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross training workers for different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge services.
- Interrupted supply chains or delayed deliveries.
Prevention Measures for Large Businesses
For most employers, protecting workers depends on emphasizing basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices to:
- Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Explore policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance between employees and others if state and local public health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies.
- Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should consult information on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens, which are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method, contact time, PPE).
Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people, if appropriate.
- Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and others at a worksite.
- Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.
- Employers should develop policies and procedures for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
- Where appropriate, employers should develop policies and procedures for immediately isolating people who have signs and/or symptoms of COVID-19, and train workers to implement them. Move potentially infectious people to a location away from workers, customers, and other visitors. Although most worksites do not have specific isolation rooms, designated areas with closable doors may serve as isolation rooms until potentially sick people can be removed from the worksite.
- Take steps to limit the spread of respiratory secretions from a person who may have COVID-19. Provide a face mask, if feasible and available, and ask the person to wear it, if tolerated. Note: A face mask (also called a surgical mask, procedure mask, or other similar terms) on a patient or other sick person should not be confused with PPE for a worker. The mask acts to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions at the source (i.e., the person’s nose and mouth).
- If possible, isolate people suspected of having COVID-19 separately from those with confirmed cases of the virus to prevent further transmission, especially in worksites where medical screening, triage, or health care activities occur, using either permanent (e.g., wall/different room) or temporary barriers (e.g., plastic sheeting).
- Restrict the number of personnel entering isolation areas.
- Protect workers in close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet) a sick person or who have prolonged/repeated contact with such persons by using additional engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE. Workers whose activities involve close or prolonged/ repeated contact with sick people are addressed further in later sections covering workplaces classified at medium, very high or high exposure risk.
Last Updated: 6/25/2020