At the end of this week the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Mohawk Valley will be entering the first phase of reopening. A workplace health and safety expert says employers should be taking some steps before that happens.
“But at first it's going to be awkward and difficult and we're not going to be happy and we’re going to long for the good old days even though we sometimes spread a lot of disease around that way," said Nellie Brown, the director of workplace health and safety programs at Cornell.
Brown says if your building has been sitting for the last two months with no one inside, you should run your ventilation system for a couple days at full power.
“Your building has water lines that won’t have been used. When water sits in a system, it can grow things like legionella; it can acquire a lot more dissolved materials like lead after sitting and so on and so forth, depending on the age of your system," said Brown.
Next, you need to consider what your employees will be doing. You can stagger shifts to limit crowding at elevators. You can also put sanitizing wipes near vending machines and coffee makers. She says employers should have non-punitive sick policies.
“Think it's important to consider this idea that we don't want to encourage presentism, the opposite of absenteeism. We don't want people to come to work when they're not well because they spread things to everybody else," said Brown.
In grocery stores, she suggests a return to older times when clerks would bring your groceries to you from a back room.
“In retail, maybe we need to have that sample garment out on display, then you request to see other sizes of it," said Brown.
Brown acknowledges people won’t like these changes, but they can prevent flu and gastrointestinal disease spread.
“We’re going to get mileage out of a lot of these procedures. They’re not just going to be for COVID, they're going to be good for a lot of stuff, and if we keep that in mind, I think it won't seem so difficult to do these," said Brown.