Keeping Your Employees and Customers Safe

Business owners and leaders of non-profit organizations can look to the governor's office and the state health departments, including the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), and to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA), and World Health Organization (WHO) for guidance on infection control and COVID-19.

One of the most important things that employers are advised to do is to develop their own policies to allow employees who are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home.

Screening

The CDC and some states, including Ohio, have recommended screening of employees prior to entering the workplace. Here are screening questions consistent with these guidelines, subject to your employee policies and individual business requirements:

  • Fever with a temperature of 100.0 degrees F or higher
  • Symptoms of respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath
  • Travel to an area with a current COVID-19 outbreak in the past 14 days
  • Exposure or contact with COVID-19 suspected or diagnosed individuals in the last 14 days without a mask

Employers are advised by CDC guidelines to develop appropriate workplace policies to respond to employees who have positive answers to these questions or are symptomatic, including whether they can enter the workplace and/or advised to seek medical attention through a primary care physician or virtual visit.

Some suggestions for screening:

  • Screeners may be placed outside your building at the doors where employees enter.
  • Screeners should follow recommended guidelines.
  • Provide screeners with your screening guidelines on paper before they begin screening.
  • Provide screeners with an appropriate mask.
  • If you are taking temperatures, do not use thermometers that go in the mouth or ear, instead use no-touch infrared thermometers or a temporal artery thermometers, which should be wiped with alcohol after use to avoid spreading illness.
  • Post signs and provide handouts to your customers describing your screening procedures.

It is not recommended that employers use antibody testing as a screening method for employees returning to work at this time.

In this video, infectious disease specialist Keith Armitage, MD of the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health, discusses the current limitations of antibody testing.

For situations when it is not possible to physically distance from others with whom you’ll have contact for five cumulative minutes or more, guidance suggests that employees should wear a face mask and a plastic face shield.

Testing

Many employers have questions about testing for coronavirus and whether it has a place in re-opening for business. Christine Schmotzer, MD, Division Chief of Clinical Pathology at University Hospitals, explains what employers need to know about these tests.

Should I Buy Tests for My Employees?

Should I Buy Tests for My Employees?

Employers may be approached by vendors selling COVID-19 tests for employees. But employers should exercise caution, says Christine Schmotzer, MD UH Division Chief, Clinical Pathology, as the quality of these tests vary widely.
What COVID-19 Tests Are Available?

What COVID-19 Tests Are Available?

Most tests fall into two categories: viral tests, which tell you if you currently have an infection, and antibody tests, which tell you if you already had an infection. Learn more about the appropriate use of these tests and their limitations.
What Happens During a COVID-19 Test?

What Happens During a COVID-19 Test?

When you undergo a viral test for coronavirus, what exactly takes place? And what is the process after the sample is collected? Christine Schmotzer, MD, UH Division Chief, Clinical Pathology, describes swabbing and what occurs later in the lab.
Why Aren’t There Enough Tests?

Why Aren’t There Enough Tests?

Creating a new test can take a lot longer than you’d think. Scientists have to make sure they are accurate and supply issues have arisen. The number of available tests is growing, with the goal of having enough for everyone who needs one.
Can Tests Help Employees Return to Work?

Can Tests Help Employees Return to Work?

UH does not recommend that employers use these tests to decide if employees can return to work. Christine Schmotzer, MD, UH Division Chief, Clinical Pathology, explains why.

Face Masks, Face Shields and Gloves

For optimal protection, the guidance from the CDC currently is that everyone -- employees, vendors and customers – should wear a mask in public in addition to maintaining a distance of 6 feet.

Sometimes when people have the virus, they don't know it because they don't feel sick. For these people, face masks could help prevent them from spreading the virus to others.

Read the Ohio Department of Health order for employers, which includes masking requirements for customers and employees.

In this video, UH Rainbow pediatric infectious disease specialist Amy Edwards, MD, explains why the CDC recommends cloth face masks as a way to slow spreading of the coronavirus.

For situations when it is not possible to physically distance from others with whom you’ll have contact for five cumulative minutes or more, guidance suggests that employees should wear a face mask and a plastic face shield.

Wearing gloves routinely as protection against infection is not recommended by the CDC. It's much more effective to frequently clean your hands. Use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol or wash hands with soap and water.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing is important in slowing spread of the illness, according to all federal and state guidelines. This includes:

  • Setting limits on how many people are in your building at a time -- the Ohio Department of Health recommends allowing only 50 percent of your building's occupancy limit, which is available from your local fire department.
  • Implement staggered start times for your workers, or schedule them to work on alternating days.
  • Consider extending your business hours to spread out the number of customers at one time.
  • In common areas, consider creating one-way traffic through aisles and signs reminding employees and customers to maintain a 6-foot distance.
  • In offices, maintain 6 feet distance between workers.
  • Encourage workers to avoid elevators and take stairways if possible.
  • Discourage hand-shaking or other physical contact.
  • If possible, allow employees to work from home.
  • For meetings, allow employees to phone in from their own desk or from home.
  • For in-person meetings, attendees should wear face masks and maintain 6-foot distances, with less than 10 people in a room at a time.

In this video, infectious disease specialist Keith Armitage, MD, of the UH Roe Green Center for Travel & Global Health, talks about the importance of physical distancing.

High-Risk Groups

Many people who contract coronavirus will experience mild symptoms. Those considered at at high risk by the CDC for developing serious symptoms include:

  • People older than age 65
  • People with chronic heart or lung conditions, uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, those who are immunosuppressed, pregnant or in cancer treatment.

If employees have family members who are at high risk, it is suggested by the CDC that they:

  • Wear masks at home
  • When arriving home from work, immediately wash or sanitize hands, and change clothes and shower if possible.
  • Work uniforms can be laundered as usual.
  • High-risk family member should wear masks at home, practice physical distancing and use separate bathrooms if possible.

Common Workplace Areas

In order to implement the recommended physical distancing and infection control guidelines, employers may consider the following:

  • In break rooms, encourage employees to practice physical distancing.
  • Post signs to remind employees to wash hands.
  • Stagger lunch breaks if possible.
  • In the cafeteria, do not offer self-serve foods such as salad bars, instead offering packaged food to go and cashless payment, if possible.
  • Consider marking the floor to help people keep appropriate distances while standing in line and arrange dining room seating to maintain social distancing.
  • No potlucks or community food.

For Customers

Consistent with Ohio Department of Health recommendations, you may post signs at your entrances requiring customers to:

  • Wear a mask to enter
  • Refrain from coming in if they have a cough, and/or fever

Additional Resources

University Hospitals now offers consultative and advisory services to help your organization jump-start its reopening. To inquire about our services, complete this form and a team member will respond within two business days.


This website is intended for informational purposes only. This website should not be used as a replacement for medical or legal advice.  Employers are solely responsible for complying with all applicable legal requirements and making decisions regarding their operations and employees based on their individual circumstances. 

As things, including applicable guidelines, are changing quickly, the information on this website is current as of the last update. We are working to keep it as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Although this content is reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals, UH does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any of this information or that it represents the most up-to-date information and UH is not responsible for any errors or omissions or actions taken in reliance or from use of such information.  

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