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Avoiding Coronavirus When Returning to Work

If yours is one of the 800,000 businesses heading back to the workplace after several weeks working from home, you are no doubt concerned about how to do that safely. In this article, Associate Professor David Allen shares best practice for businesses who want to keep their workers safe from coronavirus.

Key message for staff

To ensure your staff avoid getting infected and of course infecting others, the single most important message is WASH YOUR HANDS. Those who wash their hands frequently have significantly fewer infections in general. Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, including before and after eating or going to the toilet, is by far the best thing your staff can do to avoid coronavirus.

In addition:

· Keep at least 1.5-2 metres away from other people in your workplace

· Respect physical space of your co-workers

· Cover your coughs/sneezes with your elbow or a tissue then safely dispose of tissue

· Stop touching your face

· Always carry sanitiser in pocket

· Use sanitiser after touching any potentially suspect surfaces or objects and allow it to dry on the hands

· Make sure your family members, especially kids are practising good hygiene

· Stay home if unwell

Key action for managers

To help keep your workplace coronavirus free:

· Promote good hand hygiene by providing hand washing facilities and waste receptacles

· Try to ensure 4 square metres per person and 1.5 metres between people, wherever possible, including communal areas such as staff kitchen and meeting rooms

· Discourage car pooling between employees to and from work

· Ensure frequent cleaning of workspaces, especially the surfaces and objects listed below

· Conduct meetings via video conferencing, phone or outside wherever possible

· Avoid non-essential travel

· Educate your staff about the signs and symptoms of Covid-19 and the need to stay home if unwell

Workplace surfaces or objects

Based on some preliminary research COVID 19 may survive up to 2-3 days on plastic and steel, 24 hours on cardboard and 4 hours on copper. So hard surfaces can be an issue if you touch them then transfer them to face including eyes, mouth, and nose.

Suspect surfaces or objects include

· Hand rails

· Bannisters

· Door handles

· Lift buttons

· Bus and train seats and hand rails

· Door handles in taxis and Ubers

· Taps in bathrooms – Always use a paper towel to shut them and the door handle and then dispose of the towel. If no towels, use sanitiser instead and wash thoroughly later

· Cash coins and notes – these get handled a lot

· Cutlery, crockery

· Vending machines

· Petrol bowsers

· Waiting room magazines or newspapers

· Plastic shields - like in Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings, to help protect customers and staff from coronavirus – also need to be cleaned

And if air travel cannot be avoided

Use sanitiser very frequently when travelling.

Always wash or sanitise hands before eating.

Take a resealable pack of sanitiser cloths with you and when you get on a plane I wipe down:

· Seatbelt buckles and straps

· Tray table

· Touchscreen

· All controls

· And usual precautions for other handles etc.

· Allow the sanitiser to dry before using or use and sanitiser after use of uncleaned surface.

Vulnerable workers

Pay special attention to workers who are at high risk. These include staff with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, immune suppression, diabetes, older aged workers, and those who are pregnant.

Consider putting in place support for workers who may be suffering from anxiety or stress.

For more information about how to keep your workplace safe from coronavirus and for some very useful resources, visit


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