COVID-19 pandemic won’t stop some people from going to work sick, survey shows

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London — Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 1 out of 14 workers say they’d go to work even if they feel sick and regardless of how severe their symptoms are, results of a recent survey show.

Commissioned by Thermalcheck, a manufacturer of no-contact temperature check stations, marketing research company One Poll surveyed 2,000 U.S. workers to learn how they’d handle their health when returning to the workplace during and after the pandemic. Nearly half said they feel pressure from their boss to go to work when sick. Feeling guilty was the leading motivator to work while sick.

Other findings:

  • 33% of the respondents said they’d keep working with cold or flu symptoms because they’d miss their colleagues, along with office banter and gossip.
  • More than one-third said they don’t usually consider their co-workers’ health when deciding to go to work when feeling ill.
  • A stomachache wouldn’t stop 52% of the respondents from reporting to work, while 40% said the same about a bad cough. Thirty-three percent said chest tightness wouldn’t keep them home.
  • 40% believe they’ve passed an illness to a co-worker as a consequence of trying to be viewed as a hard worker.

“Despite the pandemic and the advice to avoid others if you feel unwell, there are still a large number of workers who will feel they need to go into the workplace,” a Thermalcheck spokesman said in a statement. “This approach to working while unwell needs to change and employers need to ensure the safety of their workforce.”

‘Which Mask for Which Task?’: Washington L&I offers guidance for employers

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Photo: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

Tumwater, WA — New guidance from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is intended to help employers select the proper masks or facial coverings for workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under state safety and health requirements that went into effect June 8, workers – with some exceptions – must wear some type of facial covering to help prevent the spread of the disease. Employers must provide workers with the masks at no charge, or employees can supply their own as long as they meet state requirements.

Which Mask for Which Task? details the use of masks or, in some cases, respirators based on the job-related risk, from negligible to extremely high. The guidance also lays out the minimum level of facial coverings required if no other feasible measures can mitigate spread of the disease.

For example, small landscaping crews, a crane operator who is in an enclosed cab and delivery drivers who have no face-to-face interaction with customers are considered at negligible risk. Meanwhile, emergency medical technicians, occupational or physical therapists, and workers in long-term care facilities are categorized as extremely high risk.

For each level of risk, a photo of the appropriate facial covering, mask or respirator is included.

“We know that choosing the correct face covering, mask or respirator can be confusing,” Washington L&I Assistant Director Anne Soiza said in a June 5 press release. “It’s a new experience for most employers and people on the job. This guidance should help employers and workers understand the risk level for various tasks, and make the right choice to protect workers from the coronavirus.”

COVID-19 pandemic: OSHA answers FAQs on wearing masks at work

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Washington — New guidance from OSHA answers six frequently asked questions regarding the use of masks in the workplace during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the agency’s answers is an explanation of the key differences between cloth facial coverings, surgical masks and respirators. Other topics include whether employers are required to provide masks, the continued need to follow physical distancing guidelines when wearing masks and how workers can keep cloth masks clean.

“As our economy reopens for business, millions of Americans will be wearing masks in their workplace for the first time,” acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt said in a June 10 press release. “OSHA is ready to help workers and employers understand how to properly use masks so they can stay safe and healthy in the workplace.”

The agency reminds employers not to use surgical masks or cloth facial coverings for work that requires a respirator.

‘Extremely hazardous’: Alert warns against using ethylene oxide to sterilize masks, respirators

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Tumwater, WA — Ethylene oxide should not be used to sterilize filtering facepiece respirators for reuse because “this extremely hazardous toxic chemical poses a severe risk to human health,” the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries warns in a new alert.

Citing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington L&I cautions health care employers and other who sterilize respirators for reuse that ethylene oxide is a carcinogen that “has been linked to neurologic dysfunction and may cause other harmful effects” to the eyes, lungs, brain and nervous system. Further, prolonged exposure could lead to increased risk of reproductive issues and some cancers.

Washington L&I notes that ethylene oxide sterilization systems have not been approved by federal OSHA for personal protective equipment, and evidence suggests using one could result in off-gassing of ethylene oxide in the wearer’s breathing zone.

Although hospitals and clinics are required to use their ethylene oxide sterilizer systems for their intended and manufacturer-approved purposes, they “must NOT be used to sterilize masks, respirators, PPE or items worn by humans,” the alert states.

A shortage of N95 and other filtering facepiece respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic has led some health care facilities to sterilize PPE so it can be reused. In April, the National Institutes of Health recommended three effective methods for sanitizing N95 respirators for limited reuse: vaporized hydrogen peroxide, 70° C dry heat and ultraviolet light.

PPE users should refer to the CDC guidance on optimizing N95 respirator supplies and the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorizations regarding PPE for COVID-19, the alert adds.

Aerosol transmission of COVID-19 can exceed 6 feet, shoes can spread coronavirus on floors: study

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Wuhan, China — SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can be transmitted through the air beyond 6 feet and tracked across floors, results of a recent study conducted by researchers in China show.

The researchers collected swab samples from potentially contaminated objects in an intensive care unit and a general ward at Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan from Feb. 19 to March 2. The objects included floors, computer mice, trash cans, bed handrails, patient masks and personal protective equipment; indoor air and air outlets also were sampled. The ICU contained 15 patients with severe COVID-19, while the general ward had 24 patients with “milder disease.”

SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the air as much as 13 feet from the patients – more than twice the 6 feet distance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for adequate physical distancing. Further, medical staff tracked the virus on the floor, as indicated by a 100% positive rate in a pharmacy where no patients were allowed.

“We highly recommend that persons disinfect shoe soles before walking out of wards containing COVID-19 patients,” the researchers said, adding that the rate of positivity was also “relatively high” on objects frequently touched by medical staff, including computer mice, trash cans, bed handrails and doorknobs.

“Sporadic positive results were obtained from sleeve cuffs and gloves of medical staff,” the study states. “These results suggest that medical staff should perform hand hygiene practices immediately after patient contact.”

Disinfecting patient masks before discarding them also is recommended.

The study was published online April 10 in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.