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How to keep yourself safe from Coronavirus at work

Coronavirus

While Coronavirus (or COVID-19) makes its way across the world, you can keep the germs far away and the panic at bay with these simple office hygiene tips and tricks.
Coronavirus is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that’s slowly spreading across the globe. Scientists estimate that it is almost twice as infectious as the flu which has caused worldwide panic and a sharp rise in toilet paper sales across Australia. Symptoms for the virus can be as mild as a cough, but for the elderly, those with health issues and those over 40, Coronavirus proving dangerous and sometimes deadly.

How is Coronavirus spread?

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that Coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs or exhales, releasing droplets of infected fluid and spreading up to a metre away. If you have an infected colleague in the office these infectious droplets could land on people, desks, tables, doorknobs or telephones up to a metre away. Meaning, if you touch these surfaces then touch your eyes, nose or mouth (or they hit you directly), you may catch the virus.

The rules to stay virus free have not changed

To avoid Coronavirus, you’re looking to keep all your healthy habits going – or if they are on your eternal ‘to-do’ list, now is the time to practice what you’ve heard preached. This means:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and regularly as this will help wash virus germs away. You can use an alcohol-based hand wash, although soap, water and a good 30 second scrub will do just fine.
  • Cough into your elbow or a tissue – it’s good manners and stops you passing around germs in general.
  • If you are unwell, especially if you have a fever, stay at home. If you’re not convinced the wheels will turn without you, talk to your employer about what you can do from home.

Here are a few extra steps to help contain Corona-outbreaks

  • As the virus is easily spread through contact, it’s not a bad idea to step back from the social air kissing, hugs and even the handshakes around the office.
  • Leave your face alone. If you touch your face a lot – as many of us do without realising it, you are running the risk of transferring germs from your hands to your face. Not convinced? Person A has the Coronavirus – or even just a cold you don’t want, and they wash their hands before leaving the bathroom. They cough into their hands as they reach the door, transferring droplets. You leave right behind them having washed your hands – but alas, you’ve touched that same door handle. If you now put your hands to your face, you could be spreading those tasty germs around like jam.
  • Along a similar vein, without becoming ‘that person’, give any communal cups, cutlery or crockery a thorough wash before using and wash your hands after using shared spaces or attending meetings. Defend your stationary like your germ-free life depends on it. In a HR happy way of course.

What can employers do to help?

If you are an employer, or you would like a handy list of ideas for your employer, there are simple steps that come recommended by WHO (they note these things should be done ASAP, not just because the virus comes a-calling in your area):

  • Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly.
  • Provide plenty of sanitising hand rub dispensers in prominent places and hit up your Health Department website or office for hand washing posters and ensure. Also ensure staff have access to places to wash their hands.
  • Ask for some posters from your Health Department promoting other healthy workplace hygiene practices. Support these with a timely e-mail reminding people to keep up the hand-washing, stay at home when unwell, cover their mouth when coughing (and washing their hands if they cough into them.)
  • Ensure that face masks and / or paper tissues are available at your workplaces in case anyone develops a cough or starts sneezing at work (do note that widespread use of masks has not been deemed necessary.) Don’t forget closed topped bins for their disposal!
  • Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips.
  • Stay alert to current information about the spread of the disease – especially if travel is widespread in your company. Liaise with HR about creating a travel advice directive and policy for all staff.