For months, we’ve known that COVID-19 respiratory droplets can travel up to six feet, and that’s why we keep a physical distance of six feet from each other. Health experts also have recommended limiting contact with others to less than 15 consecutive minutes to avoid the transmission of the coronavirus.
But now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is updating that guidance.
The federal agency is cautioning that respiratory droplets, which spread when someone with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, talks or breathes, can be transmitted beyond six feet in certain indoor environments. According to the CDC, these small droplets and particles can linger in the air for minutes to hours, and they can infect people even after the individual with COVID has left the space.
The CDC has updated its definition of “close contact” to mean contact within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. That means a person with COVID could infect somebody else if they are in contact for just a few minutes at a time over a day for a total of at least 15 minutes.
For worksites, these new recommendations mean managers and supervisors will need to take another look at the safety measures in place to ensure they’re doing all they can to keep workers safe. Here’s what you can do to shore up worksite safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many workers have long donned personal protective equipment — from face masks to safety glasses — to keep themselves safe as they work around harmful materials. Now they need them to protect against COVID-19 too.
Face masks are proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends their use, along with other personal protective equipment, on site. PPE ensembles, OSHA says, also can include gloves, eye protection or face shields.
The federal agency notes that it may be impractical for some workers to wear a single mask during an entire day because of the nature of their work. The mask might get dirty, sweaty or otherwise contaminated. Employers should provide clean cloth face masks or disposable options for workers to replace coverings that might need to be removed during the course of the day.
To limit the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends that we stay at least six feet away from others when possible. Now we also need to be mindful that, according to the new guidance, aerosol droplets could spread the illness farther than six feet from an infected person.
Keeping others at an arm’s length or farther is tricky on a worksite where some tasks require people to work together in tight quarters. That’s another reason why face coverings and PPE are so important. But it also means we need to continue to be mindful of our physical distance from others, including on elevators and in trailers, vehicles and other spaces where workers may congregate. The CDC recommends limiting the number of people in those spaces at any given time.
Solutions like Proximity Trace are designed to alert workers when they are too close to another worker. While we target a 6-foot distance for this alert, in order to adapt to the latest CDC guidelines we have the ability to dial-in to a client-designated distance threshold.
When an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, robust contact tracing is critical to identify individuals who may have come into contact with them, so you can ensure that the virus doesn’t quickly spread across your team. That could lead to serious health impacts for your workers and potentially halt work altogether.
Contact tracing starts with being able to quickly and easily identify all close contact interactions of an infected worker over a period of time. Having a way to automatically log these interactions is crucial to mitigating the spread of exposure and the risk of having to close down a worksite. To further ease the process, the CDC also recommends that employers establish a COVID-19 coordinator or team, create a response plan and be ready to quickly provide the necessary information and records to the health department.
Need help encouraging your workers to keep a social distance? Wondering how you’d ever conduct contact tracing after an employee tests positive for COVID-19?
Triax’s Proximity Trace solution alerts workers when they get too close together. It also collects information about worker interactions, including how long they were together, and has the ability to show aggregated durations over a 24-hour period. As the CDC redefines what “close contact” is, Proximity Trace’s ability to track worker interactions over 24 hours can speed up contact tracing if someone tests positive and allows for quick action to ensure the illness doesn’t spread among your workforce.
Learn more about how Proximity Trace can help keep your worksite safe and productive be downloading the factsheet below.