Coronavirus Prevention: Protecting Service Workers

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way we work. Service workers who enter homes and buildings to install or repair systems and equipment are particularly vulnerable to exposure. How do you protect your workforce? The following tips are drawn from guidelines and recommendations developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Evaluate the risks

Assess the hazards to which workers may be exposed. Evaluate the risk of exposure and implement controls to keep workers safe. Here are some examples of service worker tasks associated with exposure risk levels:

  • Low — low-volume office buildings or industrial spaces not typically occupied by the general public
  • Medium — areas frequently occupied by staff or members of the general public, such as retail or lodging facilities
  • High — areas with potentially infectious materials or people known or suspected to have COVID-19, such as hospitals or medical offices.

Various combinations of safe work practices, training and personal protective equipment (PPE) may be needed, depending on the risk of exposure.

Implement safe work practices

Safe work practices are important in all situations. These tips can help reduce the risk of exposure to infectious diseases, such as COVID-19:

  • Check worker temperature and general health before they arrive at the job site.
  • Equip workers with gloves and provide disinfectants and sanitizers that workers can use to wipe surfaces or equipment that they touch.
  • Workers should avoid touching their faces until after they have thoroughly washed their hands upon completing work or removing PPE.
  • Workers should avoid shaking hands with building occupants.
  • Permit workers to stop work and leave unsafe environments, especially if they cannot maintain a safe social distance from building occupants or the general public.

Provide protective equipment

Most service workers are unlikely to require PPE beyond what they normally use to protect themselves on the job. However, after evaluating the risk of exposure associated with specific job sites, you may conclude that additional protective measures are needed.

When other safety practices are not sufficient to protect workers, equipment those who must enter potentially hazardous areas with adequate supplies of PPE. Protective ensembles may include gloves, eye protection and face masks. In some situations, plastic sheeting or other dividers may be necessary to shield workers from other building occupants.

Train your staff

Give your employees the information they need to protect themselves. Educate service workers on:

  • The signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and an explanation of how the disease is spread.
  • Information on appropriate social distancing and personal hygiene practices, including: maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others, appropriate hand hygiene, the proper way to cover coughs and sneezes and alternatives to shaking hands for greeting others.
  • The proper use, limitations, handling, removal, and disposal of any PPE being used.

See COVID-19 Control and Prevention from OSHA for more information about how protect your staff.