The CDC Announced Recommendations for Office Buildings and COVID-19
Workers in office buildings may be at risk for exposure to COVID-19, so ensuring that the building is safe and prepared for in-person work is crucial for the safety of employees. See what the CDC recommends for your office building.
Office building employers, building owners and managers, and building operations specialists can take steps to create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients. First, the CDC’s office buildings recommendations page suggests by starting with the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers.
Before Resuming Business Operations
There are many controls you need to ensure before you can invite your employees back to the office space. You should:
- Ensure that ventilation systems in your facility operate properly. For building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC systems) that have been shut down or on setback, review new construction start-up guidance provided in ASHRAE Standard 180-2018, Standard Practice for the Inspection and Maintenance of Commercial Building HVAC Systems.
- Increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, and other methods. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk for current or subsequent occupants, including children (e.g., allowing outdoor environmental contaminants including carbon monoxide, molds, or pollens into the building).
- Evaluate the building and its mechanical and life safety systems to determine if the building is ready for occupancy. Check for hazards associated with prolonged facility shutdown such as mold growth, rodents or pests, or issues with stagnant water systems, and take appropriate remedial actions.
- Conduct a thorough hazard assessment of the workplace to identify potential workplace hazards that could increase risks for COVID-19 transmission
- Identify work and common areas where employees could have close contact (within 6 feet) with others—for example meeting rooms, break rooms, the cafeteria, locker rooms, check-in areas, waiting areas, and routes of entry and exit.
- Include all employees in the workplace in communication plans—for example management, staff, utility employees, relief employees, janitorial staff, maintenance staff, and supervisory staff.
- If contractors are employed in the workplace, develop plans to communicate with the contracting company regarding modifications to work processes and requirements for the contractors to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
When Employees Do Come to Work
- Social distancing will still be important even after employees start returning to work. Modify or adjust seats, furniture, and workstations to maintain social distancing of 6 feet between employees.
- Install transparent shields or other physical barriers where possible to separate employees and visitors where social distancing is not an option.
- Arrange reception or other communal seating area chairs by turning, draping (covering chair with tape or fabric so seats cannot be used), spacing, or removing chairs to maintain social distancing.
- Use methods to physically separate employees in all areas of the facilities including work areas and other areas such as meeting rooms, break rooms, parking lots, entrance and exit areas, and locker rooms.
- Use signs, tape marks, or other visual cues such as decals or colored tape on the floor, placed 6 feet apart, to indicate where to stand when physical barriers are not possible.
- Replace high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks, with alternatives such as pre-packaged, single-serving items.
The CDC page offers much more information on how to mitigate other risks and situations such as: monitoring employee symptoms and sickness, addressing employees who ride on public transportation, staggering shift and break times, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces frequently.
There are many other places to get credible and helpful information for your workplaces. These include resources from the CDC, NIOSH, OSHA and the AIHA.