Businesses & Coronavirus Disinfection: Frequently Asked Questions

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1. Question:  What do we need to do if we have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a person who either an employee or has visited my facility?

Answer:  We believe that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the authority on responses to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.  Their recommendation is to first remove the infected person from your facility. We recommend that they follow their route of entry on their way out and that you provide them with a surgical-type mask to keep them from spreading the virus through coughing and sneezing.  Next, isolate the areas that the person visited and remove your employees and others from those areas. Call Aftermath and we will discuss the situation with you and help you develop a plan.  

The General Duty Clause of The Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” 29 USC 654(a)(1).

    1. According to an OSHA Letter of Interpretation, employers can be cited for violation of the General Duty Clause if a recognized serious hazard exists in their workplace and the employer does not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard. The General Duty Clause is used only where there is no standard that applies to the particular hazard. The following elements are necessary to prove a violation of the General Duty Clause:
      1. The employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed;
      2. The hazard was recognized;
      3. The hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm; and
      4. There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.
    2. OSHA outlines standards that relate to handling COVID-19 in the workplace.  
    3. If a COVID-19 infected employee comes to work and infects others, this may be a violation of the General Duty Clause that could lead to a violation if the hazard was recognized and not corrected.  Correction would come by quarantine of the infected employee (not allowing him/her to return to work) and a disinfection of the work area.
    4. Additionally, only the flu and common cold infections in the workplace are exempted from OSHA’s Recordkeeping and Reporting requirements.  If an employee is infected by COVID-19 in the workplace, the illness must be recorded on the OSHA 300 Log and if it results in a hospitalization or fatality, it must be reported to OSHA.  In the case of a fatality, OSHA will conduct an investigation and a citation and fine could result if the General Duty Clause was found to be violated.

 

2. Question:  Can we use a room fogger to disinfect SARS-CoV-2?

Answer: While a room fogger may be effective at disinfecting some viruses and bacteria, the CDC currently does not have foggers listed in their disinfection procedure for SARS-CoV-2.  The CDC recommends a two-step process that begins with a cleaning of the surface first, followed by disinfection with an EPA Registered disinfectant with emerging virus kill claims.  

 

3. Question:  How long can the virus survive on a surface?  Can’t I just wait for it to die and avoid cleaning and disinfecting?

Answer: The CDC reports that the virus has been detected in the air for as much as 3 hours after it is aerosolized and up to 17 days on some inanimate surfaces.  Not all surfaces have been tested and it is not yet know how much of the virus material is required to contract COVID-19.  CDC currently does not have enough information about SARS-CoV-2 to be able to make a definitive statement on how long to quarantine an area for it to be reduced to an acceptable risk level.  For these reasons, the cleaning and disinfection processes described by CDC continue to be the recommendation of Aftermath.  

 

4. Question:  Can our own employees do the disinfection of the facility?

Answer: There is no restriction against an employer cleaning and disinfection their own facility; however, there are certain regulatory requirements that must be met in order to be in compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations:

  1. OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), require training when using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
  2. When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).  This includes a written program, respirator fit tests and medical clearance to wear air purifying respirators. NOTE: Facemasks that are worn to protect others from the spread of pathogens and not to protect the wearer do not have the fit test and medical clearance requirements.
  3. OSHA has issued a statement regarding COVID-19 Waste: “…use typical engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE, such as puncture-resistant gloves and face and eye protection, to prevent worker exposure to the waste streams (or types of wastes), including any contaminants in the materials, they manage. Such measures can help protect workers from sharps and other items that can cause injuries or exposures to infectious materials.” Failure to properly manage the waste could lead to cross-contamination and further infection risks.
  4. CDC says that most household disinfectants are effective at reducing the risk of infection, but it is important to use only disinfectants that are registered with the EPA.  Specifically, those that have emerging virus claims offer the best protection against SARS-CoV-2 pathogens.
  5. OSHA has recently issued a pamphlet entitled, Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. This document is valuable source of information for employers who want to address the COVID-19 situation.  It will help identify at risk employees and provide risk mitigation strategies to employ.

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