Protecting Grocery Store Workers from Coronavirus
As the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continues to increase, it’s important to know how you can best protect your property, employees, and customers from potential infection. The virus is highly contagious — it is able to linger in the air for up to 3 hours after an infected person coughs; and its presence is seen on some surfaces for up to 17 days after initial contact. Knowing what to do if you think your grocery store has been in contact with an infected person is crucial in curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quick Facts About Coronavirus
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that spreads from person-to-person
- Severe cases can cause pneumonia and/or organ failure
- Main symptoms include fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath
- Its incubation period is about 2 weeks long, meaning it takes 2 weeks for symptoms to show
- Some infected people are asymptomatic, meaning they will not experience symptoms
- People infected by the virus are contagious during the incubation period
- The virus can last up to 3 hours in the air and is found after up to 17 days on surfaces
- There is not yet a vaccine for the virus
- It is far more dangerous than the seasonal flu
What to Do if Your Grocery Store is Infected by Coronavirus
If you find that your grocery store is infected with COVID-19 you should implement the following steps:
- Develop a cleaning plan to implement. Before taking any drastic measures, make sure you have a responsible plan in place.
- Notify corporate office for guidance (if applicable)
- Contact the local health authority (County, city or state Department of Health). They will give requirements and processes for notifying employees.
- Contact Aftermath Services or another qualified Virucidal Remediation firm to provide a thorough disinfection.
While your employees can do the disinfection of the property themselves, there are certain regulatory requirements that must be met in order to be in compliance with OSHA and EPA regulations:
- OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), require training when using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- OSHA has recently issued a pamphlet entitled, Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. This document is a 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.
For additional information, please see our Coronavirus Cleaning service page.
Safety Precautions For Grocery Store Workers
As the COVID-19 situation progresses, make sure to stay up-to-date with the CDC’s advice on safety precautions. Currently, the best ways you and your grocery store workers can combat the spread of infection include:
- Washing your hands frequently.
The virus particle itself is held together by a lipid bilayer that acts as “glue” that holds each part of the virus together. Antibacterial soap and water are very effective at dissolving this bilayer, thus disassembling the virus and making it inactive.
- Disinfecting commonly touched surfaces often.
Use disinfectant wipes to clean door handles, cash registers, conveyor belts, grocery carts, POS systems, and other frequently touched surfaces. Increase cleaning routines.
- Social distancing with floor tape.
The virus’ main mode of transmission is from person-to-person contact and airborne droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. Ensure employees maintain 6 feet away from other people. Install floor tape to enforce social distancing between employees and customers.
- Quarantining if you feel symptoms.
If an employee feels symptoms of COVID-19, require they stay at home for 2 weeks and self-quarantine. If symptoms get worse or if they start severe, call a doctor before going in to get tested. Showing up unannounced can put others at risk.
- Avoiding touching your face.
Although the virus is mainly transmitted through the air, the CDC has said the virus can live on surfaces. If you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus can enter your body.
- Covering coughs and sneezes.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and then wash your clothes/dispose of that tissue. Wash your hands immediately.
- Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Make sure that your grocery store has the necessary PPE to protect employees. Grocery store workers should use disposable examination gloves during each shift and change them often (especially if they come into contact with another person).
- Installing sneeze guards.
Physical barriers like ‘sneeze guards’ are a preventative measure for protecting grocery store workers from the influx of customers at the checkout line. Since the virus spreads via droplets, a barrier if strategically installed can ensure that employees are not coughed or sneezed on.
- Limiting the number of customers entering the store.
Put a cap on the number of customers who can shop inside the store at the same time. Have employees stationed at entrances to control the flow of customers entering the building.
- Encouraging contactless payment.
A great way to reduce contact is to promote curbside grocery pick-up and to encourage contactless payment methods like, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay.
- Temporarily close self-serve areas.
Consider closing salad bars, buffets, and other ready-to-eat or sample offerings in stores to mitigate the risk of infection.
Call in a Professional Commercial Coronavirus Disinfection Service
Aftermath Services has been the nation’s #1 biohazard remediation and virucidal disinfection expert for over 25 years. We practice CDC and OSHA-compliant cleanup protocols and use state-of-the-art chemicals and personal protective equipment (PPE). Attempting to clean after a confirmed coronavirus infection will only put you and those around you at risk by spreading the virus further. A serious threat requires serious safety measures — ones that professional virus remediation experts like Aftermath Services practice with every case. Call 877-769-6917 for immediate assistance.
COVID-19 Resources for Grocery Stores
- National Grocers Association COVID-19 information
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act fact sheet
- Coronavirus response plan template for retailers