First, the toilet paper and hand sanitizer aisles were bare. Now your boss gave you instructions to work from home, your kids’ are home from school and you can’t go out for dinner, to a movie or the mall. While it may feel extreme, these steps are being taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In doing so, you’re participating in a public health strategy known as social distancing.
So you should stay at least 6 to 10 feet from anyone except your immediate family. The goal of social distancing is to reduce exposure to large crowds, like ones you’ll find at concerts, crowded bars or schools.
What is social distancing?
Social distancing is a public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. It can include large-scale measures like cancelling group events or closing public spaces, as well as individual decisions such as avoiding crowds. Social distancing is a non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention implemented to avoid/decrease contact between those who are infected with a disease causing pathogen and those who are not, so as to stop or slow down the rate and extent of disease transmission in a community. This eventually leads to decrease in spread, morbidity and mortality due to the disease
Social distancing is one of the community mitigation measures that may be recommended during influenza pandemics. Social distancing can reduce virus transmission by increasing physical distance or reducing frequency of congregation in socially dense community settings, such as schools or workplaces. We conducted a systematic review to assess the evidence that social distancing in non-healthcare workplaces reduces or slows influenza transmission.
Electronic searches were conducted using MEDLINE, Embase, Scopus, Cochrane Library, PsycINFO, CINAHL, NIOSHTIC-2, and EconLit to identify studies published in English from January 1, 2000, through May 3, 2017. Data extraction was done by two reviewers independently. A narrative synthesis was performed.
Fifteen studies, representing 12 modelling and three epidemiological, met the eligibility criteria. The epidemiological studies showed that social distancing was associated with a reduction in influenza-like illness and seroconversion to 2009 influenza A (H1N1). However, the overall risk of bias in the epidemiological studies was serious. The modelling studies estimated that workplace social distancing measures alone produced a median reduction of 23% in the cumulative influenza attack rate in the general population. It also delayed and reduced the peak influenza attack rate. The reduction in the cumulative attack rate was more pronounced when workplace social distancing was combined with other nonpharmaceutical or pharmaceutical interventions. However, the effectiveness was estimated to decline with higher basic reproduction number values, delayed triggering of workplace social distancing, or lower compliance.
How do I practice social distancing?
The CDC defines social distancing as it applies to COVID-19 as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”
This means “no hugs, no handshakes.”
It’s particularly important—and perhaps obvious—to maintain that same 6-foot distance from anyone who is demonstrating signs of illness, including coughing, sneezing, or fever.
Along with physical distance, proper hand-washing is important for protecting not only yourself but others around you—because the virus can be spread even without symptoms.
It is recommended to wash hands any time you enter from outdoors to indoors, before you eat, and before you spend time with people who are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, including older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions.
On the broader scale, a number of actions taken in recent days are designed to encourage social distancing, including:
- Schools, colleges, and universities suspending in-person classes and converting to remote online instruction
- Cities cancelling events, including sporting events, festivals, and parades
- Workplaces encouraging or mandating flexible work options, including telecommuting
- Organizations and businesses cancelling large gatherings, including conferences
- Houses of worship suspending services
Business continuity planning
A business continuity plan is a logistical plan that details how an organization will recover interrupted critical business functions after a disaster or disruption has occurred. Employers should take actions to review existing business continuity plans currently in place to ensure that the plans will work in the event of an epidemic. If no business continuity plan exists, employers should begin to develop a plan for a worst-case scenario that may occur during a pandemic. See, where can I find a business continuity plan template?
Senior managers should be continuously committed to emergency preparedness and business continuity planning. It is important to enlist companywide, top-down support. A crisis such as a flu pandemic can precipitate confusion, and even panic, among employees—and even senior managers. Armed with a business continuity plan, executives can respond in an orderly, rational way. A business continuity plan allows decisions to be made along predetermined guidelines. Resources can be pre-placed to deal with the possible threat. If one can predict a threat, one can predict a response to the threat. By planning ahead, employers may be able to avoid having to make devastating public apologies.
The first step in business continuity planning is the creation of a business continuity team. The team should have a leader who has education or experience in disaster planning and emergency preparedness. This is likely to be the head of security or a health and safety officer. Once the team is established, it should set priorities and develop a plan for each priority.
A plan should not undergo its first test during a crisis. No matter how carefully crafted it is, the plan will probably reveal deficiencies during practice. A rehearsal will provide employees with valuable training. Simulated exercises may be used to test parts of the plan so that the entire organization does not need to be disrupted. The critical point is that employees know their role in crisis response and that they are proficient in the execution of their responsibilities.
Planning for health-related emergencies
Employers should prepare for the possibility that a large portion of their workforce will be unable to work during the flu season. See How to Handle Communicable Diseases in the Workplace.
The business continuity plan’s focus should be the solution to this problem. Questions the plan should answer include:
How many absences can we handle before business operations are interrupted?
How do we keep operations running during an interruption?
What changes can we make to keep the business operating effectively?
Employers will likely need to review, modify or even create policies when planning for an epidemic. The changes, and the duration of the changes, will need to be communicated. In some instances, a policy change may only be temporary, which the employer should communicate as well.
Labour relations considerations
Employers operating in a unionized work environment have additional concerns regarding epidemic planning. During the business continuity planning process, unionized employers should closely review their collective bargaining agreements to determine whether special provisions have been made in the event of a disruption of business operations. For example, some agreements may have provisions that provide paid time off to union workers in the event of an emergency when employees are prohibited from reporting to work. Organizations should take such special considerations into account when developing a plan.
Implementing Preventive Measures
An employer does not have to wait for disaster to strike before putting a plan into action. A positive aspect of influenza epidemic planning is that an employer can use a number of preventive measures to limit the effect of the illness on the workplace. Unlike other types of disasters, an employer has a certain degree of control over how the influenza virus will affect its workforce. The CDC’s Information for Business & Employers for many helpful free resources.
Commonly used preventive measures
Many of the most commonly suggested preventive measures are inexpensive and easy to obtain. They include providing tissues and hand sanitizers to employees. Employers can educate employees on proper ways of washing hands and what to do if flu-like symptoms develop. Communication on these precautions should occur frequently with employees, and employers should hang posters in bathrooms and eating areas on the proper way to stop the spread of germs. Depending on the industry and employee’s proximity to others, an employer may also wish to provide respirators or masks to employees in the workplace to further hinder the spread of airborne germs. See, CDC Print Materials: Flu Posters and Infectious Disease Control Policy. Employers may also wish to add free CDC Flu content directly to their intranet for employee use.
The CDC also has COVID-19 coronavirus specific information and posters.
Steps Every Employer Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Exposure to Pandemic Influenza in Their Workplace
The best strategy to reduce the risk of becoming infected with influenza during a pandemic is to avoid crowded settings and other situations that increase the risk of exposure to someone who may be infected. If it is absolutely necessary to be in a crowded setting, the time spent in a crowd should be as short as possible. Some basic hygiene and social distancing precautions that can be implemented in every workplace include the following:
- Encourage sick employees to stay at home.
- Encourage your employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, encourage your employees to avoid touching their noses, mouths, and eyes.
- Encourage your employees to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeves if tissues are not available. All employees should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after they cough, sneeze or blow their noses.
- Employees should avoid close contact with their co-workers and customers (maintain a separation of at least 6 feet). They should avoid shaking hands and always wash their hands after contact with others. Even if employees wear gloves, they should wash their hands upon removal of the gloves in case their hand(s) became contaminated during the removal process.
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles, and with a place to wash or disinfect their hands.
- Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean. Be sure that any cleaner used is safe and will not harm your employees or your office equipment. Use only disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow all directions and safety precautions indicated on the label.
- Discourage your employees from using other employees’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment.
- Minimize situations where groups of people are crowded together, such as in a meeting. Use e-mail, phones and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 feet, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
- Reducing or eliminating unnecessary social interactions can be very effective in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Reconsider all situations that permit or require employees, customers, and visitors (including family members) to enter the workplace. Workplaces which permit family visitors on site should consider restricting/eliminating that option during an influenza pandemic. Work sites with on-site day care should consider in advance whether these facilities will remain open or will be closed, and the impact of such decisions on employees and the business.
- Promote healthy lifestyles, including good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person’s overall health impacts their body’s immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease.
This article was brought to you by Safe Space. Safespace is itself a provider a safety technologies and provides related services as required by its customers.
SafeSpace: A Safety System that Qualifies, Secures and Monitors travellers for Zero Contagion during Travel and beyond. It believes that there are 4 key was in which social distancing can be made a success or followed. They are as follows:
- Design the space for movement
- Control the speed of flow
- Qualify what is flowing in
- Finally Distance everything in closed space tightly
SafeSpace also believes that there are few solutions from which we can manage people’s movement in public place such as:
- Sanitization Management
- Queuing and Flow Management
- Limiting Counter
- Access and Entry Management
And for this purpose i.e. social distancing SafeSplace is also providing few products which would help people for the same.
- Counter System
- Cono Wearable System
- Smart Mirror Services
- ML Omnicloud
- Corerock admin platform
- Cono User App
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