Occupational health tool kit:  Personal preventative measures (tip sheet #1)

From: Health Canada

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Organization: Health Canada

Date published: July 2020

For all managers, employees, casual employees, students and contractors in the core public administration of Canada's federal public service

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Stay informed

  • Visit Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and be prepared to follow public health advice.
  • Refer to information from the applicable provincial/territorial and local public health authority.
  • Use the Government of Canada's COVID-19 Symptom Self-Assessment Tool
  • COVID-19 recovery activities will be gradual and phased in order to allow for physical distancing; note that a return to full building/worksite occupancy will not be possible at this time.

Stay home when sick

  • If you have a new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, temperature equal to or over 38°C, feel feverish, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting), are feeling very unwell or are experiencing any other new or worsening symptoms:
    • Stay home, even if you are experiencing mild symptoms. Do not go to your workplace.
    • If you are at your workplace, immediately:
      • Notify your supervisor or most appropriate contact.
      • Self-isolate in a separate space or designated area, if possible, until you are able to go home.
      • Once you have left, notify local public health authorities or your health care provider for further assessment and guidance.
  • Call 9-1-1 or emergency services if symptoms are life threatening.

Maintain good preventive practices at work, at home and in the community

  • Coronaviruses are commonly spread from an infected person, even one with only mild or no symptoms, through respiratory droplets that are generated when they cough or sneeze. Laughing, singing or talking enthusiastically may also generate respiratory droplets. Maintain physical distancing by staying more than 2 metres (6 feet) apart from others as much as possible, as transmission can happen when these droplets land directly on your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash your hands regularly in case you have touched something with the virus on it, then touch your mouth, nose or eyes. Wash for at least 20 seconds, and if soap and warm water are not available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:
    • At the start of work shifts,
    • After touching shared items, such as door handles, elevator buttons, boxes, clipboards, pens, papers, etc.,
    • Before preparing food, eating or drinking,
    • After preparing food and cleaning up after meals,
    • After using the washroom,
    • After using public transit,
    • After using an elevator,
    • Before and after accessing a conference room,
    • After handling garbage,
    • Before leaving your workspace and workplace, and
    • Wash your hands again when you return home.
  • Use good cough and sneeze etiquette (e.g., sneeze and cough into your sleeve, not your hand).
  • If you use a tissue, remember to dispose of it in a plastic lined wastebasket as soon as possible and wash your hands afterwards. Where soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Use alternative forms of greeting someone other than shaking hands (e.g., a head nod or a wave).
  • Focus on using digital documents and avoid sharing paper documents.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly with disinfectant products, such as wipes, at the beginning and end of each day. At work, this could include cleaning your workstation, telephone, computer keyboards, chair armrests, supplies, and any other work equipment or tools.
  • Clean vehicles between users (keys, steering wheel, gearshift, controls, vents, belts, seats, interior and exterior door handles, etc.).

Avoid spreading the virus

  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, are sick, or think you might be sick.
  • Refrain from touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid touching high-touch surfaces and where possible, perform hand hygiene afterwards.
  • Refrain from keeping personal items at your workplace as much as possible.
  • Limit participation in gatherings and keep in-person interactions brief.
  • If you are caring for someone with COVID-19, you should self-isolate. To the extent possible, avoid being in close contact with someone who is in quarantine and/or has or is suspected to have COVID-19.
  • Avoid sharing communication devices, personal protective equipment, non-medical masks/cloth face coverings, cigarettes or vaping equipment.
  • In the workplace, protecting employees and clients starts with physical distancing of 2 metres from others (general public, clients and co-workers) when possible (including during breaks and meals), implementing physical barriers (see Tip Sheet #2), and modifying work flows/processes (see Tip Sheet #3).
  • In some workplaces, it is difficult to consistently maintain a 2-metre distance between colleagues as well as clients. In these cases, employees should discuss with their managers to determine the appropriate steps to take to ensure their health and safety.
  • When all other measures are exhausted, impractical or not feasible, non-medical masks and/or cloth face coverings are an additional measure that can be used to protect others around them.  They are to be worn when physical distancing is not possible or is unpredictable. Benefits of use are greatest when the risk of viral transmission is higher (e.g., local community transmission, busy public settings where you may not be able to control your contacts with others). Benefits are marginal when risk of viral transmission is lower (e.g., limited community transmission, private or work settings where you are able to control physical distancing and limit your contact with others).
    • Recognizing the challenges in maintaining a 2-metre distance at all times, Departments/Agencies will provide non-medical masks and/or cloth face coverings and instructions about their appropriate use and disposal.
    • Note that non-medical masks or cloth face coverings are not personal protective equipment (PPE), as they protect others from infectious droplets and not the wearer.
    • Local public health advice regarding the wearing of non-medical masks or cloth face coverings may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on the local epidemiology.
    • Non-medical masks or cloth face coverings should not be placed on anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance, or young children under 2 years of age.
    • It is important that non-medical masks or cloth face coverings fit well and are worn safely and disposed of correctly.
    • Be sure to read the guidance on how to remove a non-medical mask or cloth face covering as well as cleaning and disposing of them or watch this video.  If employees plan to reuse a non-medical mask or cloth face covering, ensure they temporarily place it in a clean paper bag or envelope between uses during the same work day and until they are able to have it machine-washed in hot water. Non-medical masks that cannot be washed should be discarded and replaced as soon as they get damp, soiled or crumpled. Dispose of masks in a plastic lined garbage bin and do not leave discarded masks elsewhere in the workplace or fleet vehicles.

Seek help if you are struggling

  • Seek medical attention as required.
  • If you are in distress or would like to set up an appointment with a mental health professional, contact your Department or Agency's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for counselling with a mental health professional (also available in most departments and agencies for the immediate family members of employees).
  • If it is an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency department.

Prepared by Health Canada's Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP)

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