Sneeze Guards Keep Workers (and Customers) Safe
Sneeze guards can play a significant role in reducing the spread of the virus, making them a key part of the CDC’s safe reopening recommendations. What kinds of sneeze guards are there to work with and how can you safely reopen to the public?
The Impact of Covid-19 on Businesses
To say that the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed our lives is no exaggeration. As the world adapts to new rules and customs for socializing, many are wondering how long these changes will last. Whether this is the new norm remains to be seen.
What does that mean for you as a business owner? How can you reopen your business without putting yourself and your customers at risk?
As we continue to learn more about the Covid-19 virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with state and local governments, have issued guidelines and best practices to help prevent further spread of the virus.
What are Sneeze Guards?
The original version of the sneeze guard was a plastic barrier used to protect food from airborne germs. You would typically find sneeze guards at buffets and in restaurants.
Today’s sneeze guards have found much broader use in the fight to stop the spread of airborne illnesses such as Covid-19. Although initially manufactured using plastic or plexiglass, there are glass versions available.
How Sneeze Guards Protect Your Employees and Customers
Given the name, it is tempting to minimize these as only protection against actual sneezes. However, the scope is so much broader. Remember, Covid-19 is an airborne virus that is spread through droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks.
Thus any form of close contact, even a simple conversation, puts others at risk for contracting the illness.
That is why sneeze guards are so important. Airborne Covid-19 particles can live in the air for up to three hours. Sneeze guards serve as a physical barrier to prevent any new or lingering droplets from spreading to others.
We Are Practicing Social Distancing: Do We Need Sneeze Guards Too?
Social distancing helps, but isn’t enough by itself. As such, the CDC recommends using physical barriers such as face masks and sneeze guards to help minimize the spread of the virus.
Types of Sneeze Guards
Sneeze guards come in a variety of sizes and designs. It is important to select a sneeze guard appropriate for your workplace and the level of contact with customers and among workers. You will also want to consider size, mounting options, and portability requirements.
Countertop sneeze guards are ideal at customer service stations. They mount directly to the counter at each worker’s station to provide a quick and easy barrier.
Larger customer service stations may benefit from one large barrier suspended from the ceiling. The benefit of this approach is there is no need to install individual guards at each station.
Freestanding shields are typically for the counter or table. However, they are not permanently attached. As such, they are ideal for scenarios where portability is important.
CDC Recommendations for Safely Reopening Your Establishment
As many businesses prepare to reopen, there are undoubtedly questions and concerns. The CDC has provided extensive recommendations to help safely reopen businesses.
Implement Preventative Measures
Prevention is critical to minimizing the spread of the virus.
Promote Hand Washing
Encourage regular hand washing practices among employees. Also, provide access to handwashing facilities. If running water and soap are not available, provide an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has 60% alcohol.
Perform Routine Cleaning and Disinfecting
Regularly wash and disinfect all surfaces and workplace equipment using an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)- approved cleaner. Common cleaners may not be effective in killing the virus. As such, it is important to refer to the EPA website for a list of disinfectants that are proven to be effective.
Encourage Employees to Stay Home if They Are Sick or Have Been Exposed to The Virus
Minimize exposure to other workers by encouraging employees to remain home if they are experiencing symptoms. Additionally, workers who have been exposed to the virus should stay home. Though they may not show symptoms, they can still spread the virus to others.
Implement Workplace Controls
According to the Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA), the best way to control a hazard is to systematically remove it from the workplace, rather than relying on workers to reduce their exposure.
As such, the following procedures are recommended:
Install Physical Barriers
Physical barriers, such as sneeze guards, can help prevent the spread of the virus by blocking droplets.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Employees are obligated to provide PPE to workers to perform their workplace duties safely. The type of equipment supplied should correspond to the type of work performed and the worker’s level of contact with other individuals.
Types of equipment to provide include face masks, gowns, gloves, and personal sneeze guards.
Install High-Efficiency Air Filters
Although not a proven solution by itself, high-efficiency air filters can minimize the spread of the virus. High-efficiency air filters can remove airborne particles that may contain the Covid-19 virus.
Install Drive-Through Windows for Customer Service
Minimize employee to customer contact by installing a drive-through window for customer service.
Basic Covid-19 Information
According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread from person to person:
- Between people who are in close contact (within 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. These droplets can land in the nose or mouth of others, which are ultimately inhaled into the lungs.
- Persons are deemed most contagious when they are the sickest.
- It is possible to spread the virus while showing no symptoms of being infected.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. These symptoms can last for up to two weeks.
Given the severity of the illness and the rate at which it spreads, social distancing is going to be the norm for some time. It also means that as the country moves towards reopening the economy, you now have an increased responsibility to protect your workers and your customers.
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