Quarantine blues: workplace safety and PPE in a COVID-19 world

Work makes the world go ‘round, and in today’s pandemic climate, the statement rings especially true. Frontline staff at hospitals, pharmacies, and utility providers put their lives on the line to make sure our society makes it through the everyday challenge of COVID-19’s new normal. The rhetoric about waging a war against an unseen enemy is strong, but also illustrates an important point– you can’t go to war without the right equipment. Instead of guns and armor, we’re going to win this with disinfectant and personal protective equipment.


As with all measured responses, we’re going to need to base our ideas on the actual circumstances essential that workers experience. How much foot traffic will they have to deal with, despite social distancing measures? Are they dealing with regular people, or will they be working with higher risk demographics? All the way down to how their work has them use their hands to accomplish tasks, these factors come together and outline each worker’s protective needs.


While there’s lots we could do to try and keep safe, there are still practical limits to the extent that individuals could contribute to their own safety. Workplaces and governing bodies also need to meet the workforce where they are with proper policy support when and where they need it. This will vary wildly depending on where you’re from, but it’s important for business owners and employees to stay on top of enforcement– and demand for legislation where none exists.

Institutional support

Workplaces must always be, by whatever means, safe for the people who work there. Luckily, institutions and regulatory bodies like OSHA have mandated PPE legislation for anyone working dangerous jobs. At a time like this, the agency has the power to push for compliance, and has been providing guidelines for hazard recognition among other things. If you’re looking to help get your company on board with safer working practices, OSHA can be that little extra nudge needed to equip everyone with appropriate gear.


Safety at work

As workers, we’re accountable not only to our bosses, but our co-workers and the general public we serve. It’s on all of us to adopt and enforce the necessary guidelines to ensure the pandemic doesn’t spread any further than it could. Adopting processes like staff showers and regular disinfection on top of social distancing and mandatory PPE use is something we could do from all across our own organizations. Other measures like hands-free sanitizer stations and plexiglass barriers on tables or other high-contact services are also great practices to adopt. Teamwork makes the dream work, and strong policy positions on workplace safety benefit everyone.


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