With any pandemic, it is important for cities and towns to help mitigate the spread of the pandemic among employees while also establishing a continuity of operations to help ensure delivery of critical services such as police, fire and public works.
To support continuity of operations, a municipality should
- identify a pandemic response team and succession plans;
- determine critical functions and decide whether any of those can be performed remotely;
- determine backup plans for critical functions, including cross training staff and identifying contract labor;
- identify technology issues with remote work and assess employees' home computer and access capabilities;
- purchase preventative supplies such as gloves, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer;
- maintain a list of home and cell phone numbers for staff and identify key staff to contact to assign duties, approve leave, and hire temporary employees as needed; and
- communicate information to employees to assist them in protecting themselves and their families.
Consider using mandatory preventative measures to help prevent the spread:
- Limit in person meetings and practice staying three to six feet apart.
- Remind employees of proper cough etiquette and other behaviors that will reduce the risk of infection.
- Avoid handshakes and touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Cancel noncritical employee travel.
- Plan for the possibility of canceling city events and/or services.
- Establish flexible work schedules or telecommuting practices.
- Use disinfectants to wipe down work surfaces.
- Implement extended handwashing (20 seconds with soap or water), or hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) when soap and water are not available.
First responders, such as police officers and firefighters, should continue to follow applicable Occupational Health and Safety Administration standards, such as Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030), Personal Protective Equipment (29 CFR 1910.132), and Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134). See OSHA Standards for more requirements.
According to OSHA Control and Prevention: "Coronaviruses are susceptible to the same disinfection conditions in the healthcare setting as other viruses, so current disinfection conditions in wastewater treatment facilities is expected to be sufficient."
OSHA further notes that "there is no evidence to suggest that additional, COVID-19-specific protections are needed for employees involved in wastewater management operations, including those at wastewater treatment facilities. Wastewater treatment plant operations should ensure workers follow routine practices to prevent exposure to wastewater, including using the engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE normally required for work tasks when handling untreated wastewater."
While managing the new coronavirus pandemic will be a challenge, advance planning will increase the likelihood that your organization will be able to continue providing the critical services needed to see your employees and citizens through the crisis. Continue to monitor the Municipal Association of SC website for additional coronavirus resources as they become available.