What Airport Custodial Staff Need to Know about COVID-19
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms often include a fever, cough or shortness of breath. Our understanding of how the virus spreads is evolving as we learn more about it, so check the CDC website for the latest information. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person:
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
Recent studies indicate that the virus can be spread by people before they develop symptoms (pre-symptomatic) or who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic). It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19.
CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. Cloth face coverings may prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from transmitting it to others. These face coverings are not surgical masks or respirators and are not appropriate substitutes for them in workplaces where masks or respirators are recommended or required.
As airport custodial staff, how can I protect myself?
As an airport custodial staff, while the general risk remains low, potential sources of exposure could include handling solid waste or cleaning public facilities (such as waste bins, tables, chairs, basins, toilets) with which a person with COVID-19 has interacted or by touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
- Wear disposable gloves during such custodial job duties. Carefully remove and discard gloves after use, and immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
- Practice routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces (such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, faucets) throughout the day. Follow the directions on the cleaning product’s label.
- Limit close contact with others by maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet, when possible.
- Conduct routine laundering of work clothes/uniform.
- Proper hand hygiene is an important infection control measure. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Key times to clean hands in general include:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- After using the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Additional times to clean hands on the job include:
- Before and after work shifts
- Before and after work breaks
- After completing custodial tasks and removing gloves
- After putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Your employer should develop a COVID-19 health and safety plan to protect employees. This plan should be shared with you and your coworkers. Your employer should:
- Take steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 if an employee is sick. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Sick employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.
- Provide information on who to contact if employees become sick.
- Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices. Consider drafting non-punitive emergency sick leave policies if sick leave is not offered to some or all employees.
- Designate someone to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. Employees should know who this person is and how to contact them.
- Provide employees with accurate information about COVID-19, how it spreads, and risk of exposure.
- Provide training on proper hand washing practices and other routine infection control precautions. This will help prevent the spread of many diseases, including COVID-19.
- Provide employees with access to soap, clean running water, and drying materials or alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol at their worksite.
- Provide employees with appropriate gloves when necessary and providing training on properly using them.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- Conduct frequent cleaning of employee break rooms, rest areas, and other common areas.
- Provide appropriate cleaning and disinfectant products. For disinfection, use products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2external icon, diluted household bleach solutions, or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and are appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s directions for use.
- Develop policies for worker protection and training according to OSHA standards for workers, particularly if new disinfection chemicals are introduced in the workplace for workers to use.
- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands often at the entrance to the workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Follow all applicable federal regulations and public health agency guidelines.
Where can I get more information?
Stay informed. Talk to your employer, supervisor, union representative, or airport personnel who are responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. See these sources for more information on reducing the risk of worker exposures to COVID-19:
- CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website
- NIOSH Workplace Safety and Health Topic website
- CDC COVID-19 website
- OSHA COVID-19 websiteexternal icon
- CDCINFO: 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) | TTY: 1-888-232-6348 | website: cdc.gov/info