These guidelines are meant to guide the food and beverage industry.
This information is based on currently available scientific evidence and expert opinion and is subject to change as new information becomes available. It should be read in conjunction with relevant national legislation, regulations, and policies. This document has been adapted for the Caribbean situation, and therefore may differ from guidance developed by other agencies.
This guidance serves as a minimum standard that should be adhered to by the relevant parties. At all times individuals are to adhere to the current Covid-19 Regulations and the National Policy on the Use of Antigen-Detecting Rapid Diagnostic Tests (“Lateral Flow Tests”).
This guidance covers:
- How a COVID-19 outbreak could affect workplaces
- How can management reduce risks for workers?
- How can workers prepare for COVID-19?
- What if a person with COVID-19 visits your business?
You can also download the full guidance here:
How a COVID-19 Outbreak Could Affect Workplaces
Similar to influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) has the potential to cause extensive outbreaks. Under conditions associated with widespread person-to-person spread, multiple areas may see impacts at the same time. As a result, workplaces may experience:
- Absenteeism: Workers could be absent because they are sick; are caregivers for sick family members; are caregivers for children if schools or daycare centres are closed; have at-risk people at home, such as immunocompromised family members; or are afraid to come to work because of fear of possible exposure.
- Change in patterns of commerce: Consumers may change shopping patterns because of a COVID-19 outbreak. Consumers may try to shop at off-peak hours to reduce contact with other people, show increased interest in-home delivery services, or prefer other options, such as drive-through service, to reduce person-to-person contact.
- Interrupted supply/delivery: Shipments of items from geographic areas severely affected by COVID-19 may be delayed or cancelled with or without notification.
How can Management Reduce Risks for Workers?
Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
If one does not already exist, develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19. Stay abreast of guidance from the government and their public health department, and consider how to incorporate those recommendations and resources into workplace-specific plans.
Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites. Such considerations may include:
- Where, how, and to what sources of COVID-19 might workers be exposed, including:
- the general public
- sick individuals or those at particularly high-risk of infection
- Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
- Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., older age; the presence of chronic medical conditions, including immunocompromising conditions; pregnancy).
- Controls necessary to address those risks. Follow government recommendations regarding the development of contingency plans for situations that may arise as a result of outbreaks, such as:
- Increased rates of worker absenteeism.
- The need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsizing operations, delivering services remotely, and other exposure-reducing measures.
- Options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross-training workers across different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge services.
- Interrupted supply chains or delayed deliveries.
Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures
For most employers, protecting workers will depend on emphasising basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including:
- Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing between 60% and 80% ethanol or isopropanol.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others as recommended by government social distancing strategies.
- Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment.
Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People (if appropriate)
- Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and others at a worksite.
- Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.
- Employers should develop policies and procedures for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
- Where appropriate, employers should develop policies and procedures for immediately isolating people who have signs and/or symptoms of COVID-19 and train workers to implement them:
- Move potentially infectious people to a location away from workers, customers, and other visitors. Although most worksites do not have specific isolation rooms, designated areas with closable doors may serve as isolation rooms until potentially sick people can be removed from the worksite:
- Take steps to limit the spread of the respiratory secretions of a person who may have signs and/or symptoms of COVID-19. Provide a face mask, if feasible and available, and ask the person to wear it, if tolerated. Note: A face mask (also called a surgical mask, procedure mask, or other similar terms) on a sick person should not be confused with PPE for a worker; the mask acts to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions at the source (i.e., the person’s nose and mouth).
- If possible, isolate people suspected of having COVID-19 separately from those with confirmed cases of the virus to prevent further transmission—particularly in worksites where medical screening, triage, or healthcare activities occur, using either permanent (e.g., wall/different room) or temporary barrier (e.g., plastic sheeting).
- Restrict the number of personnel entering isolation areas.
- Protect workers in close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) a sick person or who have prolonged/repeated contact with such persons by using additional engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE. Workers whose activities involve close or prolonged/ repeated contact with sick people are addressed further in later sections covering workplaces classified at medium and very high or high exposure risk.
Develop, Implement, and Communicate about Workplace Flexibilities and Protections
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with government and public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
- Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
- Maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
- Recognise that workers with ill family members may need to stay home to care for them.
- Be aware of workers’ concerns about pay, leave, safety, health, and other issues that may arise during infectious disease outbreaks. Provide adequate, usable, and appropriate training, education, and informational material about business-essential job functions and worker health and safety, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any workplace controls (including PPE). Informed workers who feel safe at work are less likely to be unnecessarily absent.
- Work with insurance companies (e.g., those providing employee health benefits) and health agencies to provide information to workers and customers about medical care in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Classify Worker Exposure to COVID-19
Worker risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19 during an outbreak may vary from very high to high, medium, or lower (caution) risk. The level of risk depends in part on the industry type, need for contact within 6 feet of people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with COVID-19, or requirement for repeated or extended contact with persons known to be, or suspected of being, infected with COVID-19.
Most workers in the food and beverage industry will fall in the medium or low categories:
- Medium Exposure Risk
Medium exposure risk jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) people who may be infected with COVID-19, but who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients. In areas without ongoing community transmission, workers in this risk group may have frequent contact with travellers who may return from international locations with widespread COVID-19 transmission. In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, workers in this category may have contact be with the general public (e.g., in schools, high-population-density work environments, and some high-volume retail settings).
- Lower Exposure Risk (Caution)
Lower exposure risk (caution) jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with COVID-19 nor frequent close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) the general public. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers.
Protecting workers Whose Jobs Are Classified at Lower Exposure Risk (Caution)
For workers who do not have frequent contact with the general public, employers should follow the guidance below:
- Monitor public health communications about COVID-19 recommendations and ensure that workers have access to that information.
- Collaborate with workers to designate effective means of communicating important COVID-19 information.
Additional PPE is not recommended for workers in the lower exposure risk group. Workers should continue to use the PPE, if any, that they would ordinarily use for other job tasks.
Protecting workers Whose Jobs Are Classified at Medium Exposure Risk
In workplaces where workers have medium exposure risk, employers should follow the guidance below:
- Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, where feasible.
- Consider offering face masks to ill employees and customers to contain respiratory secretions until they are able to leave the workplace (i.e., for medical evaluation/care or to return home). In the event of a shortage of masks, a reusable face shield that can be decontaminated may be an acceptable method of protecting against droplet transmission.
- Keep customers informed about the symptoms of COVID-19 and if displaying symptoms, ask customers to minimise contact with workers until healthy again, such as by posting signs about COVID-19 in stores where sick customers may visit.
- Where appropriate, limit customers’ and the public’s access to the worksite or restrict access to only certain workplace areas.
- Consider strategies to minimise face-to-face contact (e.g., drive-through windows, phone-based communication, and telework).
- Communicate the availability of medical screening or other worker health resources (e.g., on-site nurse; telemedicine services).
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When selecting PPE, consider factors such as function, fit, decontamination ability, disposal, and cost. Sometimes, when PPE will have to be used repeatedly for a long period of time, a more expensive and durable type of PPE may be less expensive overall than disposable PPE. Each employer should select the combination of PPE that protects workers specific to their workplace.
Workers with medium exposure risk may need to wear some combination of gloves, a gown, a face mask, and/or a face shield or goggles. PPE ensembles for workers in the medium exposure risk category will vary by work task, the results of the employer’s hazard assessment and the types of exposures workers have on the job.
How can Workers Prepare for COVID-19?
- Stay informed about the COVID-19 situation in your country. Updates will regularly be released by the Cayman Islands Government and can be accessed at: https://www.exploregov.ky/coronavirus. Additionally, information can be found at CARPHA.org, the WHO or US CDC websites.
- Be cautious of rumours and false statements that are made to spread fear. There are many rumours and lies going around on social media like Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and others. Always check with a reliable source to see what the latest true news updates are. Knowing the truth will help you feel calmer and more confident in your ability to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
- Reduce exposure to COVID-19 and a range of illnesses by doing the following:
- Frequently clean hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing between 60% and 80% ethanol or isopropanol.
- When coughing and sneezing cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough.
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share travel history or possible exposures with your health care provider.
- Stay home when you are sick to avoid the chance of infecting other people.
- Know how to report customers or other staff with symptoms and exposure history compatible with COVID-19 to your supervisor.
- Staff who have symptoms and exposure history consistent with the disease should call an appropriate healthcare provider. Be sure to inform the healthcare provider that you suspect you were exposed to COVID-19 and ask if they can handle such patients or recommend a specific provider.
- Seek guidance from Public Health officials for which facilities in your area are prepared to handle possibly infected persons.
- Know who to contact in public health in your country, as well as first responders and healthcare providers, in case you have any questions or concerns.
- Procedures should be in place in the workplace for separating ill customers/staff from the rest of the workplace population and for minimising the exposure of customers/staff to potentially contaminated environments while Public Health officials are called.
What if a person with COVID-19 visits your business?
Not every person that sneezes, coughs, or is ill has COVID-19. There are many reasons a person may be ill and a person can sneeze or cough without being ill. So first, remain calm. There are a number of actions and precautions you can take to protect your staff and business:
- Should a suspect case be identified in the workplace, staff should feel safe to clean the environment as basic cleaning agents will sufficiently kill the virus. Staff should wear gloves, eye protection, a face mask, and a protective gown only during the cleaning process or when in the same room with the sick person.
- It is important to ensure that environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures are followed consistently and correctly. Thoroughly cleaning high-touch surfaces with water and detergent and applying commonly used disinfectants (such as bleach) are effective and sufficient procedures. Equipment, laundry, food service utensils and waste should be managed in accordance with safe routine procedures.
- Used cloths, eating utensils, laundry and any other item in contact with a patient’s body fluids should be collected separately and disinfected in such a way as to avoid any contact with persons or contamination of the environment. Surfaces or objects contaminated with blood, other body fluids, secretions or excretions should be cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible using standard detergents/disinfectants. Manage laundry, food service utensils, and waste in accordance with safe routine procedures:
- Bag or otherwise contain contaminated textiles and fabrics at the point of use.
- Handle contaminated textiles and fabrics with minimum agitation to avoid contamination of air, surfaces, and persons.
- Use leak-resistant containment for textiles and fabrics contaminated with blood or body substances.
- Identify bags or containers for contaminated textiles with labels, colour coding, or other alternative means of communication as appropriate.
- Don’t use laundry chutes.
- If hot-water laundry cycles are used, wash with detergent in water >160ºF (>71ºC) for >25 minutes
What if staff members become ill?
Staff members may become ill from exposure at the workplace or outside of the workplace. Any staff member who exhibits symptoms while at home, should stay home. Working while sick could expose other staff members and other visitors. Staff that start to experience symptoms while at work should seek medical care.