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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Our experts answer the most important questions on how to deal with the "Corona crisis"

In the current crisis situation, many companies and organizations are very uncertain about how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Many are facing previously unknown challenges and must now react quickly. Our experts have summarized the most important questions and answers regarding the current situation for you.

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Technology, machinery, equipment, materials

According to the current state of knowledge, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via the sewage route is very unlikely. There is no danger to employees in industry in wastewater treatment units in connection with the few SARS-CoV-2 reported in Europe or North America. The disease is transmitted in direct contact with the sick through droplet or smear infection. Regardless of this, protective measures as formulated in national and international safety and health standards and practices when working with biological agents in wastewater treatment plants must be observed.
(Source: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Germany), Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (USA), as of 3-23-2020)

For chemical disinfection, agents with proven effectiveness, with the range of activity "limited virucidal" (effective against enveloped viruses) to "virucidal" are to be used. Most national health authorities provide a list of suitable agents / disinfectants and procedures tested and recognized by the national authorities.
Generally, after cleaning of surfaces with soap and water, disinfection with diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions (with at least 70% alcohol) or nationally registered household disinfectants should be effective.
(Source: Robert Koch Institute (Germany), Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (USA), as of 3-23-2020)

It is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.
(Source: World Health Organization (WHO), as of 3-23-2020)

This question must be answered by knowledgeable people or subject matter experts. The specific chemicals used and the specific type of application are particularly important here. Also ask your occupational safety specialist and the company doctor and, if necessary, call in a hazardous substance specialist.

Ideally you should use the recommended disinfectants. Most national health authorities provide a list of suitable tested and recognized agents/disinfectants and procedures.
However diluted household bleach solutions or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are effective as well.
(Source: Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (USA), as of 3-23-2020)

Currently, a minimum distance of 2m is recommended. Make sure that employees have the option of hand hygiene, the surfaces are cleaned regularly and rooms are ventilated. Practical tips are e.g. Individual offices, staggered seating arrangements, change of shifts to avoid direct contact or additional barriers between workplaces. Coordinate such measures with the occupational safety specialist and the company doctor.
(Source: World Health Organization (WHO), as of 3-23-2020)

A general statement on this is not possible, since this depends on the specific area of ​​application, the activity, the groups of people present and the technical specifications of the system. Coordinate with the manufacturer of the air conditioning or ventilation system and your specialist for occupational safety as well as the company doctor.

According to the current state of knowledge, yes, since the virus envelope is water-soluble.
(Source: Robert Koch Institute (Germany), Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (USA), as of 3-21-2020)

National regulations determine whether particle-filtering half masks (FFP half masks) in connection with Covid-19 can be used in companies without a preventive medical check-up. This is possible in Europe, for example. Please note: special requirements may apply to medical areas.
However, you must instruct the employees in the correct use. The wearing time for certified masks is usually recommended to be 120 minutes (e.g. Europe) and 75 minutes for masks without exhalation valve. After this, a break of 30 minutes should be provided.
Disposable masks usually have to be disposed of after one shift (8h). Ensure that masks don't get touched from the outside. Offer consultations through the company doctor. Take into account that existing health restrictions may lead to increased stress among employees. Therefore, coordinate these measures with the company doctor beforehand. Always check and observe the specifications of the manufacturer and national regulations.
(Source: Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Germany), as of 3-21-2020)

Organization, processes, communication

If there is a confirmed infection and, if necessary, in the case of 1st degree contacts, the areas and work equipment concerned must be disinfected. Coordinate this with the health department and the company doctor. In normal operation, work equipment that is used by several people should be cleaned appropriately when changing users. Coordinate the cleaning with the company doctor or the occupational safety specialist. Instruct your employees how to use cleaning agents correctly and determine what, when and how they need to be cleaned. It is recommendable to not share tools and equipment during the pandemic crisis in order to reduce the risk of contamination.

  • Very high exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19 during specific medical, postmortem, or laboratory procedures.
  • High exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. Workers in this category include:Healthcare delivery, support staff and mortuary workers.
  • 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 SARS-CoV-2, 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 travelers 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) jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2 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.

(Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA),Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Germany), as of 3-23-2020)

For professional activities, for example with customer contact (such as retail, hospitality, security guards, craftsmen, delivery services), in the transport of people and in offices, the provisions and recommendations on infection protection and hygiene apply. It is assumed that the risk of infection at these workplaces is usually no higher than in everyday social interaction outside of work. The usual measures such as hand hygiene, cough and sneeze labels and rules of conduct for dealing with people in public must be taken into account here. The risks currently known for such situations and the recommended protective measures related to SARS-CoV-2 must be observed. See WHO. Note that local restrictions and rules may apply temporarily. Especially social distancing of 6 feet/ 2 meters can have an impact on professional activities.
(Source: Robert Koch Institute (Germany), Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (USA), as of 3-21-2020)

The recommended procedures vary depending on the exposure risk type. In order to identify risks/exposure and necessary measures, a risk assessment should be conducted by the employer, assisted by a subject matter expert. National law/regulation will give additional guidance on how to conduct a risk assessment and which measures and safeguards to apply. Contact your national Occupational Health and Safety Authority to identify suitable resources and guidance.

Infection via imported goods is very unlikely based on current knowledge. To do this, it would be necessary for contamination to have taken place beforehand, and the virus would still have to be active after several days or several weeks of transport and would also have to be transmitted in sufficient numbers as a droplet or smear infection. It is not yet known whether the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus remains infectious in liquid or dried material for several days. Maintaining infectivity on dried surfaces, e.g. packaging or technical devices is unlikely. There were no indications of infection risks from contact with goods from China, nor was there any in the SARS epidemic in 2003. Maintaining basic hygiene is recommended, especially regular hand washing with soap and water. However, comply with the usual protective measures for hazards defined for your industry. Note: a risk assessment must always be carried out on site by the employer with the appropriate specialist expertise for a specific activity.
(Source: Robert Koch Institute (Germany), Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (USA), as of 3-21-2020)

In most industrialized countries, employers have an obligation under national regulation (usually Occupational Safety and Health Acts or similar) to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Usually, risk assessments conducted by the employer and supported by health and safety specialists are the foundation for preventive actions. Check your local laws and consult with occupational health and safety specialists in case you have any question.

  • Check the national / regional requirements and restrictions
  • Exchange information with the responsible health authority
  • Inform workers who may have been exposed
  • Inform employees about rules of conduct
  • Always observe the local / national personal rights and data protection requirements
  • Exempt workers in areas where possible
  • Enable and promote home / teleworking, cancel or postpone unnecessary (business) trips or e.g. conduct via video conference
  • Take voluntary business closings or company holidays. Always check the requirements of the national health authorities

Companies / employers: Check the national / regional requirements and restrictions. If there are no restrictions - visits by supplier, carpenter, clients, etc. should be conducted while following the recommended rules of safety and hygiene. It is recommended to ask whether the person in question has been in a risk area, has symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, fever, cold or has had contact with infected or first-degree contacts. Conduct instruction and induction and explain the local safety and hygiene procedures. There may be special requirements for certain industries and regions. Always check that beforehand.

Currently, there are investigations conducted to evaluate the viability and survival time of SARS-CoV-2. In general, coronaviruses are very stable in a frozen state according to studies of other coronaviruses, which have shown survival for up to two years at -20°C. Studies conducted on SARS-CoV ad MERS-CoV indicate that these viruses can persist on different surfaces for up to a few days depending on a combination of parameters such as temperature, humidity and light. For example, at refrigeration temperature (4°C), MERS-CoV can remain viable for up to 72 hours. Current evidence on other coronavirus strains shows that while coronaviruses appear to be stable at low and freezing temperatures for a certain period, food hygiene and good food safety practices can prevent their transmission through food. Specifically, coronaviruses are thermolabile, which means that they are susceptible to normal cooking temperatures (70°C). Therefore, as a general rule, the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, raw milk or raw animal organs should be handled with care to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.
(Source: World Health Organization (WHO), as of 3-20-2020)

Check local and national guidelines on social distance and requirements published by local or national health authorities. If there are no restrictions: In compliance with the necessary hygiene rules (distance 2 m, adapted sneezing behavior, cleaning of surfaces, hand hygiene) this would be possible. There should only be a few people in the room. The room must be ventilated regularly. Think about the possibility of taking staggered breaks. In between clean and ventilate the surfaces.

3) Personnel, health, qualifications

COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Based upon available information to date, those at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility

Other high-risk conditions could include:

  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
  • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk

People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk.
(Source: Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (USA), as of 3-20-2020)

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