Tips for essential workers who must visit clients’ private homes

Updated Sept. 24, 2020.

While most of Colorado shelters in place, “essential workers” continue to serve their communities.

The term might bring to mind healthcare workers and retail staff, but small-business owners know they're not alone. Contractors, real estate agents, home health aides, social workers and housekeeping staff are just some of those on the front lines. Many of these workers must enter client homes as part of their jobs, leaving them with little control over their work environment.

While the health and safety of these workers have always been a top concern, the uncertainty of the pandemic makes protecting your employees even more critical. Share these tips with your staff to minimize their risk and help keep them safe.

Tips for everyone required to work in client homes

1. Get details on the situation prior to arrival

Find out whether anyone in the home is sick or under quarantine, and if so, aim to postpone the visit if at all possible. If everyone appears healthy, use email and phone conversations to find out as much about the project as you can in order to minimize time spent in the home.

2. Keep your distance

Plan to provide estimates, invoices, payment and other documentation electronically to reduce in-person interaction.

Greet the customer verbally, but don’t shake hands. Let the customer know that you will be keeping a six-foot distance from everyone throughout the job.

3. Wear proper protective gear

Many jobs already require gear such as masks and gloves. Even if your role typically doesn’t require them, consider wearing them now to keep yourself and others safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending everyone wear a mask; a homemade mask is acceptable if a manufactured respirator/mask is not available.

Make sure to change gloves between customer visits.

4. Increase ventilation when possible. 

While providing services indoors, look for ways to maximize ventilation in the area. Open windows or doors and ask your customer to turn on air conditioning or fans.

5. Bring your own tools

Whether it’s a mop for washing the floor or a pen to sign paperwork, bring your own equipment to avoid having to touch the homeowner’s belongings. Make sure to sanitize all tools upon leaving the home and before placing them in your vehicle.

6. Practice proper hygiene

Clean and disinfect all work surfaces before beginning the task. Wash your hands when you arrive, before you leave and any other time it feels prudent. Bring paper towels to dry your hands rather than using a hand towel provided by the client. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.

7. Keep your vehicle sanitized

If you share a vehicle, make sure to use an approved sanitizer to wipe down all surfaces between uses. If you are driving your own vehicle, wash your hands or use sanitizer after exiting a client’s house and before entering your vehicle.

8. Wash your clothes as soon as you arrive home

Change out of your work clothing and take a hot shower immediately after getting home—before you relax or greet family members. You may choose to wash the clothing you wore on the job in hot water separately from other garments.

Tips for specific types of personnel

In addition to the advice above, here are some tips specific to the situations faced by professionals in specific industries.

Construction workers/contractors/skilled trades:

  • To avoid close contact with others, complete as much of the job as feasible, such as building and assembling components or staging materials, outside or off-site.
  • If you will be returning to the same site for several days, cordon off the area where you’re working and ask clients to avoid using it if possible.
  • If you are working aspart of a team, maintain distance and take breaks on rotating schedules.

Housekeeping staff:

  • If clients offer you time off, consider accepting it.
  • Increase your hygiene protocols throughout the visit.
  • Avoid certain tasks, such as changing sheets, if possible. Explain that the less time you spend touching clients’ personal items, the safer everyone will be.
  • If you are cleaning clothing, towels and linens, wear reusable gloves and dispose after each use. Always wash your hands after removing gloves. Read more about household cleaning and disinfection.
  • To help avoid spreading contaminated dust, use vacuums with a HEPA filtration system.

The most important thing you can do as an employer is express you place a high priority on your workers’ health and safety. Encourage them to bring their concerns to you, and do whatever you canto mitigate risks, while still meeting clients’ needs.

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