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May 7: COVID-19

Ken Fivizzani, Safety Expert
Ken Fivizzani, Safety Expert

By the time you read this, you will know the guidelines about social distancing, frequent handwashing, and the wearing of face masks and other appropriate PPE. If you are still able to work in the lab, you probably will be required to maintain a six foot separation from colleagues. You will be surrounded by surfaces and equipment that have not been disinfected on a regular basis. You may have to bring your own hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. 

Wearing a face mask will minimize, or at least remind you about, touching your face. Many of your coworkers may be working remotely; you have fewer people around who can respond in an emergency. The on-site facility management staff, security, and safety personnel will be at minimal levels. Consequently, find someone who can check up on you at least once daily.

Working at home brings new challenges, although in a presumably safer environment. You may be watching family members while answering both the door and non-work related phone calls. Your work area may be lacking in comparison with your office. Internet connection, a comfortable chair, adequate lighting, and a quiet work environment may be less than optimal. 

Stay connected with colleagues through virtual meetings, email, and phone calls. Ask if you need some help. Maintain a collaborative spirit with your colleagues; they may be having challenges in their work environment. Take breaks for yourself and your family. Make the necessary adjustments to your work schedule. Go outside for some fresh air and some exercise. Get a good night’s sleep.

Set a good example: Knowing that you are a chemist, other people may look to you as a pandemic expert. Follow all appropriate guidelines in public. Be patient in answering technical questions you might be asked. “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer. The shape of the infection “curve” is often described in the media as having a roller coaster shape. But the descending rate of infection is not fast like a roller coaster. What is the benefit of wearing a face mask? Can I catch the virus if someone bumps into me? Can injecting or drinking disinfectant kill the virus? (No pandemic expertise needed here; read the label.) Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is everybody’s job; let’s do our part.

Be careful and stay safe!

Copyright 2020 American Chemical Society (All Rights Reserved)

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