10 June 2020
Updated 27 June 2020
How is the novel coronavirus transmitted?
The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) primarily spreads by droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. When in close proximity to others, coronavirus can also be transmitted via contact if, for example, an infected person coughs in his hands and then touches another person. There are no known cases of infection via items, animals or foodstuff.
- The Finnish Food Authority’s website includes information related to the coronavirus and food and animals (in Finnish).
How to act when working with clients to avoid infections
- Always keep a psysical distance (1-2 m) from other people whenever possible
- If you need to work in close proximity to other people, avoid unnecessary discussion and being face-to-face with the client. Try to keep the maximum duration of these encounters at 15 minutes.
- Do not shake hands. You can wish someone a good day by smiling and nodding.
- Clients should be actively encouraged to favour credit and debit cards, maintain safety distances and observe hand and cough hygiene instructions. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (FIOH) website contains material on hand and cough hygiene for employees and clients.
- If the clients use membership cards or other similar cards that need to be verified, avoid handling such cards.
- If a client coughs or sneezes, take a few steps away from them and turn your face away from them. Ask the client to cough into their sleeve. If the client continues to cough, politely ask them to step away from other clients.
- If you have even mild symptoms of COVID-19, you should not go to work. Use the Omaolo online symptom check-up service or contact a health care service provider or your occupational health care service provider by phone or online in order to book a coronavirus test appointment. The symptoms are listed on the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare website.
Wash your hands and use a hand sanitizer carefully
- If you need to touch clients or any objects or surfaces touched by a client, wash your hands or use an alcohol-based sanitizer before touching any other objects, your face or the next client.
- If you are a cashier, use an alcohol-based sanitizer frequently and always after handling a client’s payment instrument. If you handle items collected by a client in a store, you do not need to use hand sanitizer after every client.
- Remember that hand sanitizers are not effective if your hands are visibly dirty.
- Clients must also be provided with the opportunity to wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer and be instructed to do so. There must be enough soap and towels, preferably disposable towels, or an automated towel dispenser with a retractable towel at all places for washing hands. If you cannot wash your hands, make sure you have hand sanitizer close to you.
- Frequent hand washing may cause skin symptoms such as dryness. We recommend using fragrance and preservative free skin creams to prevent any skin symptoms. Hand sanitizers that contain glycerol (glycerin) offer a more skin-friendly alternative to washing your hands. It reduces the drying of skin caused by alcohol (ethanol or propanol).
How to use the gloves in a hygienic way?
- In terms of protection against communicable diseases, maintaining good hand hygiene is by far a more effective method than wearing dirty gloves.
- The protective effect of tight-fitting disposable gloves made of rubber or plastic is based on improving hand hygiene by wearing them. This effect is only achieved if the gloves are disposed of after use, they are worn in clean hands, they are not used to touch faces and they are removed without touching the contaminated exterior surface of the gloves. See the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s instructions: Model solution – Instructions for removing disposable gloves (in Finnish).
- Other types of gloves should be worn in the service industry only when the job involves other reasons for wearing gloves than communicable diseases. Such reasons may include, for example, skin abrasion prevention and handling sharp objects. Use only clean gloves when working with clients.
- Used, contaminated gloves must be put into the mixed waste bin. Gloves can be reused if, according to their instructions, they can be washed at 60°C or disinfected with alcohol or sodium hypochlorite. In such cases, the gloves must be washed following one of these methods and dried carefully after every use. In any other cases, the gloves are considered to be disposable.
- Incorrect use of gloves compromises hygiene and involves a risk of infection if they are exposed to coronaviruses.
Protective glass or plastic shields for working behind a counter
If you work as a cashier e.g. in grocery stores or pharmacies, a plexiglass can be installed between you and the client.
- Installing a temporary shield (polycarbonate plastic, for example) yourself might be possible, but related solutions are also provided by certain service providers.
- The shield should be installed in a location where it does not slow down working or cause any ergonomic issues. The height of the shield should be higher than the level of the heads of employees and clients. The width of the shield should be determined according to its location.
- There are also sheets and stands that are not installed permanently.
Respiratory tract and face protection according to risk assessment
- There are no general regulations or recommendations concerning the use of masks or respiratory protective equipment in order to avoid COVID-19 infections.
- If, according to an employer’s risk assessment, employees need to be protected, the employer may make it obligatory for employees to wear personal protective equipment that meets the set criteria. The employer is responsible for acquiring this equipment. Ergonomics and the employees’ state of health must be taken into account when selecting appropriate personal protective equipment.
- If the employer considers wearing a surgical mask or filtering half masks to be necessary, this equipment should be put into the waste bin when taking a break. Adequate breaks from wearing this equipment must be arranged so that employees have the ability to focus on their work.
- Visor-like face protectors protect the face from direct exposure to spatter and droplets. If these protectors are not worn as disposable equipment, their exterior surfaces and contact surfaces must be disinfected whenever taking a break and washed with soap on a daily basis.
- In order to protect clients from the respiratory discharge of employees, the employer may make it obligatory to wear face masks. The employer is responsible for defining the quality criteria of these masks. The masks must not compromise the health of employees. Instructions on how to wear and wash the masks must be provided. Visor-like protectors can also be applied to prevent the clients’ exposure to droplets.
- Respirators, surgical masks and other masks increase the heat load of the workers. Especially working in heat must be taking into consideration when using and selecting the Personnel Protective Equipment during the hot summer days. The employees need breaks once an hour and they need to drink a lot of water. Working in heat (in Finnish)
- More official information about protective equipment, the coronavirus and occupational safety and healthis available from Regional State Administrative Agencies.
Cooking and serving food in restaurants
- See the Regional State Administrative Agency website for restrictions issued to restaurants.
- See the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health – restrictions concerning the events. (in Finnish)
- Food and drinks must be served as portions or delivered to tables.
- Remind the personnel of the hygiene guidelines. Food, cooking equipment and serving dishes are only to be touched with clean, healthy hands. Enough disposable gloves must be available.
- Wash hands often with soap and water. To prevent skin problems caused by constantly washing hands with water, alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used when your hands have no stains.
- There must be enough disposable gloves available in environments where they are required.
Real estate management
Only necessary work will be carried out in apartments and care units.
Hospitals and nursing homes
- In hospitals, nursing homes, etc., the workplace itself decides on the required protection in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the rules of the workplace. Sufficient protection is planned together with the workplace in which the maintenance is carried out.
Apartments – do as follows
- In private apartments, ask sick people to move to the adjacent room and to let fresh air in before entering the apartment. In this case, work clothes and disposable gloves offer sufficient protection. In the case of a studio apartment, you can ask the client to go into the bathroom.
- If an asymptomatic person is placed in quarantine, you can ask them to go outside for the duration of the maintenance. If a resident placed in quarantine-like conditions is not well, you can ask them to go to another room, for instance.
- Stick to the agreed schedule and immediately notify of any changes to ensure that you can work safely, and that no unnecessary inconvenience is caused to the resident.
Long protective gloves and face shield necessary when opening clogged up sewers
- When opening clogged up sewers, if you come in contact with, for example, wet deposits, use sturdy elbow-length nitrile gloves. Check that the gloves have either the marking “EN 374-1” or “374-5”.
- Protect your face with a visor-like face shield.
- If your work involves a risk of generating droplets or aerosols, use a respirator, for example, a class FFP2 respirator. Such tasks include intense brushing, for example.
- If there is risk that your clothes will get dirty, use liquid-proof protective clothing. The type of clothing should be chosen on the basis of the areas that are in danger of getting dirty – for example, sleeve protectors and a protective apron may be enough. Liquid-proof overalls are cumbersome to use, and you should avoid situations that require them.
- Use the protective equipment only once, take it off immediately after use and put it into a plastic bag without getting yourself dirty. Tape the plastic bag shut and take it to the mixed waste container immediately.
- Wash your hands immediately after finishing the work and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Change into a clean set of work clothes after such a task. Either a temperature of 90 C or a disinfecting detergent must be used when washing these clothes.
- See The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Instructions for removing disposable gloves (in Finnish.)
The guidelines of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) are drawn up together with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (SMAH) and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. We also follow the publications of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).