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National Council for Occupational Health and Safety says coronavirus could be a health risk to US healthcare, transportation workers

Medical workers at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in Wuhan, China. (Xiong Qi/Xinhua via AP/TNS)

The National Council for Occupational Health and Safety on Wednesday declared Wuhan coronavirus a “significant occupational health risk for tens of millions of U.S. workers” and said that employers are responsible for implementing policies that keep workers safe.

Workers in transportation industry and healthcare fields may be at the most at risk, the organization said on its website Wednesday. Workers in other industries may be at lower risk. Regardless, all workers “need guidance on assessing their risk of exposure.”

The organization said workplaces are responsible for ensuring employees receive proper training and protective equipment. It also says workplaces are on the line to document all potential exposures and infections.

“This virus is new, but well-tested safety precautions against infectious disease can reduce the risk of workplace exposure,” said Jessica Martinez National Council for Occupational Health co-executive director said in a news release. “Every worker needs to know that employers are legally required to provide a safe workplace. That includes proper training, personal protective equipment, record-keeping and other measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.”

The coronavirus has infected thousands in China and killed more than 1,100 people there so far, according to the Chinese government. It’s spread to at least two dozen countries, including 13 cases in the United States so far, according to the CDC. No cases have been confirmed in Ohio. Currently, the CDC says coronavirus is not spreading in communities in the United States, and the health risk of the disease is low for average Americans.

One of the best ways to avoid infecting others is to stay home when you are feeling sick. But many workplaces don’t offer enough sick time for workers said National Council for Occupational Health co-executive director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb in a news release.

“Inadequate sick leave policies are a major occupational health risk,” said National COSH co-executive director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “Unfortunately, the U.S. lags behind most developed countries when it comes to providing time off from work – which makes it harder for workers to stay home when they are sick and stop the potential spread of a dangerous disease.”

Other ways workers can reduce their risk of getting ill?

· Avoid close contact with sick people

· Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze

· Wash your hands

The National Council for Occupational Health and Safety is a coalition of local and state occupational heath and safety groups that works to advocate for safe and healthy workplaces.


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