Tips for Safer Working During COVID-19

Like a few other library workers, I have been working a reassignment for Hennepin County Public Health doing COVID-19 Case Investigation. This means that I call people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to make sure they have information about isolation and ask them questions about any potential exposures. I talk to a lot of people about their worksites, so I was asked to write something up that might be helpful for 2822 members working onsite. But before I get going on my list of things to do, my first piece of advice is for us all to be kind to ourselves. I know I experience a lot of anxiety about messing up and doing this pandemic stuff wrong. But I have learned that no one can do everything perfectly! You will wear your mask wrong, or forget to wash your hands, or get a little too close to that loved one. All we can do is our best, and try to follow some common sense guidelines as much as humanly possible!

  • Stay home when you are sick! If you are feeling a little bit unwell: weird headache, sore throat, super tired, aches, nausea, diarrhea, feeling off or like you’re coming down with something: Stay home and get tested! Many people who have COVID-19 have milder symptoms and never have a fever. We have access to paid COVID-19 leave and donated leave. Please reach out to your supervisor or the union if you are not sure about paid leave options. If you are getting push back from your supervisor about calling in sick, contact the union!
  • Stay home when you are sick! (yes, I said that twice) Not sure if this applies to you, try this MDH symptom checker here:
  • Physically distance ALL the time, even when you’re not on the clock:  Many people who get COVID from a workplace exposure get it through carpooling or hanging out together during breaks or sharing food. Basically, if you or any coworkers end up getting COVID-19, you want to avoid any situations where someone could be considered a close contact and need to quarantine. MDH and CDC guidance for close contacts (as of 9/6/2020): within 6 feet for 15 minutes or longer, inside or outside, whether or not everyone was wearing a cloth face covering. 
  • Educate yourself: There are extensive guidelines from MDH for different kinds of workplaces.  Read about that here: and here: 
  • Reach out with questions and concerns: All of this stuff, like pandemic guidelines and leave options are new, complicated, and always changing. Talk to anyone you trust who will give you good information: that could be a coworker, a supervisor, or a union representative. The more you know before a situation arises, the better off you will be!
  • Talk to your coworkers: Just because you are comfortable with something, doesn’t mean your coworkers are. You and your coworkers might have the same concerns or completely different concerns. People have different levels of risk tolerance. And we all will notice different potential problems that might impact workplace safety. Try to have a conversation (at a distance, of course!). 
  • Don’t be afraid to escalate: If you and your coworkers are concerned about workplace safety, you have a lot of options. If you’re not sure what to do, you can always reach out to a union representative. Some official ways to escalate beyond your immediate supervisor include reaching out to Hennepin County Workplace Safety or contacting MNOSHA Compliance at 651-284-5050 or [email protected]. And you can ALWAYS talk to a union representative to reach out on you and your coworkers’ behalf.