How To Keep Families of Essential Workers Safe During COVID-19

How To Keep Families of Essential Workers Safe During COVID-19

Essential workers put themselves on the frontline to keep the country going. But how can they protect themselves and their loved ones? Read on to find out.

While the world confronts the invisible enemy called COVID-19, nations went into containment and lockdowns, with the necessary but painful step of also classifying working people into essential workers and non-essential workers. Non-essential workers will either work from home (WFH) or stay home if their employees are not able to work from home. This classification allowed nations to reduce the potential infection in the community with as few workers in public as possible.

Essential workers are on the frontlines putting themselves at potential risk, thereby allowing our society to continue meeting minimal and critical capabilities, typically in healthcare, banking, public transport, utilities, logistics, police, civil defence, and other crucial areas.

However, they are not the only people at risk. They are often very concerned about their loved ones and whether or not inadvertently they may bring this contagious disease home.

So, what can an essential worker do to keep their families safe during this lockdown?

Four Safety Tips for Essential Workers

The first thing an essential worker can do is to take the necessary steps to protect himself/herself from potential infections while working.

1. Wear the appropriate PPE

safety tips for essential workers

One of the safety tips for essential workers to follow is to wear the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), depending on their job requirements. | Photo: iStock

Depending on the job function, an essential worker may have to wear the full complement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Health sector workers who work directly with COVID-19 patients are required to wear an eye shield, visor or goggles, filtering face-piece respirator, gloves, and a long-sleeved fluid-repellent gown. Anyone who is not in direct contact with COVID-19 patients can use gloves, a mask, and an apron, depending on their level of exposure to the general population.

2. Wash hands regularly during the day

Experts continue to emphasise that washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to avoid infections.

3. Keep hands away from the face

This is crucial for essential workers. We touch our face on an average of about 16 times per hour. During this pandemic, those who are most exposed should try to break this habit. Try keeping your fingers laced together or wear a strongly-scented hand sanitiser to discourage you from touching your face.

4. Put personal items away until after work

Items such as phones, keys, and wallets should be kept in a locker or bag until the end of the work shift. This will help to limit contamination on your personal items during the course of the day.

Three Risk-reducing Protocols After Work

After work or a shift, an essential worker can adopt the following three protocols to help reduce potential infections at home.

1. Take off clothes upon entering home

Work clothes can be potentially contaminated after a day of work, so essential workers should remove their clothing and put them in a bag, and keep them separated from the laundry basket. Shoes should also be kept outside of the house if possible. Otherwise, sanitise them before bringing them in the house.

2. Sanitise items that must come back into the house

How To Keep Families of Essential Workers Safe During COVID-19

Image: iStock

Any personal belongings such as phones, keys, handbags, backpacks should be sanitised before bringing them into the home.

3. Shower immediately

Essential workers should head to the shower immediately to eliminate or minimise any risk of contamination at home.

Two Best Ways to Keep Loved Ones Safe

Social distancing is frequently mentioned as one of the primary methods to reduce the spread of infections. Essential workers can adopt either one of these:

1. Maintain social distancing

Unfortunately, essential workers should refrain from hugging and kissing family members at this time. This can be especially difficult with young children, who may not comprehend this unusual behaviour.

2. Living elsewhere for a while

How To Keep Families of Essential Workers Safe During COVID-19

Safety tips for essential workers: some essential workers choose to live apart from their loved ones to protect their health. | Image: iStock

Some essential workers, especially those in the health sector, have taken the very difficult decision to live apart from their families during this pandemic. This is especially so if their homes consist of elderly parents, babies, or relatives with pre-existing or high-risk medical conditions.

Keeping Healthy as an Essential Worker

Gruelling shifts and being on call constantly can really take a toll on the body and immune system. As such it is crucial that essential service workers also take care of their physical and mental health.

1. Eat healthily

A balanced diet is crucial during this time to keep your strength and energy levels up.

2. Vitamin supplements

Taking essential vitamins to boost your immune system can also help your body remain healthy.

3. Talk to someone

How To Keep Families of Essential Workers Safe During COVID-19

Image: iStock

Essential workers may also feel overwhelmed about their situation during this difficult period. Being out of the home, and being constantly exposed to the virus, whether at the hospital or another essential workplace, may start to take a toll on the mind and body. For workers working in places  with the Employee Assistance Programs in place, they can consider talking to a trained professional to gain some assistive perspectives and coping skills. Some essential workers may also feel alienated from families and friends. Thankfully, with the aid of technology, essential workers can still sustain relationships and interact with families and friends through various means, including videoconferencing, messaging, or voice calls.

Essential workers are doing their jobs tirelessly so that the world can continue to function. They should not have to worry about the safety of their loved ones. Essential workers can keep their loved ones safe by protecting and sanitising themselves, and taking care of their bodies and minds.

This article was written by Dr Benjamin Loh, a resident doctor at DTAP Clinic Bencoolen. Dr Loh focuses on men’s health, ENT and Dermatology.

Lead image from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) / Facebook


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