What to Do About a Workplace Outbreak (Employees) - Zupnick Associates

by Corinna Underwood )

Depending on the efforts your employer and fellow employees are making to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 in your workplace, this is something that you may not have to deal with. However, it’s best to be prepared in case one of your colleagues does test positive. 

Bear in mind that if one person in your workforce of fifty people tested positive, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the midst of an outbreak. The important thing is not to panic and follow these tips to ensure your safety and the safety of your fellow employees during a COVID-19 job outbreak.

Find Out the Facts

The first thing to do if you hear that someone has tested positive is to talk to your HR manager and find out if there is an outbreak within your company. If there is, you will need to get tested as soon as possible. You will also need to know how the company intends to handle the outbreak.

For example, will the company temporarily close down, or will it ask a certain sector of the workforce to quarantine? Even if you test negative, you may be asked to leave the workplace for quarantine or while the area is being sanitized. In this case, find out when it will be safe to retrieve your belongings and when you will be able to return to work as normal.

Protect Yourself

Follow cleanliness guidelines by washing your hands regularly, using hand sanitizer, and wearing a mask whenever possible. Avoid close contact with other employees. Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes. Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Fever or chills

  • A persistent cough

  • Shortness of breath

  • Muscle or joint aches

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Recent loss of smell or taste

  • Sore throat

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Congestion

  • Diarrhea 

Remember that symptoms can show up anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure to COVID-19. 

What to Do if You Test Positive

If you test positive for COVID-19 stay home. Call your employer and let them know that you have received a positive test result and that you must quarantine. Depending on the nature of your job and the state of your health, you may be able to continue to work from home. Avoid contact with other people as much as possible, even inside your home. 

If you need to visit your doctor, call ahead and let them know you are coming. Always cover your coughs and sneezes and sanitize frequently touched household items and surfaces every day. If you notice that your illness is worsening, or you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Chest pains

  • Confusion

  • Inability to stay awake

  • Bluish hue to your lips or face 

If you go to the clinic or hospital, wear a facemask at all times. Ask your doctor to call the local health department. You may be placed under active monitoring and you must follow the instructions provided by your doctor. 

You should self-quarantine for 10-14 days after receiving a positive test. You should not return to work until you have a negative test result.   

Frequently Asked Question About a Workplace Outbreak 

Can I choose to stay at home during a COVID-19 outbreak at my workplace? 

If you are not an essential worker, you can legally choose to remain home during an outbreak. Essential workers include front line healthcare workers and those who work in childcare, energy, water treatment, food productions, critical retail and trades, and transportation.


Does my employer have to tell me if a fellow employee gets the virus?

Yes, your employer must tell you. However, they cannot reveal the name of the infected person without their permission.


What should I do if my employer says I have to come to work?

If you have an outbreak in your workplace or if your workplace is a high risk for COVID-19 and your employer is pressuring you to return to work, you can file a confidential health complaint and request an OSHA inspection.  

The situation with COVID-19 is changing daily. So it’s important to keep up with the latest information, including the positivity rate in your area. You can find up-to-date information on the coronavirus here.

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