Coronavirus in the Workplace

10/03/2020

What is coronavirus? 

COVID-19 is an illness that can affect the lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus. In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a global health emergency. Respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Whilst the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public to moderate, the risk of catching COVID-19 depends on where you live or where you have travelled recently.

Preventative measures

Employers have a vital role to play in preventing the spread of this disease by taking sensible action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as ensuring that workers have access to appropriate hygiene facilities such hot water, soap and bins to get rid of used tissues.  

The risk of catching it within the workplace is low, although an increasing number of employers are encouraging their employees to work from home in order to help to prevent further spread of the virus.

Workers are advised to maintain good hygiene standards around the workplace by following the latest advice from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) website which includes the following basic protective measures: 

  • Wash your hands frequently with alcohol-based hand wash or wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Maintain social distancing- maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet distance) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose
  • Practice respiratory hygiene - Using the nearest waste receptacle to dispose of the tissue after use
  • Stay informed and follow the advice given by health care providers

In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) has advised that most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places, and that self-isolation is only to be undertaken if the individual is advised to do so by the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional. Read the full NHS advice here.

Emergency planning advice:

OJ Safety advises that businesses follow good practice in emergency planning, preparedness and response. This can be achieved by adopting the following steps:

  • Develop a response plan for if someone in the workplace becomes ill with suspected COVID-19. This should include the immediate response e.g. isolate the individual and contact the local health authority
  • Plan to identify persons who may be at risk without stigma or discrimination
  • Explore ways of remote working (teleworking) that will allow workers to continue their work from home
  • Develop a business continuity plan for an outbreak, which covers:
    • How your organisation will continue to function if workers, contractors and suppliers cannot come to your place of business
    • Visitors and vendors who have access to the building
    • Communicate to workers and contractors about the plan and their role in it
    • Ensure the plan addresses mental health and social consequences of a case of COVID-19 in the workplace

For further information on emergency planning read the World Health Organization (WHO) document Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 or UK Government Guidance Preparing for emergencies.

You can also contact OJ Safety by emailing admin@ojsafety.co.uk or call 0800 634 9247.

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