Despite attempts to contain COVID-19, the virus has now spread to most countries in the world and infected millions of people.
As we all know, this has led to lockdowns – very severe restrictions on physical movement – as countries try to reduce transmission of the virus in the community. Limiting contact in this way is intended to prevent so many people becoming seriously ill at the same time that available medical resources are overwhelmed.
Lockdowns have generally involved populations staying at home and reducing physical contact with others as much as possible, particularly for those who are especially vulnerable. This has a had a monumental effect on normal life, impacting the economy, work, education, travel, non-urgent medical treatment, culture and sport right across the world.
In countries where COVID-19 outbreaks are beginning to be brought under control, the challenge now is to gradually relax lockdown restrictions in a way which prevents further transmissions and new peaks in case numbers.
Based on available information, the countries who have been most successful in limiting COVID-19 case numbers and deaths have managed to combine lockdown measures with effective testing and contact tracing regimes. This includes quickly identifying and isolating anyone who has been in contact with an infected person.
Once available, vaccines and medications which are safe and proven to be effective against COVID-19 will play a crucial role.
Before medical interventions are totally effective governments will still need to ease lockdown. The difficult challenge is to manage this in such a way as to keeping infection rates low.
Effective workplace measures that reduce the rate of coronavirus infections will play an important role in enabling the successful easing of lockdowns by keeping infection rates low.
Below are some steps your business may wish to consider.
Working from Home
National lockdown restrictions mean that millions of people across the world who are able to are now working from home, perhaps for the first time.
Employers can support staff in this position by:
- keeping in regular touch, and encouraging regular contact, among colleagues. This can help avoid feelings of disconnection or isolation, and allow any signs of stress to be picked up at an early stage.
- using technology to facilitate meetings where possible
- providing guidance on the safe use of computer equipment away from the office
- providing information on other risks relevant to working from home, for example fire or electrical safety.
Many staff providing vital services or products have continued to work at their usual places of business during lockdown measures. But as restrictions ease and people begin to return to the workplace more widely, employers will need to have robust measures in place to minimise the risk of coronavirus spreading again.
So, what can employers do about the risk of COVID-19 at work?
- ensure that workplaces are clean and hygienic. This means wiping surfaces like desks and objects like keyboards, mice, and telephones which are touched regularly, and by different people.
- promote good hygiene practices, particularly regarding hand washing and sneezing or coughing. This is good practice anyway to limit the spread of more common viruses like the common cold, seasonal ‘flu or norovirus.
We offer an online coronavirus infection control course that may assist in providing staff with the knowledge to help reduce infections.
Workplace Coronavirus Policy & Planning
- provide clear guidance on ensuring any staff who do display ‘flu like symptoms do not come into work.
- have procedures in place for dealing with anyone who becomes ill at work
- make arrangements to ensure staff are not working or sitting close together, for example leaving every second workstation vacant, or having scheduled times for using communal facilities such as staff restaurants
- put plans in place so that staff can enter, leave and move around the workplace and maintain social distancing
- keep contingency and business continuity plans under constant review in case lockdown measures are reintroduced, or a significant proportion of staff are unable to work
Workplace Meetings & Events
Employers can also consider alternatives to face-to-face meetings or events such as calls or video-conferences. Where face-to-face meetings or events are unavoidable:
- consider whether these can be scaled back in size so that fewer people attend
- make sure sufficient supplies of tissues and hand sanitiser are available for everyone
- arrange seating so that participants are able to be sufficiently far apart
- retain names and contact details of participants in case contact tracing is necessary
- have plans in place in case someone becomes ill during or just after an event
NHS Guidance – Click here
Infection Tracking – Click Here
WHO Guidance – Click Here