As companies and various public facilities reopen and resume operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts express their concern regarding the SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the workplace. They recommend ways employers and employees follow to continue COVID-19 safety protocols.
Below are a brief guide for employers and workers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their workplace and help them work in a safe and healthful environment:
Employers must conduct a risk assessment to protect their workers from harm. Doing so will help them understand and have a clear overview of the current situation. The risk assessment should reflect the nation’s public health regulations and guidelines.
Steps Needed to Manage the Risk
- Identify work activity or situations that can cause transmission of COVID-19
- Consider who could be at risk. Aside from employees, this includes visitors, contractors, and delivery drivers. Consider the risk groups who are particularly vulnerable to acquiring COVID-19.
- Determine how likely it is that someone could be exposed.
- Identify the controls needed to reduce the risk.
Employers must be transparent with employees when conducting a risk assessment. Workers’ suggestions and input can provide valuable information on reducing risks effectively.
Cleaning, Hygiene, and Handwashing
The primary way of transmitting coronavirus to other people is through direct contact. However, it can also be transferred from people to surfaces. People who contact such surfaces can be infected with the coronavirus. Therefore, keeping the workplace clean and observing a regular handwashing routine is essential.
When disinfecting premises, it is ideal to use fog, mist, or ultraviolet (UV) treatment to control the spread of the coronavirus. The use of these treatments to disinfect premises must be included in the risks assessment. Ensure to use hand sanitiser products and surface disinfectants following the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
When a person has an active coronavirus, they might spread it in the air by breathing out small particles or aerosols of the virus. Excellent ventilation can reduce how much virus is in the air and, therefore, decreases the chances of others breathing it in. Proper ventilation can also increase comfort and maintain the right temperature in the workplace.
Ways to prevent poor ventilation:
- Open windows, doors, and vents.
- Do not overcrowd working spaces.
- Frequently air rooms by opening doors and windows wide between use.
Talking with Workers and Provide Information
Achieving a safe and comfortable working environment is not possible through an employer’s efforts alone. Employees and other workers must work together to reduce coronavirus transmission. Communication can help address any issues and concerns employees might have, including their worries about going to the workplace.
Consulting with employees means employers can:
- Explain changes made to keep the working environment safe.
- Continue business operation safely.
Talking with workers means they can:
- Raise concerns and worries about any workplace risks.
- Influence decisions about health and safety.
Ways to Consult Workers:
- Employers should communicate with employees directly.
- Through a trade union.
- Through another representative.
Employers must make time to talk about their plans for working safely. They should keep their ears open for what their employees have to say and consider their suggestions before deciding or taking action. Additionally, they must consider workers’ individual beliefs, cultures, and personal circumstances.
Working From Home
For companies who still have employees working remotely, employers must provide them with the adequate tool to continue work even from their homes while ensuring their safety. Businesses must give their employees the equipment they require, like a computer, phone, and videoconferencing communication tools that will allow them to collaborate. Employees must do their part by reporting their status and wellbeing to their employers.
It is no longer a requirement to work remotely in England and Scotland. On the other hand, working from home is still recommended in Wales. Should employees experience COVID-19 symptoms, they must immediately self-isolate and take a PCR test. The rules are different in England, Scotland, and Wales.
- Clinically Extremely Vulnerable
The UK government has identified some people as clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. Workers who have previously been considered clinically extremely vulnerable must continue to follow the coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread and consider the advise given by health professionals.
- Immunosuppressed Workers
Immunosuppressed individuals have weakened immune systems due to a particular health condition or medication that suppresses the immune system. Examples of people with weakened immune systems include those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, transplant patients, and those with inherited diseases that affect their immune systems.
Immunosuppressed workers are more likely to acquire COVID-19 as they have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases. They are also advised to work remotely or consult with their employers to make special arrangements to ensure their safety.
- Pregnant Employees
Employers have an existing requirement to meet, which ensures workplace safety where a critical health risk and safety risk is identified for an expectant mother. Such individuals are at more significant chances of acquiring the virus and the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Pregnant employees must temporarily work remotely, or employers can consider suspending them on paid leave.
Workplace Testing for COVID-19
While administering COVID-19 tests is not legally required, it is an excellent idea for employers to include this as part of their workplace policy to ensure a safe workplace during the pandemic. Should employers test staff, they must talk with their team or a recognised trade union or other employee representatives.
They must be able to tackle how testing should be carried out, how they can get their results, or what to do if employees were to test positive for COVID-19. If employees are worried about getting a coronavirus test, employers must explain how they would want to deal with their time off work.
For instance, they can keep their usual pay rate instead of paying them sick pay. Some workers might not want to get tested, which can be problematic should a specific employee test positive for coronavirus. If that situation happens, employers must be able to explain its significance adequately and should listen to employees’ reasons behind their reluctance.
Are you looking for a testing provider?
Harley Medic Global is a government-approved testing provider and an expert in COVID-19 testing. They have many locations across the UK, ensuring that a testing centre is near you. Getting a test is as easy as booking online and finding their closest clinic. Visit their website harleymedic.co.uk to learn more.