Coronavirus is a biological hazard under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and requires employers to take measures to minimise risk. Typical risk assessments will only list the flu in the table of biological hazards and not much else. Now, however, we are experiencing a powerful and highly contagious virus that needs immediate action to mitigate risk.
Risk assessment is based on the source, duration and level of the hazard (where it can be measured). Risk mitigation measures that affect at least one of the three factors must be considered. The easiest thing to do with this virus is to reduce exposure to the source and pathogen. To do this, we need to know how the virus is transmitted and what the health effects are, as well as consider groups at risk. On the basis of this we can select the most appropriate measures to mitigate risk.
HEALTH AND SAFETY SPECIALIST, now is the time to show what you’re capable of and approach the fight against coronavirus in a systematic way (of course, collaboration between you and management is important here). Below are a few thoughts for you:
- To begin with, it must be made clear how the coronavirus spreads. The virus spreads mainly by droplet infection (coughing, sneezing) and contaminated surfaces. This means mainly that people with symptoms of illness should be kept away from the work environment, and that the most frequently used surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected more frequently.
- Equipment must be disinfected. Workplaces where people share work equipment or the workplace itself (such as shift workers) should always have disinfectant within easy reach. Workers should always use disinfectant before and after using equipment or a working space.
- Workers with symptoms of illness should be sent home immediately. Workplaces could provide thermometers to measure body temperature (that also need to be cleaned!). Inform employees that if they experience suspicious fatigue or headaches, they should in any case take their temperature. Even employees with low fevers should be sent home immediately.
- Inform workers of possible symptoms of coronavirus. Rumours abound that the coronavirus is a terrible disease and unless the employee experiences major symptoms, they shouldn’t suspect corona nor take precautions.
- Personal disinfectant for employees. I assume that your work environment is already crawling with disinfectant, but if your company budget allows, you should equip your employees with personal bottles that they can take home with them. The virus doesn’t respect the boundary between home and work. Therefore it is important that hygiene procedures, including disinfection, are followed at home as well.
- Protective masks should ONLY be used by sick and at-risk people. The risk group includes people with chronic diseases and the elderly. Since mask-buying has gone slightly over-board, which has resulted in worldwide supply difficulties, it is important to stay sensible and only give masks to those who really need them.
When dispensing masks, make sure that the mask protects against viruses and germs. Respirators should have a protection factor of FFP3.
As we are often unaware of the medical conditions of our employees and are not allowed to ask, we need to trust employees – when they turn to you and ask for a mask, you give it to them.
- Calm your employees! In the current situation, workers are not afraid of the virus but rather of losing their jobs and income. It is important to inform employees about what measures are being taken to mitigate the situation and what happens if the employee has to stay home for a longer time. It also keeps workers from masking their symptoms.
- The contribution of cleaning service providers is very important! While the work of cleaning service workers is otherwise not much considered, the thorough and dedicated work of the cleaner is very important right now. Talk to them and explain the situation. Determine what should be disinfected and how often, and where only wet cleaning is sufficient.
- I believe that it is no longer necessary to mention that all employees who can carry out their duties from home should work remotely. But measures must also be taken to ensure that working at home is productive. You can read more about that HERE.
Health and safety specialist, this is your moment to shine. Companies are relying on your expertise and guidance. Keep up to date with different measures.
Here is an episode of an American OHS safety podcast about coronavirus. https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/anchor-podcasts/the-safety-guy-rundown-podcast-4
Communicate with your colleagues from other companies. There are lots of groups in LinkedIN.
And of course you can always turn to us. Give us a call or just write.
Founder and CEO of VITS