IOSH is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to share the latest information and guidance on the coronavirus and how to stay healthy at work.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic lung disease.
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. The risk of catching it within the workplace is low.
However, employers have a 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.
Workers are advised to maintain good hygiene standards around the workplaceby 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
- 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
- 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:
IOSH 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 and also how you 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
- 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 WHO document Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 or UK Government Guidance Preparing for emergencies.
Managing the safety, health and security of workers:
IOSHs research report Managing the safety, health and security of mobile workers, sets out the aspects of safety, health and security for which organisations should take responsibility when dealing with workers travelling for work or on international assignment.
Developed jointly by the International SOS Foundation, this occupational safety and health practitioners guide emphasises the need for dynamic risk assessment and planning for critical situations.
For the latest information and advice for you and your business, WHO have put together an important guide for OSH and healthcare professionals: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak: rights, roles and responsibilities of health workers, including key considerations for occupational safety and health.