Coronavirus – making the right decisions…
The coronavirus – COVID-19, (the disease caused by coronavirus) has spread far and wide since first being reported from Wuhan, China at the end of last year. COVID-19 has infected more than 88,000 people around the world and is continuing to spread.
With many travel engagements and shows booked, our managers have asked about our stance on the outbreak and what preventative measures we are taking to ensure we are providing a safe working environment for our employees.
Having a correct policy and procedure in place will strengthen and alleviate employees’ fears.
We have outlined some scenarios below:
What if an employee says, “I am not coming to work because I don’t want to get the coronavirus”?
An employer has a duty of care to their employees. If you are on the ‘at-risk’ list, make sure that provisions are made to enable working from home.
You will be expected to continue to come to work as per your contractual agreement even if this may now be in a remote working setting. You should alleviate your employee’s worries by making them aware of the hygiene policy that you have in place in the office environment, which you should have had before the Coronavirus came to town.
What happens if your company requires you to attend an event, are you obliged to travel?
The company should have a policy in place about work travel. There are countries that have large numbers of cases such as Italy and China where restricted travel is now in place. Make sure it is safe to do your job regardless of the location. Sixty-five percent of companies surveyed are now not allowing travel to and from Asia, that makes common sense.
It makes sense to limit travel from areas where Covid-19 is most widespread, both to prevent illness and to prevent loss of productivity due to confinement after they have returned from their destination.
Coronavirus – the facts
It is spread largely through coughing and sneezing, and it seems to spread easily. It may also be possible to become infected by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching one’s nose or mouth. To minimise the spread of the contamination, follow these steps.
– Shield coughs and sneezes with a tissue, elbow, or shoulder
– Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or uses an alcohol-based hand soap, remember, wash often to avoid contamination!
– We would add that it’s sensible to avoid shaking hands entirely to reduce the risk of spreading infection. Though that might be awkward at times, it’s an increasingly common practice in hospitals and clinics.
– Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and discard used tissue
– Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
– Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
People are being advised to begin social distancing. Social distancing aims to slow down the spread of COVID-19. It does this by minimising contact between potentially infected individuals and healthy individuals.
Social distancing is keeping a 2m (6ft) space between you and other people. You should not shake hands or make close contact where possible.
People are now being asked to self isolate if they have ‘flu-like symptoms (for example, fever, cough and so on) regardless of travel or contact history.
Social Interactions: Reduce interactions with people outside the workplace as much as possible.
People are required to:
– avoid crowded places
– increase interpersonal distance (social distancing)
– when in crowded settings, people should practice personal protective measures as they usually do (for example, frequent hand hygiene, avoid touching eyes/nose/mouth)
Several large companies have brought in remote working where possible. This has now followed with several countries following suit and recommending remote working where possible. France, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Turkey, and Norway have joined the growing list of countries to close all schools, universities, and kindergartens.
This is the time to put your remote working policies to the test and use all the solutions that enable remote working – Microsoft Teams, Slack, Visual Studio, HRLocker, Zoom.
Key Health Messages:
– Remember – more than 80% of people who have contracted the virus have experienced it in a mild form and generally recover in 2 – 3 weeks, while 20% experienced a more severe form of the disease, tends to be associated with older age (greater than 60 years old and having other health issues, for example, heart disease) as with influenza, the people most at risk are the elderly and those with underlying illness
– Covid-19 does not appear to be as infectious as some other diseases – while a person with measles typically passes the virus on to 14 other people for example, with Covid-19 that number is estimated to be between two and three
– Covid-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person’s body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on
– Current information suggests the Covid-19 virus may survive a few hours on surfaces but can be killed with simple household disinfectants
– A Cough
– Shortness of Breath
– Breathing Difficulties
– Fever (High Temperature)
If you feel you are displaying symptoms of the virus, stay away from other people, phone your GP without delay (do not go to the surgery) and self-isolate.
On a more practical note, listen to credible news sources. Follow the practical advice laid out by the relevant bodies such as the HSE, NHS or the governmental bodies. And remember, preventing the spread of the virus will ensure a happy and productive workplace!
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