Are you ready for the end of lockdown?
As part of a company’s overall Health and Safety Risk Analysis on return to work for your staff.
What is COVID 19 and Novel Coronavirus?
Novel Coronavirus is the virus from the coronavirus family which has jumped species. The exact animal it has ‘jumped’ from is as yet unknown. These viruses are referred to as Zoonotic virus as they have the ability to transfer from animals to humans. HIV is a zoonotic virus that transferred to humans from monkeys who suffers from a similar virus called SIV. Pandemics occur relatively frequently on a historic timescale. In this century there have been numerous pandemics such as Spanish Flu, HIV (AIDS), Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu and Swine Flu. It is vital to remember tan all pandemics have a finite timescale and the aim is to mitigate transmission and reduce the loss of life. It is equally important to learn from each episode to reduce the frequency of pandemics. Human interaction with nature or rather poor human interaction with nature is a major factor in the frequency of pandemics and can be directly attributable to COVID 19 and HIV amongst others.
Economics vs Life
Social distancing and the global use of ‘lockdowns’ are a method of reducing transmission rates. As the virus is thought to be spread by people who may be asymptomatic (displaying no outward signs of the illness), its spread is insidious and rapid. In the case of Novel coronavirus, it is very infectious and is principally thought to be spread by contact and droplets (sneezing and coughing). The economic impact of social distancing is enormous and eventually, businesses have to return to work to pay the taxes to run the NHS and other social services. There is a balancing act. In 1918, 50 million people died globally from Spanish Flu out of an estimated 1.6 billion people before the pandemic subsided. The loss of life is tragic but all governments around the world will be looking to get their economies working again. Without it, the effect of an economic depression would exacerbate the loss of life. Successful companies will be planning for a return to work and maintaining productivity whilst protecting their staff.
Identification of Staff Vulnerable Staff with underlying health conditions
The staff that are deemed ‘vulnerable’ will have been contacted by the NHS. Employers are advised to review government guidance on ‘vulnerable staff’. Where possible, home or remote working should be advocated for these staff. Staff living with ‘vulnerable patients’ should be assessed with a view to the possible impact on vulnerable patients due to the increased potential risk of their return to work.
Potential At Risk Staff
Staff who have spouses or family working within the NHS or frontline care services are statistically more likely to become infected and as a result, potentially become carriers within your organisation. A risk assessment of their personal circumstances should be undertaken before their return to work.
Prevention of Transmission
The number one strategy is to prevent transmission. On the basis that may people who have had or have novel coronavirus are asymptomatic, it is vital to mitigate transmission until a vaccine is developed of ‘herd immunity’ established in the population. 2m Space between Staff Member Office space is at a premium and you may not have sufficient space to allow a 2m gap between staff. If this is the case, consider alternate office day working for staff such that 50% of the workforce is coming in on alternate days.
No mask is 100% effective at preventing transmission with the exception of specialist surgical equipment. There are many types of mask and the cost per mask rises with the overall filtration efficiency. For the vast majority of people, simpler disposable masks should suffice. Type 1 Masks which are general-purpose disposable masks offer above 90% protection from bacterial penetration. This provides a physical barrier to droplet infections. Staff should be provided with a supply of at least two a day and they should be advised not to touch the front of the mask and then their skin as this would transfer any potential infection. Type 2 and Type 2R masks The masks have a higher efficiency is preventing bacterial ingress. Staff dealing with a large amount of the public or in high-density areas should probably use these or higher grade masks.
Alcohol Hand Gels
Alcohol Gel pumps should be positioned at entrances to doorways where a handle or physical object is touched. The alcohol gel stations should be available on each side of a doorway. 500ml gel bottles are readily available with pumps. Ideally, infrared alcohol pumps where available should be utilised. 100ml alcohol gels should be provided to staff in the workplace at their workstation to encourage regular hand sanitisation.
Hard surfaces such as door handles, desks and areas of heavy physical contact need to be cleaned with alcohol wipes which will reduce a degree of transmission risk. A rota for staff to clean surfaces every hour should be set up to reduce transmission risks.
The use of disposable gloves when in public spaces is to be encouraged. It may not be possible to work with gloves on all the time and the use of alcohol gels would assist in closing the transmission loophole when not wearing gloves. It is however important to remember that gloves should be changed frequently especially when staff have had exposure to public places