Coronavirus Crisis: Infections in the Workplace
We are currently battling our way through the long-dreaded ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 infections down here in Victoria and it hasn’t been going particularly well so far. Despite hunkering down into Australia's first Stage 4 lockdown and making face coverings mandatory, experts argue that the state government was too slow to react and that complacency (including lax security at a hotel quarantine) has allowed the virus to spiral even more out of control than the first outbreak back in March.
Whilst pundits on social media were quick to point the finger at ‘dastardly rule-breakers’ (damn those anti-maskers!) it turns out that about 80% of these new cases have actually come from the workplace – the most concerning number of these being from private aged care facilities.
Considering a lot of these are essential workers (well, not all of them) it’s an extremely difficult (and dangerous) position to be in, even with the current stage 4 restrictions. There are, however, ways and means with which to both a) reduce risk of infection to the lowest reasonably practicable level and b) reduce risk of further transmission when someone in the workplace is confirmed with COVID-19.
We can train your leadership teams on both of these in our ‘Return to Work’ and ‘Infected Persons Outbreak Management’ training workshops. But for some quick tips to help get you started, have a read of the below:
Maintaining a safe workplace:
1. Stay updated on current verified information.
2. Ensure staff have appropriate PPE, face masks and gloves where required. Supply of masks, gloves and sanitiser should always be available for staff to use.
3. Encourage remote working where possible.
4. Clean and sterilise regularly.
5. Try and limit staff travel on public transport (provide onsite staff parking if possible).
6. Encourage cashless transactions.
7. Develop new ways for customers to interact with you, online or remotely.
8. Manage social distancing in and around the workplace (especially common areas).
9. Rotate staff shifts with sterilising between shifts.
10. Shifts start and end off-peak to limit interaction with peak commuter traffic.
11. Separate office staff from production/operation staff.
12. Limit occupancy of building/office.
13. Have air-conditioning set using external air intake to reduce recycling internal air.
14. Rotate different departments/project teams on different days.
15. Arrange for all staff who are at high risk from COVID-19 to work remotely.
16. Confidential internal alert/notification process so staff can bring any concerns/confirmed case to your attention first.
17. Anti-sneeze screens where staff have regular face-to-face interaction with external people (shop counter etc).
18. Limit number of people in a vehicle (seek government guidelines on this).
19. Any domestic or international travel to be reviewed and approved by Business Continuity Management Team.
20. Have a Business Continuity Management team and develop a Business Continuity Plan (this should be in place – call us immediately if you don’t have this).
When there is a confirmed case:
1. Validate the case with an authorised medical practitioner, medical certificate or similar.
2. Advise your local Department of Health who will initiate tracing and assist with supporting the infected person.
3. Isolate staff who are traced to be with infected person.
4. Full sterilisation of site and, if deemed necessary by Department of Health, shut down.
5. Internal notification (be open and transparent about this).
6. Briefing to other staff not infected, assurance you have followed Department of Health procedures and that their welfare is paramount.
7. Consider temperature checks for staff and visitors (be guided by Department of Health and government on this).
8. Don’t bring all staff back at once (government may provide advice/direction on this).
Prepare in advance for an outbreak in your workplace rather than hoping it won’t happen to you.
Calm and professional management will place your business in the best position to support any infected staff, give comfort to other staff and key stakeholders, and return your business to operation quickly.
Call me on 0417 160 120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat on how we can help prepare and protect your business to survive for better times ahead.