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Coronavirus and Work – Keeping Safe


Posted on: Jan 31,2020


coronavirus at work

The coronavirus has been identified in a growing number of countries, including Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany, France, Japan and China. Two people from the same family have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.

What is the coronavirus?

The coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause various illnesses, from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). According to WHO, a coronavirus usually causes respiratory illness. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. The 2019 novel coronavirus is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans.

What are the Primary Symptoms of the Coronavirus?

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States says that in the confirmed cases of Coronavirus thus far, affected individuals have reported mild to severe respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the virus has led to pneumonia, kidney failure, and, in at least 100 deaths (presently, all in China), as of the time of this writing. The CDC believes at this time that symptoms may appear within two to fourteen days after exposure. However, some infected individuals have shown little to no symptoms.

How can the spread of the Coronavirus be prevented?

Because there is presently no Coronavirus vaccine available, the NHS, CDC and WHO are  recommending standard precautions to avoid the spread of respiratory viruses, such as washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or, if soap is not available, using hand sanitizer; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; staying at home when you are sick; and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What to do now

Take the recommended precautions and consult the latest news and resources on the appropriate government sites.

NHS

Health and Safety Executive 

WHO

Public Health Agency of Canada

Centers for Disease Control

 

Your Employer’s Responsibilities

Your Employer has a legal obligation to ensure a safe workplace for all workers under the Health and Safety at Work (etc.) Act 1974 but there are no laws or regulations specifically addressing an employer’s legal obligations about  coronavirus.

Some workplace strategies which you can suggest to your Employer are:

  • Contagious Disease Policy – Implementing a contagious disease policy to communicate to everyone how the virus and other infectious diseases will be addressed at work. Particularly what to do if a colleague is suspected of having contracted the coronavirus or is displaying flu-like symptoms.
  • Education – Educating  everyone at work about the transmission and symptoms of the coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus can be transmitted person-to-person, specifically through respiratory secretions, e.g., coughing and sneezing.
  • Other strategies – Placing tissue boxes at each workstation and hand sanitizers at several locations around the workplace, e.g., by the printer.

 

 

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