World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2020: COVID-19 stop the pandemic
28th April 2020
Today, 28th April 2020, is The World Day for Safety and Health at Work. This year, the World Day for Safety and Heath at Work will focus on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work, focusing on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Background on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work
This is an annual event, held since 2003, was set up by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to highlight the importance of keeping your workplace safe to prevent accidents and diseases at work. This yearly event is an integral part of the Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health of the ILO. Advocacy is one of the main pillars of the Global Strategy, and the World Day for Safety and Health at Work is an important tool in raising awareness stressing the importance of occupational health and safety practices.
This international campaign is focused on reducing the number of work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses through promoting the importance of creating a health and safety culture. As an employer you are responsible for ensuring the work environment is safe and healthy for your employees. As an employee you are responsible for working safely to protect yourself and others from harm, and to help implement preventative measures.
Tackling the coronavirus in the workplace
Adequate health and safety measures in the workplace can play a crucial role in containing the spread of diseases, whilst protecting workers and those around them. The Government, employers, and workers all have an important role to play in helping to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, and they need to work together to ensure effective results.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in December 2019, there has been growing concern over the continual rise of coronavirus infections throughout the world. In the UK alone, there has been 152,840 confirmed cases (as of 27th April 2020), and over 20,000 deaths. The government, employers, and workers all face huge challenges as they try to combat and prevent the spread of the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an immediate health emergency and has a huge impact on the world of work. COVID-19 has brought with it the need for the UK to rapidly adapt to changing workplace practices. Under health and safety laws, employers have a duty of care to maintain the health and safety of all their employees and others in the workplace. This duty extends to managing the risk of exposure and impact of COVID-19 on employees.
How employers can maintain the health and safety of employees during the coronavirus pandemic
Employers must carry out a risk assessment to assess the probability of their workers being infected so they can take appropriate measures to protect their workers. The Health and Safety Executive and ILO have outlined what steps you and your business should take during the coronavirus outbreak. To reduce the risk to your workers, employers should implement measures to protect their health and safety, such as:
- Promoting physical distancing in your workplace, where possible. If your employees can work from home, let them do so. Arrange for meetings to take place over the phone, on video chat, or via email. If your employees can’t work from home, try to limit the amount of contact they have with others throughout the day and ensure people keep a safe distance away from others, this could include implementing shifts to avoid large concentrations of workers in one place at one time.
- Implement good hygiene practices: provide anti-bacterial handwash and access to hot water and promote a culture of regular handwashing or provide hand sanitiser and encourage employees to regularly use it to disinfect their hands. Promote good respiratory hygiene practices to encourage employees to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing.
- Regular cleaning: Ensure your workplace is cleaned regularly, provide disinfectant or disinfectant wipes so workers can regularly disinfect commonly used areas. Encourage workers to regularly clean desks, workstations, doorknobs, keyboards, mice, telephones, tills, keypads, and other objects they use to work.
- Providing personal protective equipment (PPE): provide free protective equipment such as gloves, face masks, and overalls to workers who come into contact with others throughout their day, particularly to workers who are more at risk.
- Training and communication: Train management and workers on the new measures to prevent the risk of exposure to COVID-19. This includes, communicating a clear policy for when someone believes they may have been exposed to coronavirus or has symptoms, training on how to properly use and correctly dispose of PPE, providing regular updates on the situation in the workplace, and maintaining good communication with all workers, even those working at home.
Addressing the psychological risks of the coronavirus in the workplace
An outbreak of a worldwide pandemic such as the coronavirus can have an enormous effect on a person’s mental health and the whole world is subject to increased levels of stress, which can affect people in different ways. Many people may be anxious about their health, their job security, and the impact of the virus. Some may feel low or depressed, particularly if they are isolated. Employers should take into consideration the psychological risks of the coronavirus on their workers and do what they can to reduce them. This could include:
- keeping your employees fully informed wherever possible to lessen their anxiety
- putting in place measures to combat isolation which could include regular video chats or phone calls to check up on employees at home
- thinking of ways to help workers maintain a healthy work-life balance, particularly if they are working from home
- managing workloads effectively to reduce stress, particularly if a large proportion of your workforce is off sick
- training managers to be able to recognise and help workers who are struggling
Kays Medical can help
Kays Medical are occupational health experts, with over 40 years’ experience in the field. We can help you keep your workers and workplace safe and healthy, year-round. We provide a wide range of occupational health services to all types of organisations including risk assessments to help you keep your workers safe, training courses for managers and employees so they can recognise and effectively deal with workplace health issues that impact the work environment, vaccinations and immunisations to reduce to spread of disease in the workplace, face fit testing services for PPE, and mental health support services and training. We can also supply a range of products which can protect your workers, such as disinfectants, hand sanitisers, and anti-bacterial soap. For more information get in touch with us today.