As the number of reported cases of COVID-19 rises, the possibility of an outbreak in your workplace continues to escalate. You and your clients may be starting to worry about what to do in the event of a worst-case scenario.
This article breaks down what you and your clients should know about the coronavirus and what steps you can take to keep employees safe.
What is the Coronavirus?
The coronavirus is a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Common signs of infection include headache, fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. Those who are elderly or have a pre-existing condition are at the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronaviruses.
How Does the Coronavirus Spread?
Although the ongoing coronavirus outbreak is believed to be caused by people who were exposed to infected animals, COVID-19 can be spread between people through respiratory secretions, especially when they cough or sneeze. The incubation period for COVID-19 is believed to be from two to 14 days.
It is believed that the spread of COVID-19 from person-to-person most likely occurs among close contacts who are within about 2 metres of each other.
However, because this is a new illness, we do not know exactly how the coronavirus spreads, according to the NHS. There is still much to learn about its transmission, the severity of the illness, its causes, mortality rate, and to what extent it may spread in the United Kingdom and beyond.
What Businesses Can Do to Protect to Their Workplace
There are a number of steps you and your clients can take to address the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace, including the following:
- Actively encourage employees to stay home if they have signs or symptoms, and give employees the flexibility to work remote, if possible. Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of signs of a fever and any other symptoms of COVID-19, without the use of fever-reducing or symptom-altering medication.
- Promote hand hygiene. Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to reduce the spread of germs.
- Perform regular workplace cleaning. Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Consider offering free cleaning wipes throughout the office to encourage employees to clean items at their desk like their laptop and mouse, which can harbor lots of germs.
- Closely monitor the NHS, HSE and WHO websites for the latest information on the status of the coronavirus. Consider appointing a single individual or department as the point of contact within your organisation for employee questions about the virus.
- Proactively educate employees on what is known about the virus, including its transmission and prevention. Educate them on common misconceptions and myths that might be circulating to make sure they have the most accurate information possible.
- Establish a written communicable illness policy and response plan that covers communicable disease like the coronavirus in the workplace. In addition, you should review safety programs and emergency action plans to ensure that they include infection-disease protocols.
- Consider cancelling business travel to affected geographic areas and request employees notify you if they are travelling to these areas for personal reasons.
As with any workplace policy, it is essential that employers be cautious to prevent inadvertent discrimination when it comes to coronavirus prevention. Discriminating against employees or asking illegal health-related questions can introduce a host of legal concerns, so make sure whatever policy your company decides to pursue is equally enforced in the workplace.
Stay in the Know
It is important to remember that the COVID-19 situation evolves and changes every day. Unfortunately, there is no known vaccine for COVID-19, making precaution that much more critical. Employers should continue to monitor the NHS website and WHO website for the latest information on COVID-19 cases.
For current Zywave partners, we recommend using the coronavirus resources available in Broker Briefcase to educate your clients on the latest news concerning the virus and how they can protect employees. New content is being created and updated by our team weekly, as we continue to learn more about the virus.