‘Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19’ - I
World Health Organisation
In January 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of a new coronavirus disease in Hubei Province, China to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO stated there is a high risk of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading to other countries around the world.
WHO and public health authorities around the world are taking action to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, long term success cannot be taken for granted. All sections of our society – including businesses and employers – must play a role if we are to stop the spread of this disease.
How COVID-19 spreads
When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects - such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu. Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care. Risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.
This document gives advice on:
1. Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace
2. How to manage COVID-19 risks when organizing meetings & events
3. Things to consider when you and your employees travel
4. Getting your workplace ready in case COVID-19 arrives in your community
1. Simple ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace
The low-cost measures below will help prevent the spread of infections in your workplace, such as colds, flu and stomach bugs, and protect your customers, contractors and employees.
Employers should start doing these things now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate. They can already reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives at one of your workplaces.
• Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic
o Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly
o Why? Because contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads
• Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers
o Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled
o Display posters promoting hand-washing – ask your local public health authority for these or look on www.WHO.int.
o Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings and information on the intranet to promote hand-washing
o Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water
o Why? Because washing kills the virus on your hands and prevents the spread of COVID19
• Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace
o Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefing at meetings and information on the intranet etc.
o Ensure that face masks1 and / or paper tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them
o Why? Because good respiratory hygiene prevents the spread of COVID-19
• Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips.
• Brief your employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at home. They should also stay home (or work from home) if they have had to take simple medications, such as paracetamol/acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, which may mask symptoms of infection
o Keep communicating and promoting the message that people need to stay at home even if they have just mild symptoms of COVID-19.
o Display posters with this message in your workplaces. Combine this with other communication channels commonly used in your organization or business.
o Your occupational health services, local public health authority or other partners may have developed campaign materials to promote this message
o Make clear to employees that they will be able to count this time off as sick leave.
2. How to manage COVID-19 risk when organizing meetings & events
Why do employers and organizers need to think about COVID-19?
Organizers of meetings and events need to think about the potential risk from COVID-19 because:
• There is a risk that people attending your meeting or event might be unwittingly bringing the
COVID-19 virus to the meeting. Others might be unknowingly exposed to COVID-19.
• While COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, it can make some very ill. Around 1 in every 5 people who catch COVID-19 needs hospital treatment.
Key considerations to prevent or reduce COVID-19 risks
BEFORE the meeting or event
• Check the advice from the authorities in the community where you plan to hold the meeting or event. Follow their advice.
• Develop and agree a preparedness plan to prevent infection at your meeting or event.
o Consider whether a face-to-face meeting or event is needed. Could it be replaced by a teleconference or online event?
o Could the meeting or event be scaled down so that fewer people attend?
o Ensure and verify information and communication channels in advance with key partners such as public health and health care authorities.
o Pre-order sufficient supplies and materials, including tissues and hand sanitizer for all participants. Have surgical masks available to offer anyone who develops respiratory symptoms.
o Actively monitor where COVID-19 is circulating. Advise participants in advance that if they have any symptoms or feel unwell, they should not attend.
o Make sure all organizers, participants, caterers and visitors at the event provide contact details: mobile telephone number, email and address where they are staying. State clearly that their details will be shared with local public health authorities if any participant becomes ill with a suspected infectious disease. If they will not agree to this they cannot attend the event or meeting.
• Develop and agree a response plan in case someone at the meeting becomes ill with symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, fever, malaise). This plan should include at least:
o Identify a room or area where someone who is feeling unwell or has symptoms can be safely isolated
o Have a plan for how they can be safely transferred from there to a health facility.
o Know what to do if a meeting participant, staff member or service provider tests positive for COVID-19 during or just after the meeting
o Agree the plan in advance with your partner healthcare provider or health department.
DURING the meeting or event
• Provide information or a briefing, preferably both orally and in writing, on COVID-19 and the measures that organizers are taking to make this event safe for participants.
o Build trust. For example, as an icebreaker, practice ways to say hello without touching.
o Encourage regular hand-washing or use of an alcohol rub by all participants at the meeting
o Encourage participants to cover their face with the bend of their elbow or a tissue if they
cough or sneeze. Supply tissues and closed bins to dispose of them in.
o Provide contact details or a health hotline number that participants can call for advice or to give information.
• Display dispensers of alcohol-based hand rub prominently around the venue.
• If there is space, arrange seats so that participants are at least one meter apart.
• Open windows and doors whenever possible to make sure the venue is well ventilated.
• If anyone who starts to feel unwell, follow your preparedness plan or call your hotline.
o Depending on the situation in your area, or recent travel of the participant, place the person in the isolation room. Offer the person a mask so they can get home safely, if appropriate, or to a designated assessment facility.
• Thank all participants for their cooperation with the provisions in place.
AFTER the meeting
1. Retain the names and contact details of all participants for at least one month. This will help public health authorities trace people who may have been exposed to COVID-19 if one or more participants become ill shortly after the event.
2. If someone at the meeting or event was isolated as a suspected COVID-19 case, the organizer should let all participants know this. They should be advised to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days and take their temperature twice a day.
3. If they develop even a mild cough or low-grade fever (i.e. a temperature of 37.3 C or more) they should stay at home and self-isolate. This means avoiding close contact (1 meter or nearer) with other people, including family members. They should also telephone their healthcare provider or the local public health department, giving them details of their recent travel and symptoms.
4. Thank all the participants for their cooperation with the provisions in place. (To be contd)