Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for Workplaces

As the number of cases of COVID-19 increase locally and internationally, we look at preparations and protocols workplaces can implement.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for Workplaces

The basics

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads the same way as the flu.

When someone with COVID-19 coughs, they release droplets of infected fluid which fall on nearby surfaces and objects such as desks, tables or telephones. Co-workers can catch COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth, or by breathing in droplets if standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 who coughed out or exhaled near them.

What are the symptoms and risks?

Like with the flu, most people with COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms and recover.

However, some people have more serious illness and require hospital care.

Risk factors for serious illness include:

  • Increasing age (those over 40 years are more vulnerable)
  • Weakened immune systems such as those on chemotherapy or immunosuppressant medications
  • Concurrent conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease.

5 strategies to protect workers and customers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published advice specifically for employers to prevent the spread of infections.

It is strongly advised that these measures should be taken even if COVID-19 has not been reported in your community as yet.
Disinfect surfaces regularly

1: Ensure your workplace is clean and hygienic

Disinfect surfaces and objects regularly (e.g. tables, desks, telephones, keyboards).

2: Educate and promote the need for regular and thorough hand-washing

Use your usual communication channels - such as tool box talks and start of shift meetings to communicate the importance of hand washing - and drying.

Place posters up to remind correct hand hygiene.

Place hand sanitiser at prominent places around the workplace.

Ensure hand washing facilities with soap and water are readily available.

You can catch COVID-19 by breathing in droplets if standing within one metre of a person with COVID-19 who coughed out or exhaled near them.

3: Educate and promote good respiratory hygiene

  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Ensure you have tissues and bins available to dispose of used tissues.
  • Use of posters with graphics to show how the disease is easily spread to help remind people

4: Manage health risks for workers who travel nationally and internationally

Advise all employees and contractors to refer to the current national travel advice prior to travelling interstate or overseas.

Make sure your organisation and its employees have the latest information on areas where COVID-19 is spreading.

The number of cases of COVID-19 where the likely source of transmission occurred outside of China continues to rise. Many of these cases are under investigation as to the site of exposure.

5: Have a plan for workers who become unwell - and tell your workforce about it

In the event that COVID-19 has spread to your community, ensure your workforce, customers and contractors are aware that they need to stay at home / work from home if they have even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3C or more).

This is also the case if they have needed to take medication to treat these symptoms.

...ensure your workforce are aware that they need to stay at home / work from home if they have even a mild cough or low-grade fever (>37.3 degrees C).

Contingency planning

Organisations can take steps now to be ready in the event that COVID-19 arrives in our community.

  1. Promote regular teleworking where possible
  2. Develop a plan for what to do if someone develops symptoms in the workplace
  3. Develop a contingency plan and business continuity plan in the event that a significant number of your workers/contractors/suppliers are unwell or cannot work due to travel bans
  4. For small and medium sized businesses without in-house health staff, take the opportunity to develop partnerships with appropriately qualified advisors.

For further information and reading

For workplace specific information please visit the WHO site.

For general advice:

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