The covid-19 pandemic is among the greatest disease outbreak the world has ever known in history.
As infectious as it is, it has killed thousands of people globally.
In recent times, there have been cases of events involving infectious diseases such as
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) – The first occurrence of this viral disease happened in 1976 in a village near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
And after that, the world recorded the second outbreak of the Ebola virus Disease in 2014 in South Sudan of Africa.
We have Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). This is caused by a coronavirus called Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-COV).
It has symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Then, we have the Norovirus illness which is foodborne occurring in the US.
And it causes diarrhoea and gastroenteritis among people of all ages.
Severe acute respiratory syndromes (SARS); Very fatal and were identified in China in 2002 and believed to be caused by a virus but the specific agents are yet to be identified.
We have the Swine influenza virus-although a respiratory disease of pigs. It had a resemblance to the human influenza virus.
And then, Tuberculosis (TB) and it’s the second most common cause of death globally.
Let’s see how Covid-19 spreads. And then we can say out the 19 things an employer can do to protect the workers from being infected.
Covid-19: How does it spread?
Covid-19 is a coronavirus disease that started in the year 2019. The virus is called SARS-COV-2. It causes dry cough, shortness of breath and general pains and in some people, it causes a headache, spitting of blood and diarrhoea.
Some people may even be asymptomatic, and they will have no symptoms in them.
- Mostly spread from person to person who is in close contact with each other. Any distance that is less than 2 meters apart from each other can encourage the spread of Covid-19.
- It can spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person.
This could be from their coughs and sneezing. An individual coming into contact with the droplets can contract the coronavirus.
- A touch from an infected person to a non-infected individual can transmit the virus through the person’s hand. And that person, in turn, touches any of these body parts; the mouth, ears or eyes or nose.
Now that we have seen the mode of coronavirus -Covid 19 spreads.
Below are 19 things an employer can do to protect the workers from contracting Covid-19 in the workplace.
1. Develop a plan.
The employer needs to develop a plan on how to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 in the workplace. The plan has to consider the workers, the visitors, the business, the customers, and the public.
Just like the way we have other plans on-site for example, an emergency response plan.
In that manner, the employer can design and implement an infectious disease preparedness and response plan (IDPR).
For those employers that have a plan for other infectious diseases before the Covid-19 Pandemic.
They can make the necessary changes and update Covid-19 in it.
2. Write a policy directed toward Covid-19.
The employer can develop policies such as the NO handshake policy, Social distance policy, and make sure it is pasted at every corner of the workplace. And communicated to workers effectively.
This will enable the workers to avoid shaking hands and maintaining a social distance.
And it does not end there, safety officers have to monitor and make sure that workers follow the rules and disciplinary actions to follow against violators.
3. Enforcement of handwashing and use of sanitizers.
Employers have to provide handwashing facilities in the workplace. And also ensure that the workers are giving regular hand washing breaks during work.
Those that can’t provide handwashing facilities, have to provide hand sanitizers and ensure that it contains over 60 percent alcohol.
Any hand sanitizer with less than 60 percent alcohol content is highly not recommended to be effective against the coronavirus.
The handwashing facilities shall be placed at strategic places within the reach of every worker in the workplace.
4. Observe social distancing.
Employers should ensure they encourage social distancing in the workplace. Every worker should give each other more than the 2-meter distance at any time in the workplace.
They can place safety signs and posters to communicate at the workplace so that all can see them.
5. Use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
It’s the responsibility of an employer to provide PPE in the workplace.
PPE for example gloves, eye goggles, facemask, respirators, etc.
They have to ensure that it’s made available to workers at all times. And also monitor its usage. Some workers may refuse to wear their PPE at all times or they may choose to wear it incorrectly.
For these, the employer has to monitor the workers and enforce the proper use of personal protective equipment at the workers’ disposal.
Damaged PPE has to be replaced and disposed of properly to encourage good housekeeping.
The employer has to provide education to workers on preventing Covid-19. And it should be job-specific because not all workers have the same level of exposure to their job.
There can be arrangements for refresher training to keep the worker abreast of new information.
When carrying out the training, ensure that the competent person who is certified to train and designated to use PPE and to perform emergency procedures handles the activity.
The trained workers have to be evaluated to validate the effectiveness of the training.
7. Provide emergency responders.
Emergency responders will help to respond to any emergencies resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic in the workplace.
Their various contacts of the emergency personnel have to be placed on notice boards for all to see.
Those workers working away from fixed locations should be monitored by these responders in case of any emergency.
Equipment for them to work has to be provided for example stretchers, face masks, Alcohol-based hand sanitisers, etc.
8. Proper ventilation.
Installation of air handling systems by the employer at various locations will encourage good ventilation a
And properly inspect the system to make sure they are in good condition.
9. Installing physical barriers.
This will help to contain the virus and ward off people from accessing infectious areas and from contracting the coronavirus through sneezing. For example, plastic sneeze guards.
10. Providing an isolation room.
This is majorly for health care workers such as medical doctors and nurses who are liable to conduct aerosol-generating procedures on patients.
Operations on known and suspected Covid-19 patients have to be performed in the isolation room.
And for post-mortem activities, an isolation room must be used or any other similar room like autopsy suites.
11. Stay at home if you’re sick.
The employer has to keep telling the workers to abide by this simple rule of staying at home when they are sick.
They could introduce a temperature check with an infrared thermometer in every work shift to detect any worker that is running a high temperature.
12. Discourage food handling and sharing of food and other items.
Any opportunity that will encourage people to share food in the workplace has to stop.
Proper food handling in the canteen will prevent contamination of the food.
And avoid sharing items in the workplace and not just on food.
Items like phones, tools, equipment, offices, etc
13. Staggering of workers and encouraging work from home.
There is a need to limit the number of workers that come to work. Those workers that can work from home can do so from home.
Employers can stagger the workers. Not all will be available at the same time in the workplace.
Some have to stay at home and make themselves available when the need arises from the office.
14. Disinfecting of regular touched areas.
Regular disinfecting of areas most likely to have frequent touches.
Areas like doorknobs, hand tools, steering, etc
15. Reporting of diseases and illnesses.
Employers have to provide a framework where workers are open to reporting health and safety issues on site. Not just on reporting a disease
16. Defer large meetings or do it in a smaller group.
When a meeting will involve gathering a lot of workers together, the employer has to defer it or do it in a smaller group of four or five persons.
This will further encourage social distancing in the workplace.
17. Competent Occupational health and Safety Officers.
Some company operates without the presence of a health and safety officer. And this is a very wrong practice.
The employer should know that the responsibility lies on them to provide a safe place of work.
And this entails employing a health and safety officer to take care of the health and safety roles and responsibilities effectively.
The health and safety officer must be competent enough on the job.
18. Reduce business travel.
Employers have to reduce any activities that will make their workers spend much of their time on the road.
These journeys can expose such a worker to the health risk of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The employer has to ensure that there is proper housekeeping in the workplace.
Good housekeeping practices such as disinfecting surfaces, cleaning offices and equipment, and arrangement of materials in their proper place.
Employers have a lot to do at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Greater responsibility lies on them to provide a safe working environment for their employees at work.
Workers can’t carry out the responsibility of an employer effectively as this may involve a huge cost to them, for example in the procurement of PPE.
Therefore, employers at this time have to step up their game in this fight to prevent and protect workers from COVID 19 in the workplace.
Onyeka Emma is a QHSE Professional, a business person, and an entrepreneur. He is very passionate about health and safety, Business and Entrepreneurship.