Coronavirus Crisis: What to do when a worker is infected
By Allan Briggs
Image by The Verge, Feb 2020
The United Kingdom has been on a full nationwide lockdown since the end of March, which has been extended until at least mid-May, with further restrictions expected to take place to help 'flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus outbreak.
This means that all non-essential workers are required to work from home wherever possible and has also meant the closure of business services such as retail, hospitality, the arts, sports and entertainment.
However, there are also many industries which remain open — construction, supermarkets, pharmacies, petrol stations, food manufacturing, agriculture, logistics and of course hospitals are just some of the essential services which continue to operate despite the pandemic which is still sweeping through the globe.
The big question then for these companies with frontline workers is, how can they keep both their staff and their customers safe whilst keeping their business running as optimally as possible? There have already been multiple meat manufacturing plants in the United States who have been forced to close due to workers contracting the virus, resulting in not only a surge of infection cases, but also a steep drop in meat production (one plant produced approximately 5% of the entire US pork supply every day). The first case of an Amazon warehouse worker having contracted the virus was discovered three weeks ago, sparking concerns about the safety of both worker and customer (given the virus has been proven to live for hours, potentially days, on cardboard packaging).
The health and lives of the workers will be compromised (and anyone who may have been in contact with them) if facilities continue operating the way that they have been, but if they cannot reopen peoples’ economic livelihoods will be destroyed, as well as potentially causing massive food shortages across the country.
We don’t pretend to know what national governments should be doing in this kind of situation, but we do know that there are measures that can be taken to minimise the risk to your staff and the wider community.
Maintaining a safe workplace:
Stay updated on current verified information.
Ensure staff have appropriate PPE, face masks and gloves where required. Supply of masks, gloves and sanitiser should always be available for staff to use.
Encourage remote working where possible.
Clean and sterilise regularly.
Try and limit staff travel on public transport (provide onsite staff parking if possible).
Encourage cashless transactions where possible.
Develop new ways for customers to interact with you, online or remotely.
Strictly manage social distancing.
Sterilise thoroughly between shift rotations.
Start and end shifts off-peak where possible to limit interaction with peak commuter traffic.
Separate office staff from production / operations staff.
Limit occupancy of building / office using established social distancing rules.
Have air-conditioning set using external air intake to reduce recycling internal air.
Rotate different departments / project teams on different days.
Arrange for staff who are at high risk (elderly, pre-existing condition, indigenous or immunocompromised persons) to work remotely.
Implement a confidential internal alert / notification process so that staff can bring any concerns / confirmed cases to your attention first.
Set up screens where staff have regular face-to-face interactions with external people (shop counter etc.)
Limit number of people in a vehicle (seek government guidelines on this).
Any domestic or international travel is to be reviewed and approved by Business Continuity Management Team, in line with current government guidelines.
Have a Business Continuity Management Team and develop a Business Continuity Plan (this should be in place – call us for a free consultation if you don't have this).
When there is a confirmed case:
Validate the case with an authorised medical practitioner or medical certificate.
Advise your local Department of Health who will initiate tracing and assist with supporting the infected person.
Isolate staff who are traced to have had contact with infected person.
Implement full sterilisation of site and consider shutting down for a 48 hour period where possible.
Send internal notifications as soon as possible (be open and transparent about this).
Send out a briefing to other staff not infected; assure them you have followed all Department of Health procedures and that their welfare is paramount.
Consider temperature checks for staff and visitors (be guided by Department of Health and government on this).
Don’t bring all staff back at once (government may provide advice / direction on this).
As a final note, it is highly likely that staff will be suffer varying levels of anxiety should your office or place of business encounter a confirmed case. Calm and professional management will place your business in the best position to support any infected staff; give comfort to other staff who are not infected and return your business to operation quickly and safely.
We have been working with clients to ensure they are well prepared should they have a confirmed infected staff member.
Call me on +61 417 160 120 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chat on how we can help prepare and protect your business to survive for better times ahead.