Develop a contingency and business continuity plan for an outbreak in the communities where your business operates.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Prevention measures such as those described below should be taken now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in your community. They can already reduce working days lost due to illness and stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 if it arrives. The measures should be included in the workplace risk assessment that covers all risks, including those caused by biological agents, as set out in EU and national occupational health and safety legislation.
If it is feasible for your business, promote teleworking across your organisation and allow employees to work flexible hours to minimise crowding the workplace. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community, the health authorities may advise people to avoid public transport and crowded places. Teleworking will help your business keep operating while your employees stay safe.
The best way to reduce any risk of infection is good hygiene and avoiding direct or close contact (closer than 2 metres) with any potentially infected person. Any worker who deals with members of the public from behind a screen should be protected from airborne particles.
Follow the advice of your local public health authorities on criteria for possible exposure to COVID-19 (for example, areas where the person may have travelled to) to identify those that may have been exposed.
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace and there is reason to suspect they may have come into contact with COVID-19 (e.g. has travelled to China or other affected countries), the unwell person should be removed to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If possible, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.
The individual who is unwell should use their mobile phone to call the designated public health service number. If it is an emergency (if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) then you should call 112 and explain the situation and relevant information, such as which country they have returned from in the last 14 days and outline their current symptoms.
Whilst waiting for advice from the designated public health or emergency service, the affected person should remain at least two metres from other people. They should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and should cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.
If they need to go to the bathroom whilst waiting for medical assistance, they should use a separate bathroom if available.
Consider identifying persons who have conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness (e.g. diabetes, heart and lung disease, older age) and advising them to take additional precautions, such as staying at home.
For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, follow the guidance given by your national authorities. The management team of the office or workplace will be contacted by the designated public health services to discuss the case, to identify people who have been in contact with them and to advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.
A risk assessment of each situation will be undertaken by the designated public health services with the lead responsible person in your workplace. They will provide advice on how to manage staff and members of the public, based on their assessment of the risk.
The designated public health services will also be in contact with the affected person directly to advise on isolation and identifying other contacts and will be in touch with any persons they have contacted to provide them with appropriate advice.
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality.
Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should be given instructions on what to do according to your company policies and the national authorities´ guidance.
Advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices or toilets will be given by designated public health services (see #Cleaning offices and public spaces where there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19).
Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their employer and refer to national health services guidance as to how to assess their potential exposure and the measures to take.
If a confirmed case is identified in your workplace, the designated public health services will provide advice to:
Contacts are not considered cases and if they are feeling well, they are very unlikely to have spread the infection to others:
A confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace will cause anxiety among co-workers and some may become stressed. Clear communication is important, directing workers to reliable sources of information about COVID-19. Managers should be supportive and understanding and as far as possible flexible on working arrangements.
Coronavirus symptoms are similar to a flu-like illness and include cough, fever, or shortness of breath. Once symptomatic, all surfaces that the person has come into contact with must be cleaned including:
Public areas where a symptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time in (such as corridors) but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids do not need to be specially cleaned and disinfected.
If a person becomes ill in a shared space, these should be cleaned using disposable cloths and household detergents, according to current recommended workplace legislation and practice. Precautionary measures should be taken to protect cleaners.
All waste that has been in contact with the individual, including used tissues, and masks if used, should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full. The plastic bag should then be placed in a second bin bag and tied. It should be put in a safe place and marked for storage until the result is available. If the individual tests negative, this can be put in the normal waste. Should the individual test positive, you will be instructed what to do with the waste by public health authorities.
You can find more information here.
Source of information: European Agency for Safty and Health at Work