Health experts have been advocating disease prevention measures for as long as anyone can remember. However, it took a global health emergency like the COVID-19 outbreak to make people pay attention. Responsible business owners need to take stock of what they need to know about responding to the threat of coronavirus in the workplace.
Corona Virus in the Workplace: Why Should We Be Concerned?
The Novel Corona Virus 2019 or COVID-19 is surely not the most dangerous pathogen mankind has had to deal with. There have been many other diseases that are much more contagious than COVID-19. A case in point is the many cold viruses that can easily infect almost everyone in a single room or vehicle when someone sneezes. However, the common cold is not regarded as a killer disease. True killer diseases such as rabies, tetanus, and HIV/AIDS are also causes for concern. However, they are not easily transmitted by everyday activities.
COVID-19 is a curious combination of the two. It is a communicable disease that has a relatively low Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) of around three percent. This means only three out of a hundred cases of COVID-19 are likely to die from the disease. In contrast, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) had a CFR of up to 15 percent in some countries. The more recent Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) reports a CFR of over 30 percent.
COVID-19 is a potentially fatal disease, however, that can be transmitted through normal everyday activities. As such, it is truly a cause for concern.
How should we respond to this?
The difficult thing about such epidemics is that even people who are not exposed to the pathogen are victims of the crisis. This is because of the changes they have to make in their behavior and their need to endure the changes being made in the world around them.
Indeed, changes must be made, but we should not immediately resort to just shutting everything down and make the world stop turning. We cannot all respond to the situation like the overzealous officials.
Locking down or imposing a quarantine on entire towns will make everything come to a standstill. People need to get on with their lives, pursue education, go to work, and allow society to function. This raises important concerns on how to address coronavirus in the workplace.
The long and short of it is there has always been coronavirus in workplaces. Many of the common colds passed around by people in workplaces are actually strains of coronaviruses.
Still, everyone is worried about avoiding the COVID-19 strain of this virus. Tried-and-tested infection prevention measures have already been identified. They should be instituted to prevent transmission of ALL coronaviruses.
Preventing COVID-19 transmission
The main reservoir for any viable virus is an infected person. As such, people should not be present at the workplace until they get well or are found through proper testing to be free of this particular disease.
Some employers such as grocery chain Trader Joe take this a step further. They encourage sick employees to skip work and seek medical help, with a promise of receiving additional paid sick leave time. Anyone who experiences fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should be evaluated by a qualified medical practitioner.
Workers who do not display any of the symptoms of this disease should still take the prescribed measures. They must adopt the appropriate behavior patterns to help prevent coronavirus in the workplace. This includes frequent handwashing. Refraining from unnecessary contact and proximity with other employees is also necessary.
They should also avoid contact with frequently touched objects like doorknobs and handrails. In addition, overall hygiene, especially with food and beverage utensils, should be observed.
Mask-wearing is not recommended for people who are not sick or working in a healthcare scenario. Management will also find it worthwhile to impose routine body temperature checks of all personnel. This can be done with hand-held infrared scanners or with airport-type monitors.
Stay sane, stay healthy
It is also important for employers to manage information well. This will prevent unwarranted panic about coronavirus in the workplace. Do not allow purveyors of fake news and conspiracy theories to mislead your workers. Warn them about unscientific health advice and recommendations.
Encourage employees to eat well, get ample exercise and rest. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle will surely do a world of good, whether your company has a problem with coronavirus in the workplace.