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Consideration for public health and social measures in the workplace in the context of COVID-19
Can COVID-19 be transmitted at the workplace? COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets or contact with contaminated surfaces. Exposure can occur at the workplace, while travelling to work, during work-related travel to an area with local community transmission, as well as on the way to and from the workplace.
What is the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace? The risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace depends on the likelihood of coming within 1 metre of others, in having frequent physical contact with people who may be infected with COVID-19, and through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects.
Who should carry out the workplace risk assessment? Employers and managers, in consultation with workers, should carry out and regularly update the risk assessment for work-related exposure to COVID-19, preferably with the support of occupational health services.
What key measures to protect against COVID-19 should be undertaken in ALL workplaces? Measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19 that apply to all workplaces and all people at the workplace include frequent hand-washing or disinfection with alcohol based hand sanitizer, respiratory hygiene such as covering coughs, physical distancing of at least 1 metre or more according to the national recommendations, wearing of masks where distancing is not possible, regular environmental cleaning and disinfection, and limiting unnecessary travel. Clear policies and messages, training, and education for staff and managers to increase awareness of COVID-19 are essential. The management of people with COVID-19 or their contacts is also critical e.g. requiring workers who are unwell or who develop symptoms to stay at home, self isolate and contact a medical professional or the local COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.
What are the key considerations for the workplace risk assessment? For each risk assessment, consider the environment, the task, the threat, resources available, such as personal protective equipment, and the feasibility of protective measures. The risk assessment should also extend to collective accommodation provided by the employer for workers, such as dormitories. Essential public services, such as security and police, food retail, accommodation, public transport, deliveries, water and sanitation, and other frontline workers may be at an increased risk of exposure to occupational hazards for health and safety. Workers who may be at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness because of age or pre-existing medical conditions should be considered in the risk assessment for individuals.