Preparing for an Airborne Virus at Work

During recent days there is a growing unease about the Coronavirus which has been identified outside countries immediately adjoining China. The reality is this is another potentially lethal flu type virus that occurs every few years. The key difference this time is there is no vaccine to immunise you for the virus at this time.

If you lead the safety or human resource function in your business the first thing to do is keep calm. The news is often a source of anxiety for many so get the facts from the respective state health department or Government Minister and communicate the facts via a consistent internal update to all staff. Now would be a great time to review your policies and programs that relate to the following.

Consider appointing a coordinator to bring the review together into one briefing so gaps can identified and solutions can be considered. Once you have a review then work through what plan, if any, your company needs to reassure and manage your people. The policies may include:

  • Travel Policy. Review the need to travel to areas where outbreaks have been identified by the health authorities and consider whether other means of contact are more appropriate for the immediate future.
  • Flexible Work Policy. Consider reinforcing the importance of people working from home. Where possible this may minimise the number of contacts with potential carriers on public transport in cities where outbreaks have been identified.
  • Uniform Policy/Masks. Consider whether surgical masks are acceptable in your workplace. In some cultures, the wearing of such a mask is a form of reassurance to the wearer, whilst to others wearing a must is an overreaction. Consider whether a communication about this is necessary.
  • Sick Leave. Reinforce the need to remain home where signs of the flu are identified. For significant outbreaks, such as the Coronavirus, it is best to have a stricter than usual stance on colds and flu as early symptoms are similar. There is no vaccine so segregate potential risk early and ask people to remain home.
  • Workplace Disinfectant. Make hand sanitisers and surface sprays immediately available to all areas of the workplace. Some areas may not be at risk but at least your people are all in it together. Ask the cleaners to increase their vigilance on areas touched by hand, particularly by visitors to the workplace, and make a point of cleaning all hot desk hardware as keyboards are a hotbed of bacteria.
  • Personal Hygiene. Reinforce the standards expected for personal hygiene such as washing hands and use of tissues as a substitute for handkerchiefs.

The greatest source of anxiety during an outbreak is people not knowing what information to rely upon. Take the initiative and lead with regular business-wide updates on your expectations so your people know you are aware, and your thoughts are not far from their welfare. 

If you have any specific aspects, you’d like more information on or if you have further questions, reach out by clicking here!

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