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Managing coronavirus outbreaks in the workplace

DC
BY Douglas Cameron
Health & Safety
BG Orange

In the current environment, identifying and managing potential outbreaks of coronavirus is critical.

When should you suspect an outbreak?

If you have:
 

  • two or more linked cases (confirmed or suspected) of COVID-19 in a workplace within 14 days​

or

  • an increase in staff absence rates, due to (confirmed or suspected) cases of COVID-19


​​... an outbreak may have occurred, and employers should take the appropriate next steps.


What should employers do if they suspect an outbreak?
 

  • Continue to follow the existing protection and control measures in your coronavirus risk assessment;
  • Contact your local NHS board Health Protection Team (HPT) if they have not already contacted you;
  • The Health Protection Team will undertake a risk assessment, conduct a rapid investigation, and advise which specific actions to take;
  • Staff who have had close contact with suspected or confirmed cases will be asked to self-isolate at home (this could be a significant number);
  • The Health Protection Team will consider your current control measures in determining whether closure of the whole business will be necessary;
  • Depending on the risk assessment outcome, the Health Protection Team may establish an Incident Management Team (IMT) to help manage the situation;
  • The Incident Management Team will lead the Public Health response and investigations, and work with the organisation to put appropriate additional interventions in place;
  • The Health Protection Team or Incident Management Team will confirm when the outbreak is over.  The incident may lead to further investigation by either the HSE, or Local Authority EHOs, if it suspected that employers have been non-compliant.
     

LAW clients should also seek guidance from the Health & Safety At Work team throughout.

See also: Still not washing your hands properly? You should be.

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