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How to prevent, control coronavirus at workplace

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Amid the recent outbreak of coronavirus also known as COVID-19, the need for employers to invest in workers’ awareness on prevention and control of the deadly disease has become paramount.

Experts are of the view that there must be more investment by employers to halt the spread of the virus worldwide. Notwithstanding that COVID-19 virus is a new threat to the country’s economic recovery, experts commended Federal and States Government on preventive measures taken so far, arguing that organised labour must also support government to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Also, employers on the other hand, have been urged to invest in workers’ awareness to contain the spread.A labour expert, Issa Aremu urged that government should avoid panic economic measures that would deepen poverty because of the shortfall of oil revenue due to the pandemic.

He said the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, should resist the temptation to devalue Naira as done over the years.He maintained that coronavirus showed that Nigeria must deepen diversification of the economy, “produce what we consume and consume what we produce”. He advised the CBN to sustain its policy of not financing 43 items Nigeria can be produced at home.

The labour chief gave some hints in preventing the virus such as regularly and thoroughly cleanliness of the hands with an alcohol-based hand rub (sanitizer) or wash them with soap and water.

On the latest developments about COVID-19, he urged that workers should adhere to the advice given by their healthcare provider, national and local public health authority and employer on how to protect themselves and others from the virus.

Meanwhile, a survey has found that third of businesses have no plan in place if one of their employees tests positive for coronavirus.It also revealed how Human Resource (HR) professionals are responding to the virus, with experts stressing the importance of patient confidentiality.

The survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) polled more than 640 HR professionals to find out what they are doing in their organisations to deal with the threats posed to the health of employees and their businesses.

Majority of the professionals answered questions on continuity of planning, sick pay and self-isolation.The poll found 33 per cent of employers did not have a plan in place for if one of their employees tested positive for coronavirus.

It also found a mixed picture when it came to predicted reactions to this scenario. When asked what their likely response would be, nearly half (45 per cent) said they would send home any staff who had come into direct contact with the at-risk employee, 30 per cent would immediately close the site the employee had attended, and a quarter (24 per cent) said they would allow employees to self-isolate if they were concerned, but would not mandate this. 

A lecturer of human resource management at Cranfield University, Dr. Debora Gottardello, said that in the event of an employee contracting the virus, the relevant authorities such as local authority health protection teams must be notified.

“HR can also communicate to employees the presence of a case within the company, making sure to maintain the confidentiality of employees with confirmed coronavirus,” she added, stressing that it was important the individual was not identified.

Gottardello advised that employers’ legal obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees meant that “collaboration is necessary”.

She said workers also have an obligation to report to the employer any situation of danger to health and safety in the workplace.

Partner at Langleys Solicitors, Mini Setty, reiterated that businesses must withhold the infected employee’s identity under the country’s data protection law.

“A worker’s personal health data is ‘special category data’, and therefore must be omitted from any communication with the rest of the workforce,” she said.

CEO of BrightHR, Alan Price, said employers that find themselves in a potential outbreak situation should ask affected employees to self-isolate, and that communication with their co-workers should remain “calm”.

“If colleagues could have been exposed to an individual suffering from the virus, employers should calmly inform staff of the situation and tell them what steps the company will take going forward,” he said.

Price added that staff themselves were likely to be concerned and push for the introduction of measures to limit the spread. But despite this, transparency was essential, he said: “Gossip and workplace rumours may prove to be more damaging for morale than simply being honest.”


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