With more of us making a return to the office, we hear from Dr John T. Doherty, Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director at Covid-19 testing provider JACE Medical, with his advice for employers and employees alike.
Of course, my first piece of advice to any employee is to avoid the workplace at the first sign of any symptom. Your employer by now should have an agreement between the senior management team and its HR department to ensure that no one is penalised, financially or otherwise, when taking positive and proactive steps to protect their colleagues and keep everyone safe. We all need to understand the importance of not coming to work if we feel unwell. This is absolutely one of the most crucial points if we are going to prevent the chances of transmission in the workplace.
Secondly, screening. Employers have a duty of care to keep everyone in their workplace as safe as possible from Covid-19 and that means they should have a comprehensive health and safety strategy in place. Screening staff is one strategy that can make a real difference. Employers should, if they haven’t done so already, be putting programmes in place now to ensure that only people free from Covid are entering the workplace. At JACE Medical, we do mass screening for small to large businesses quickly and effectively – with staff spread out and results available in only two or three minutes. Making use of rapid antigen screening, accurate results are available very quickly with employers and employees offered peace of mind as to whether they should or shouldn’t be coming into work.
Another highly effective approach is bubbling. We’re all used to it at home, but keeping staff in small teams of people ensures that if someone does present symptoms or test positive, that it is quickly mitigated and the numbers of people that may have come into contact with that person are kept to a minimum.
Sometimes, employees will need to come into contact with people outside their bubble, and that’s when PCR testing really comes into play. Staff may need to move across teams to collaborate, cover sickness, people isolating or even annual leave – and you need to know that those employees don’t have the virus. PCR testing will give you the confidence to know that you’re doing all you can to be a responsible employer. If one person in a bubble tests positive or has symptoms, then everyone in that bubble should immediately work from home where possible.
We all need to remember the rules and guidance. And whilst things are getting better than where we have been, we all need to stay sensible. That means regularly washing your hands, keeping close contact to a minimum, not shaking hands, and making PPE the norm. PPE offers a high level of protection and in my own opinion, I’ve undoubtedly seen face masks save lives over the last 18 months.
My advice to companies who are thinking about bringing more employees back into the workplace is to is act quickly, contact us for advice, do a baseline screen and ask people who have symptoms to stay at home. It is difficult, but it will keep as many people in your organisation safe and will keep your business moving forward.
As an example, we worked with Intel in Ireland on corporate covid testing, which had 5% incidents rate to avoid an outbreak. First and foremost, it was about screening everyone and seeing how bad the issue was. The company acted quickly, initiated social distancing, asking people to wear PPE, wash their hands often and not congregate around communal points. They initiated regular screening and staff that tested positive or showed symptoms stayed at home. Within 10 days, the number of incidents was down to 0.15% which is an incredible result for a responsible employer.
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