Workplace vigilance called for as the coronavirus epidemic gathers pace

The coronavirus epidemic seems to be picking up again following a more subdued summer, and this now requires special care and vigilance at work, says SAK specialist medical adviser Kari Haring.
07.08.2020 14:11
Photo Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva

Kari Haring explains that the directions issued in the spring remain in force: close contact should be limited where possible, with accompanying good hand and cough hygiene and adequate physical distancing.

Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that their employees can do their work safely. Kari Haring stresses that employers are responsible for assessing workplace risk, and he notes that such assessment is an ongoing process.

Kari Haring

- It’s not enough to perform the risk assessment only once. It must also be updated to allow for such factors as changes in infection conditions, with consideration given to the impact of such developments on our own individual workplaces.

A need may arise to change practices concerning such aspects as hygiene and cleaning, the sharing of tools and working equipment, personal protection, how staff take their breaks at work, and the organisation of working hours and shifts.

The risk assessment must also cover the emotional wellbeing of employees and psychosocial factors. For example, concerns about the impacts of the coronavirus on personal health and finances erode inner strength of character, and may affect the ability to manage at work.

Employees belonging to high risk groups may be particularly troubled about returning to the workplace after a leave of absence. It is advisable for such employees to agree with the employer on how their work can be arranged with optimal safety, and on the kind of personal protective equipment that they need.

Responsible employers will cover the cost of masks for work-related travel

The employer must pay for any personal protective equipment that employees need at work, such as masks and disposable gloves.

- Responsible employers will also cover the cost of masks for work-related travel, for example if the authorities recommend the use of such masks on public transport,  Kari Haring says.

Employers should compare the cost of providing work-related travel masks to the costs that an employer could sustain if the employee contracts a coronavirus infection leading to a long period of sick leave.

Check out our information pack on the workplace impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.