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Additional hand-washing facilities in the workplace

The UK government is planning for a gradual return to work, after the Covid-19 lockdown, in May 2020. Additional hand-washing facilities in the workplace. One of the key items that need to be considered are additional hand-washing facilities in the workplace. These hand washing facilities could be portable wash basins or portable hand sanitisers.

UK employers now need to start thinking about how they will handle some of the issues they are likely to face when their factories, building sites and offices re-open when the COVID-19 restrictions have started to be lifted. These factors include social distancing, health and safety and working patterns

Normal working patterns could be fundamentally changed after the lockdown with the adopting of flexible working practices such as;

    • Working from home
    • Staggered work shifts
    • Split lunch breaks
    • Reduction in hours and pay

Risk of Contracting the Coronavirus in the Work Environment

Employers must to consider carefully how they will protect their workforce from the risk of contracting the virus when they return to work, as employers have a duty to take reasonabe steps to safeguard the health and safety of their workers.

Some of these measures are discussed below:

Temperature Tests and Health Questionnaires

Companies may need to use technology to take the temperature of employees arriving at work, and workers must satisfactorily answer a medical questionnaire  to ascertain if he or she may be displaying coronavirus symptoms to permit access to workplace.

These tests will need to be extended to other visitors attending the workplace.

These steps must be subject to meeting the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the UK Data Protection Act 2018 privacy policies.

Risk assessments and other health and safety measures

Once employees are inside the workplace, further health and safety measures are likely to be needed to be implemented. These can include:

    • Social distancing measures
    • Regular disinfecting of tables, worktops, keyboards and telephones
    • Additional advice on washing hands regularly
    • The provision of sufficient sanitisers and hand-washing facilities at the entrance and throughout the workplace
    • The use of face masks and other forms of PPE (personal protective equipment)
    • Reduction in face to face meetings

An action plan should be put in place if an employee develops symptoms of COVID-19.

Vulnerable employees should not be asked to come back to work. Also, employees who have coronavirus symptoms, or share a home with someone who does, will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Spread of COVID-19 virus in Workplace Washrooms

Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases can be transmitted via the fecal-oral route.

There is no way of telling whether the washroom has been used previously by a symptomatic or asymptomatic viral carrier, so extra caution must be applied to cleaning of public toilets.

Research in Wuhan has discovered that intensive care units were good at containing the spread of the virus, but outside of the patients’ rooms, there was a high concentration of the virus in the air samples taken from the patients’ toilets.

Droplets of the COVID-19 virus, can be spread and live in the air for up to 3 hours, and be disseminated to hard surface areas where they can live up to 3 to 4 days.

Flushing a toilet can create an aerosolized plume of these viral particles, which can then spread elsewhere within proximity. For example, toothbrushes left in proximity to the toilet gain viral spread quite rapidly, mirroring levels observed in the toilet itself. That same thing can occur for cell phones, which many people take with them into the bathroom.

So, it is vital for employees to pay close attention to toilet cleansing and determine whether there are venting systems that expel air from the toilet via a negative pressure effect.

COVID-19 Transmission by Droplets

Droplets may land on surfaces where the virus could remain viable.

The survival time depends on several factors, including the type of surface, temperature, relative humidity and the strain of the virus.

Effective inactivation can be achieved within 1 minute using common disinfectants, such as 70% ethanol or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the use of standard, well-maintained plumbing, such as sealed bathroom drains, and backflow valves on sprayers and faucets to prevent aerosolized faecal matter from entering the plumbing or ventilation system.

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