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WHO Provides New Coronavirus Guidance for Employers

Feb 27, 2020
UPDATE: Read our new post, "The Safety Professional’s Role in Planning for a Pandemic," which explains the key role OSH professionals play in helping organizations protect their workers, communicate the risks and ensure business continuity.

World Health Organization has published additional guidance that aims to help employers prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their workplaces. The guidance urges employers to take the following measures:
  • Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic.
  • Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers.
  • Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace.
  • Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before taking business trips.
  • Educate employees that if the outbreak reaches their communities they should stay home at the first sign of a illness, including mild cough or fever. 
"Employers should start doing these things now, even if COVID-19 had not arrived in the communities where they operate," WHO advises.

The guidance also outlines factors to consider when preparing for business travel, while traveling and on return from trips, and WHO offers several suggestions related to emergency planning and business continuity.

In the U.S., CDC continues to monitor the emerging situation and is providing updated information and guidance as the rapidly evolving situation unfolds. The agency issued interim guidance for employers earlier this month.

"All employers should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations," CDC advises. "All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of acute respiratory illness and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace in the event of an outbreak in the U.S."

At a media briefing on Feb. 25, 2020, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned that it is no longer a question whether outbreaks of the virus will occur in the U.S. "but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen." During a news conference on Feb. 26, 2020, President Trump tempered that warning by stating that "the risk to the American people remains very low." He has designated Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. government's response efforts. 

WHO is posting daily situation reports that provide the latest statistics on the spread of the virus, including the number of confirmed cases and deaths around the world. According to the WHO, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, marked "the first time since the onset of symptoms of the first identified case of COVID-19 on Dec. 8, 2019, [that] there have been more new cases reported from countries outside of China than from China." 


Photo: Public notice at Oslo train station regarding outbreak of coronavirus in 2020.
©Annikdance/Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 International 

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