Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

Author Bio ▼

Ian joined Informa (formerly UBM) in 2018 as the Editor of SHP. Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in business to business trade print media, in the automotive sector. He was Online Editor and then moved on to be the Editor of two publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.
February 24, 2021

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Editor's comment

Can the spread of workplace illness be avoided, post-COVID, by increased remote working?

Experts say home working during lockdowns has shown that people should be encouraged to work remotely in the future, if they feel slightly under the weather, in order to stop the spread of illnesses.

A report in the Independent has highlighted that there has not been a single case of influenza detected by Public Health England so far in 2021.

Whilst perhaps it could be expected that with current lockdown restrictions influenza, which has an R rate of 1.3-1.5 compared to Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – which has a basic R value of between 2.5-3.0, would not be as transmissible, it is a very dramatic decline.

Decreased social interaction, hand sanitiser and mask wearing have all contributed to the drop in influenza and the current coronavirus vaccine rollout has not impacted the estimated 15 million people who receive the flu jab every year. In fact, as Dr Vanessa Saliba, Head of Flu at PHE, told the Independent, “This season’s immunisation programme is on track to be the most successful ever, with the highest levels of vaccine uptake recorded for those 65 years and over, 2- and 3-year-olds and healthcare workers.”

But what does that mean moving forward?

Well, experts say that it shows that a virus that we once thought could not be stopped, can be severely halted. Clearly, we’re not going to go into a full lockdown every winter in order to try and stop the spread of flu, but what can be done?

In the report, Christina Pagel, a Professor of Operational Research at University College London, says that the findings do suggest that shops, workplaces and public spaces should continue to provide hand sanitiser stations and that people should be encouraged to continue to wear face masks in busy places, such as on public transport, during the winter months.

She also raised an interesting point about the British attitude to illness and work, highlighting people’s eagerness to go into work, even if they are sick. “We need to change that. We’ve shown that a lot of people can work remotely.”

Do you have a culture in place where you can encourage that mentality without it being abused. If not, how do you change that mentality and culture?

Many business have shown they can continue to operate remotely over the last 18 months, but if learnings from coronavirus can help us tackle other viruses by keeping our hands clean and limiting contact with others when sick, surely we must act upon that?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this, put your comments in the box below…

To learn more about creating and changing culture in an organisation, sign up to watch out recent Safety Culture webinar, on-demand, or listen to the latest episode of the Safety & Health Podcast for the edited highlights.

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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Ian Wightman
Ian Wightman
1 month ago

I am extremely sceptical that flu has miraculously disappeared & equally sceptical that this suggestion to extend remote working or social distancing is purely to make the workplace a more healthier environment.