Goal zero for work place fatalities in health and social care due to COVID-19 - Work related fatalities is not a given
The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has called on the UK government to now set a goal of Zero Work Caused Fatalities in this pandemic within the NHS, essential services and UK business. It is now joining forces with the British Dental Association, the British Medical Association, the Doctors’ Association and many other organisations stating that work-related fatalities due to COVID-19 exposure is not a given.
SOM say with proper application of safe systems of work and PPE, no worker should die of work-acquired COVID-19. It is campaigning alongside many other organisations to raise awareness of the risks facing healthcare and other workers in the UK and globally – to help protect employees and demonstrate good practice. Protecting the workforce is at the core role of occupational health (OH).
It is now calling for organisations and people to back its call on government to set a Goal for zero work place fatalities in health and social care due to COVID-19 based on the following principles:
- PPE to be supplied and used effectively, supported with training, fit testing and management of compliance
- Risk assessments to be carried out and the hierarchy of controls applied
- Minimising exposure, where possible
- Use of ventilation and barriers to reduce exposure and limit time of exposure
- All work caused fatalities to be investigated to allow for correction and dissemination of learning
- Robust and increasing access to occupational health (OH). The need for advice from OH doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, hygienists, and ergonomists amongst other professional groups is required
The new PPE guidance published by the Government is an improvement but should be minimum protection. Where a higher level of protection is available it should be used. We are also pleased that dangerous occurrences and likely work caused fatalities for COVID-19 are now RIDDOR reportable. However, it is necessary that all potential work caused fatalities are investigated and any break down of exposure control identified. This will allow correction and dissemination of learning.
SOM is calling for robust and increasing access to occupational health (OH). The need for advice from OH doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, hygienists, ergonomists etc. is required. The need to protect our workers has never been greater and is the core role of OH. SOM is also supporting a multidisciplinary drive across sectors to raise awareness, share knowledge and engage employees in solutions. It is encouraging workplaces to design-in exposure prevention measures as advised by the Health and Safety Executive - helping employees take the opportunity to better understand the risks and demonstrate good practice in their work.
Dr Will Ponsonby, Society of Occupational Medicine President said:
“The UK could and should have aimed for a target of Zero Work Caused Fatalities in this pandemic. The need to protect our workers has never been greater, and that goal must be put in place as the foundation for all future planning.”
British Dental Association Chair Mick Armstrong said:
“Too many NHS workers are being sent to the frontline inadequately protected. We desperately need a joined-up approach to PPE. Irrespective of official guidelines, all health professionals should be able to access the best available kit.”
To find out more about our campaign and to pledge your support, please visit our campaign page.