The Government has produced guidance for employers and workforce managers on reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, in the workplace. This is particularly important if there are people in the workplace whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
There are some key actions that you can take to reduce the spread of respiratory infections in the workplace:
Encourage and enable vaccination
Vaccinations are very effective at preventing serious illness from COVID-19, flu and other diseases. You may wish to consider how best to support and enable staff who wish to be vaccinated to get their vaccines when offered; there’s a COVID-19 vaccination guide to help with this. Guidance is also available on the vaccines that are available through the NHS.
Let fresh air in
Bringing in fresh air to occupied spaces can help to reduce the concentration of respiratory particles, lowering the risk of airborne transmission of respiratory viruses.
When someone with an infection breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release respiratory particles which can contain the virus. These particles can come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth or can be breathed in by another person. These virus-containing particles can also land on surfaces and the virus can be passed from person to person via touch. In general, the risk of catching or passing on a respiratory infection is highest when in close contact with someone who is infected.
It is also possible to pass on a respiratory infection between people who do not have close contact, especially if they are in a crowded and/or poorly ventilated space where smaller virus particles can stay suspended in the air for some time and where there are more people who might be infectious. The risk of airborne transmission is increased when occupants in a space are participating in energetic activity, such as exercising, shouting, singing or talking loudly.
The Health and Safety Executive provides guidance on how to assess and improve ventilation in line with health and safety requirements under Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Detailed COVID-19 specific guidance for workplaces and public buildings is provided by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) for those who wish to put additional measures in place.
Maintain a clean workplace
Keeping workplaces clean reduces the risk of infection and can reduce sickness in a workforce. It’s especially important to clean surfaces that people touch a lot. Staff can be supported to maintain a clean working environment by providing them with cleaning products, soap and hot water, and/or sanitiser.
Think about your documentation and procedures
Whilst the requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their health and safety risk assessment has been removed, you may choose to continue to cover COVID-19 in your risk assessments. Employers that specifically work with COVID-19, such as laboratories, must continue to undertake a risk assessment that considers COVID-19.
You can use our checklist to help review your current infectious disease control procedures and make any changes as necessary to ensure that your workforce are better protected, particularly as we go into the winter period.
Download this handy Infectious disease control workplace checklist
- Infectious disease control workplace checklist PDF
- Infectious disease control workplace checklist Word document
Please note: This page contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.