Shielding Guidance for People at High risk of Coronavirus (Clinically Extremely Vulnerable)
The government has announced that from 1st August, shielding employees can return to the workplace. The government has made this decision because infection rates in the community are falling. One in 1,700 people are estimated to have the virus now, down from 1 in 500 four weeks ago.
What changes from 1st August?
Extremely vulnerable people who are most at risk from becoming ill with coronavirus will no longer need to shield.
This means that employees can return to work, if they cannot work from home, as long as the workplace is COVID secure. Employees will no longer be eligible for statutory sick pay – unless they develop coronavirus symptoms, or someone they know develops symptoms and they are told to self-isolate and cannot work from home.
Inevitably, some employees may feel uncertain about returning to work. The government is asking employers to ease the transition for their clinically vulnerable employees by ensuring robust support measures are put in place. Employees should be advised about specific policies in relation to COVID-19, agree a plan for returning to work and any adjustments that may be needed before they return.
If it is not possible to strictly adhere to your COVID secure business requirements for employees identified as shielding before the employee returns to the workplace, we would recommend referring your employee to Medwyn Occupational Health for guidance on adjustments to ensure their safety and to manage health risks.
What happens if there us a second wave?
The government will continue to monitor the evidence closely and adjust any advice accordingly. Should shielding need to resume, it is not necessarily the case that everyone who has been shielding over the past three months will have to do so again.
What does One Meter plus Guidance mean for workers?
The move to one metre plus is not currently consistent with published COVID secure guidance for each business sector, so this will inevitably cause some confusion for employers. Where possible, two metre distancing between employees should be maintained – but where this is not possible – it allows alternative working practices to be considered, with additional measures such as perspex screens and other PPE. Guidance on how to implement this in context of employee health risks has not been published, so until further scientific evidence is available, Medwyn recommends the following approach for employees who have returned to work sites:
Standard/Low Health Risk Employees – To maintain standard two metre distancing, but where this is not feasible, one metre plus distancing can be adopted in line with government advice on risk management.
Medium & High Health Risk Employees – To continue maintaining stringent two metre distancing.
HSE Guidance on Health Surveillance
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has advised that statutory health surveillance should continue where employees are working on-site and exposed to hazards. Occupational health providers have been asked to offer a tiered approach to health surveillance.
Medwyn Occupational Health will be providing online symptom questionnaires which can be completed remotely and submitted by the employee. Where symptoms or health concerns are identified, a telephone or video consultation will be organised. If a face-to-face examination is required following the initial remote consultation, this will be undertaken with appropriate safeguards recommended by Public Health England (PHE).
Hand-Arm Vibration at Work
Hand arm vibration (HAVS) online questionnaires can be sent to employees who continue to work with vibratory tools. For any individuals identified with potential HAVS symptoms, a clinical assessment will be performed by video and a decision made if a face-to-face examination is justified.
Control of noise at Work and Respiratory Health Hazards
Hearing and respiratory health hazards will be assessed with an online questionnaire to identify any individuals at risk of associated health problems. Providing the employee does not identify any relevant problems, audiometry or spirometry will be deferred for up to 6 months.
Safety Critical Medicals
Medwyn Occupational Health will perform a task analysis to ascertain if it is appropriate to undertake assessments remotely by telephone or video consultation and defer a face-to-face examination. If the assessment is conducted remotely, a ‘fitness to work certificate’ may be restricted by duration until the employee has been seen for a face-to-face consultation.
Safety Critical Medicals will be provided to employees where the risks to themselves or others outweigh the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for our clinical team and the individual. PPE will be worn if a face-to-face medical is required.
We are aware that clients have employees now due health surveillance. We will contact those we believe are due over the next two weeks to discuss next steps. If you have not used Medwyn for health surveillance in the past and your COVID work risk assessments have identified exposure to noise, vibration or respiratory hazards please contact us to discuss your requirements.