How to protect customers from COVID-19 Alpha to Omega - Cutting through the information overload


“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less me”

Jean Baudrillard


Imagine being caught in an avalanche that goes on for two years. That’s what it must feel like for businesses trying to process the deluge of information about COVID-19. Every business will want to protect their customers and employees, and with the growing public awareness about infectious diseases, the expectation is rising, but information overload is making it difficult for businesses to do the right thing.


The good news is that protecting people from communicable diseases is not a new issue. Over 80 years ago the UK had legislation covering the practical measures needed to control the spread of communicable diseases, and even though the Public Health Act of 1936 was designed to control TB, most of it is still relevant for COVID-19. So, we can cut through the noise created by the media obsession with COVID-19 to identify the most effective, practical controls.


In addition, if we take the pragmatic approach to protecting staff and customers from all the common communicable diseases, not just COVID-19, then we can develop a range of practical measures based on proven practices, which will be effective for COVID-19 Alpha to Omega, plus H1N1 Flu, Norovirus and the common cold.


When we strip out the hype, we realize that while COVID-19 may be new, we are still catching it in the same old ways. Airborne droplets - in a similar way to influenza or TB, plus direct and indirect contact, like Noroviruses or measles. So, the primary risk is an infected person entering the workplace, and the secondary factor is people’s behavior when at work. Both these factors relate to how people act, and businesses have been developing ways to influence their employees’ behaviors for years – policies, training and awareness campaigns. It’s interesting to note how little of the COVID-19 information avalanche relates to these common business tools. These time-tested measures can be summarized as PITA – and we all know what that stands for, and yes it can be a PITA, but the benefits to your business make it worth the effort.


1. Policy - a Company Public Health Policy covering the key responsibilities for each level of management and stating the company policy for critical factors such as paid sick leave, requirement for employees with symptoms to stay at home, policy regarding vaccinations and the policy relating to the layout, cleaning and use of the business promises. Making a statement about these important factors is the first step in making your business safer.


2. Implementation – ensure that the practical measures covered by the policy are in place – this may include changes to the layout of the premises, improvements to ventilation, increases cleaning schedules, enhances sick leave benefits to remove the driver for sick people to come to work


3. Training - to teach people about the correct behaviors needed to minimize the risks from communicable diseases


4. Awareness a regular campaign to reinforce the messages


Then we need to introduce Monitoring to ensure the measures are in place, so technically that’s PITAM, but that wasn’t funny.


To illustrate the range of practical measures any business can implement to minimize risks from communicable diseases, I worked with experience health and safety professionals in Asia and the UK to develop a Public Health Policy framework for businesses, plus a Standard detailing the practical measures that should be in place within any responsible business. The Policy follows a similar framework to a UK Health & Safety at Work Policy, with Management Responsibilities and details of the key company policies and training schemes, the Standard covers the practical measures and design features that should be in place to protect staff and customers. If you would like a free copy of the Policy and Standard, please send an email to info@teampublichealth.com.


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