Updated: May 10, 2021
Apologies for the startling headline but the data is telling a story, much like the nationally published data - that cases are on the rise and we are arguably beginning a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
More worrying is that we have barely even begun influenza season (which typically stretches from October to April in Ireland).
Workplace outbreaks can be incredibly damaging for businesses, bringing down a production line or even an entire site abruptly and losing the organisation thousands or millions of euros before operations can resume. Not to mention the reputational damage to an organisation.
But there are proven technologies that companies can deploy to reduce the risk posed by a workplace outbreak (which we cover at the end of the post).
Various government agencies have been releasing data throughout the pandemic and it's easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees but the primary (reliable) sources of information in Ireland come from the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre or HSPC as well as, the Central Statistics Office (www.cso.ie), www.gov.ie and the Department of the Taoiseach.
Since the blanket media coverage of the pandemic and the shenanigans in US Politics is often akin to a firehose of information it's unsurprising that important workplace data is overlooked.
The HSPC release a monthly report entitled "COVID-19 Outbreaks in Workplaces" and the jump from Week 35 (end August) to Week 39 (end September) is certainly concerning - in that period the number of workplace outbreaks reported went from 79 to 139 (a 76% increase).
A highly contagious airborne pathogen is at large in the community and while we have managed to "flatten the curve" through determined and extreme measures (the lockdown), this managed only to ensure that healthcare services were not overwhelmed but the volume of cases they were treating.
The virus is just as contagious now as it was 7 months ago when it first reached our shores. Our knowledge of the virus has improved in that time and we began to open our schools, sports training and events restarted and gatherings indoor and outdoor have gradually grown in size, and also we began to open the economy.
Naturally, some businesses never closed, but almost all implemented restrictions and measures to impede the spread of the virus. In recent months, businesses have gradually been encouraging their employees back to work.
We have struggled with our isolation and naturally there are those who will bend or break the rules or ignore them altogether with house parties or street parties!
All of these relaxations mean more interactions and our comfort and complacency leads to more opportunities for the virus to spread. We're seeing that play out nationally, regionally and in the workplace - and it is going to continue for at least one or even two more years.
What can you do to protect your workplace? Leverage technology!
1. Control footfall on site
Reducing site footfall to essential workers only is made easily with modern technology. The Work From Home experiment has been largely successful in demonstrating that employees can be highly productive from home.
For those on site, it is necessary to control numbers in communal areas, especially where social distancing can be problematic. Workplace canteens and locker rooms can be a battleground for the virus and proven Occupancy Management tech like TRUCount is a valuable tool in the arsenal for employers.
Planning desk-based employees on site is made easier by leveraging "desk hotelling" software like SmartWay2, made popular with coworking offices and modified to include cutting-edge COVID-19 customisations.
2. Encourage Social Distancing
Aside from the physical measures and signage that most sites will have implemented, there have been some amazing developments in the area of wearables that will automatically alert employees if they are breaking the 2 meter guidance.
The most accurate technology on the market is Ultra-wideband (UWB) which is a wearable wristband that can sense other wristbands in the vicinity and vibrate when a Close Contact event occurs.
3. Track Close Contact Events
It is incumbent open all employers to log Close Contact events so as to enable Clost Contact Tracing if an employee reports as symptomatic.
Anecdotally, the majority of employers are resorting to manual paper or Excel-based logs to capture Close Contact events - this is ineffective for several reasons:
Manual (not automatic)
For employers who wish to significantly reduce the risk of an outbreak in their facility, the most accurate, easy to use, reliable and effective system is to use wearables. The same wearables mentioned before that alert the wearer about Close Contact events, also track each event interaction automatically and uploads those events to a database that can be reported from and interrogated in the circumstance that someone reports ill.
Workplace outbreaks are on the rise and will be a feature of the Irish economic landscape for at least 2 years. The risks posed a second and subsequent waves of outbreaks are playing out right now and the economic fallout for organisations can measure in the millions of euros in lost productivity.
But the challenges are not insurmountable and innovations in technology by Irish companies can vastly reduce the risk to sites and employees here.
If you wish to learn more about the tech mentioned here, please click on the links in the header.
If you or your organisation needs further support or advice on any of these technologies or on custom solutions, please get in touch - we can help.
t: +353 21 234 8387
m: +353 85 154 8875