Covid-19 — Protection from variants in 2022

covid19 risk assessmentAs more clinical data and medical advice becomes available there are both well-established and evolving steps that employers can take to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, visitors and members of the public from changing coronavirus strains.

A constant factor during the pandemic has been uncertainty as the virus’ structure and methods of invading the human body continue to change. While an early end to the national and international crisis is hoped for, variables and unknowns mean that taking short- and long-term health and safety decisions can appear complex.

As an example, at this point it is still unclear whether the more recent and infectious Omicron variant will out-compete and replace the severe Delta variant. Alternatively, both could co-exist. A third possibility researchers are considering is that the two may combine to form a further variant.

However, this goes hand-in-hand with new prevention and treatment developments, a broader academic understanding of what is involved, plus more effective palliative care.

The challenge for many businesses is knowing what measures to take in the workplace as politicians, researchers, health experts and lay observers make statements, express opinions, cite anecdotal evidence and importantly update their own advice.

The most important recent change has been the December 2021 announcement of Plan B special measures to slow the rate of Omicron infection which will be withdrawn again on 27 January 2022.

This will end the mandatory use of face covering in public places, although the advice is still to wear a mask in crowded and indoor spaces, or when coming into contact with people not normally met.

The use of the Covid passports is no longer a requirement, although the NHS Covid Pass can still be used on a voluntary basis.

Advice for people to work from home when possible is being reversed, with employees recommended to talk to their employers about arrangements for returning to workplaces.

The legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive Covid test will also be replaced with new advice and guidance.

However, by reverting to Plan A, the Government is still encouraging the uptake of booster vaccinations.

Working to keep everyone “safe”

Fortunately, there is authoritative guidance and detailed information sources which are updated regularly that employers can consult to help keep working environments not only as safe but also as productive as possible.

The experience of 2020 and 2021 has been that both physical health and mental wellbeing need to be safeguarded in conventional workplaces and, for many workers, during remote homeworking. Omicron’s high rate of infection has made this more rather than less important.

The new variant has put extra strains not only on public sector workers in the health and emergency services where levels of self-isolation and sickness have risen dramatically, but also the utility, power and manufacturing industries. This has compromised the supply chains many companies depend upon, as well as their own role as reliable supply chain partners.

Accordingly, the Government’s advice is still to take steps to “keep the virus at bay”. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the latest end of Plan B changes should not be seen as the “finish line” because the virus and its future variants cannot be eradicated. Instead, “we must learn to live with Covid in the same way that we do with flu”.

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COVID isolation period cut to five full days in England as Sajid Javid announces new rules

Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced a change to the self-isolation policy in England from Monday 17th January 2022 after weeks of pressure to ease a staffing crisis in the NHS.

Currently people who test positive for Covid can be freed midway through their seventh full day of isolation, if they test negative on days six and seven.

But Mr Javid today announced that period will be cut by between 24 and 48 hours, after huge pressure from Tory MPs and a staffing crisis in the NHS.

Under the new rules, people will have isolate for at least five full days, starting at 12.01am the day after their positive test or the start of symptoms.

They will then be able to leave isolation at the start of the sixth full day – if they have tested negative for Covid on both Day 5 and Day 6.

Mr Javid said with testing, boosters and antivirals, “it’s no wonder we are the freest country in Europe. This country is leading the world in learning to live with Covid.”

But it came amid a furious Commons clash, as Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting condemned the PM’s party rule-breaking and said: “The Prime Minister is not fit to lick the boots of NHS staff in this country.”

Your first “full day” of isolation starts at 12.01am, the calendar day after you test positive or show symptoms. So if you test positive at 11am, ‘Day 1’ starts 13 hours later.

This suggests the new total isolation time will, in reality, be somewhere between five and six days depending on what time the test came back or symptoms started.

However, it’s thought people will be able to take their Day 6 test at one minute past midnight if they wish and go out straight away.

Mr Javid said the change would “maximise activity in the economy and education”, adding: “UK Health Security Agency data shows around two thirds of positive cases are no longer infectious by the end of Day 5.”

Mr Javid had faced enormous pressure to cut the isolation period after the US cut isolation to five days, as long as people’s symptoms had cleared by then, followed by five days of mask-wearing.

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From the Mirror.

Homeworkers: Quick Facts

home office

Homeworkers: Quick Facts

Homeworkers are those employed to work at home or in other premises of their own choice other than the workplace of the employer. Homeworking is not a specific job in itself but a method of working which can be relevant to many job roles.

Homeworkers are covered by health and safety law in the same way as any other employed worker, but as this topic describes, there are a range of issues specific to these workers that must be considered in order to keep them safe in their homes.

Some tips

  • Employers should keep in touch with lone workers, including those working from home, and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe. Social Isolation
  • Working from home can bring benefits both to the employee in terms of flexibility and to the employer in terms of reduced overhead costs.
  • Siting the home office is an important consideration; segregation is preferred, followed by locking equipment away when not in use. Siting a Home Office
  • Employers are required to assess all significant risks and to make adequate arrangements for managing the risks to homeworkers. Risk Assessments for Homeworking
  • If display screen equipment (DSE) is to be used, employers must ensure that a DSE assessment is carried out with the homeworker and that health and safety requirements are met, including eye tests and the provision of appropriate equipment. Display Screen Equipment
  • Employers must ensure that any substances are assessed and suitably controlled and should provide appropriate personal protective equipment. Hazardous Substances
  • Homeworkers should be trained in the use of any equipment provided, which should be suitable for the job, regularly maintained and appropriately guarded.

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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

As we face another uncertain Christmas, we think about the Christmases of the past and plan for the holiday safely with loved ones in mind. It is the time of the year when we create happy memories that will last a lifetime.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year!

All the best for 2022!


Beating the blues in the season of good cheer

Beating the blues in the season of good cheer

Beating the blues in the season of good cheer

Staying motivated in winter can be hard for businesses and employees; we suffer the winter blues for a range of reasons. Burnout is a specific problem requiring medical help. But diet, being active, socialising — plus small interventions by ordinary companies — can help too.

Whatever the weather, deep mid-winter can be a time of low spirits as well as joy at work, at home and out and about. Some negative feelings have clinical roots. For other work colleagues, it is a matter of hanging on until light nights and longer days reset their biological clocks.

However, there are also steps recommended by health professionals, plus simple things that individuals and companies can do, to help us work more happily and safely in the dark times.

While the days get longer

The journey through December, Christmas and the early New Year can be a rollercoaster ride for many people that now leads up to the informal day of Blue Monday on the basis that the third Monday in January could be seen as the least inspiring day of the year once winter festivities are finally over.

True or false, the date may be a good time to be looking out for tell-tale signs that some co-workers may be suffering from seasonal strains and stresses for reasons beyond their immediate control more than others and need extra support.

The turn of the year for most workers is probably not a time they want to spend thinking about work. However, for many, workplaces can be an essential source of support, reassurance and friendship.

For the second year running, winter, 2021/2022 is overshadowed by Covid-19 restrictions, concerns about a mixed economic recovery, plus climate change anxieties that have gathered around the COP26 climate summit and its long-term fallout.

A spectrum of conditions

Many people suffer physical and mental winter health impacts for a number of reasons, from straightforward worries, to burnout which the World Health Organisation (WHO) now classifies as a bona fide medical condition, plus SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which is said to affect up to 1 in 10 people.

Identifying and avoiding burnout

Burnout, it is now generally agreed, is an occupational phenomenon rather than a medical condition caused by excessive or prolonged work-related stress which is seen in combinations of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. This means that employers have a duty of care.

The SAD truth

Exposure to daylight is a key factor. According to the NHS, the winter blues — or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — may affect around two million people in the UK and more than 12 million across northern Europe

The NHS lists key symptoms as: depression; sleep problems; lethargy; overeating; irritability; plus feeling down and unsociable.

The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association says SAD affects people differently, but, adds that there is usually something that will help; it suggests it is important “…not to give up if the first remedy doesn’t work. Just keep trying.”

The NHS offers basic advice steps. The first is to keep active. Research shows a daily one-hour walk during the day could be as helpful as exposure to light for coping with the winter blues.

Its second tip is to go outdoors into natural daylight as much as possible, especially at midday and on bright days; indoors, pale colours can be used to reflect outside light into rooms, but sitting near windows is advised whenever possible.

Keeping warm is also important. With bad symptoms, it is important to see a GP. However, cold adds to depression; staying warm can halve the winter blues. Hot drinks and food help, as do warm clothes and shoes. Ideally, rooms should be kept at between 18°C and 21°C (64° F and 70°F).

Unsurprisingly, healthy eating can be a mood booster that gives the body and mind more energy without putting on winter weight. A craving for carbohydrates — pasta and potatoes — must be balanced with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables

Light therapy — sitting in front of a light box for up to two hours each day helps some people. Light boxes are around 10 times stronger than ordinary home and office lighting, and, according to the NHS, cost around £100. Dawn simulators can be used to mimic sunrise and waking up gradually.

A good night’s sleep and regular sleep patterns help too. The advice is to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, while trying to relax during the day with moderate exercise, yoga or meditation.

Active minds ward off SAD; taking up new hobbies offers something to anticipate and concentrate on. Socialising with friends and family — accepting invitations to social events — is shown to be positive for mental health and keeping the winter blues at bay.

Talking treatments, such as counselling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are a further option.

Another is joining a support group to share SAD experiences with people who empathise.

If symptoms become so bad that normal life is not possible, seeking medical help is vital.

Practical workplace advice

Many large companies also have advice to share with smaller companies, particularly around productivity issues that can be hit hard by even a few employees who, beyond their immediate control, suffer from SAD in short winter days with limited hours of sunlight.

The advice here is to remove morning stress by going out of doors early. This can be a positive environment for setting the right tone for successful days, and reviewing — or perhaps, where possible, removing — challenging tasks.

Another suggestion is to follow simple routines, such as organising tomorrow’s clothes today, or preparing lunch in advance. Forward-planning can help in putting the best foot forward.

Another tip is to decorate offices and workplaces with low-maintenance plants that distract from gloomy outdoor weather. Setting goals in the New Year and beyond can also help to lift horizons.

Being a social butterfly and moving from comfort zones can break the mould too, even when it is freezing outside.

Every little helps

Although largely considered to be a myth and commercial distraction from the real effects of mental illness, “Blue Monday” is said to be more-or-less the day in the year when morale and good feeling are probably at their lowest. However, firms can help their staff and their own productivity in a number of simple ways.

They include inserting a “wellbeing break” into the daily work programme and encouraging teams to invest their personal “me” time in fitness workouts, activities with children, or meditation.

Opening up is important too. According to Bupa’s Workplace Wellbeing Census, 71% of people say having an approachable manager in the past made them feel comfortable enough to raise their own specific wellbeing issues.

Staff also have different homeworking situations that may include caring for children or a vulnerable person. Speaking to employees individually about their responsibilities, needs and flexible workloads can help.

Working from home can be lonely; 50% of employees say colleagues have a positive impact on their wellbeing at work which makes staying connected important. This can be achieved by checking in with each other on daily work plans and non-work news … or team events such as virtual coffee.

Creating fun events, recognising good work, keeping happiness levels up through the year, and maintain good leadership and management habits can make a big difference too.


Winter with its festivities is generally a time of joy and fun. However, for many employees it is also a season of anguish, tiredness and poor motivation that can seriously lower the quality of their lives, as well as the productivity of places where they work.

Though the symptoms in some cases are very similar and not easy to diagnose without a trained medical opinion, burnout, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and generally low spirits, can be distinct mental, physical and emotional states where the best remedies differ.

What will you be trying over the Christmas period?

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