Protect your friends and families by looking out for your “work family”

One of the area’s most senior nurses is urging workers in North East Lincolnshire to protect their friends and families from COVID by looking out for their “work family”.

While the vast majority of organisations have precautions in place to keep their workforce protected during operating hours, many members of staff relax with their colleagues during breaks on and off the premises or socialise after work. It is important to remember that social distancing must apply to everyone we do not live with, even the people we work with every day.

This applies equally wherever you work, whether it’s a healthcare setting, care home, school, office, shop or factory. Learning from outbreaks has shown that COVID has been passed on between work colleagues during break times, shared travel to and from work and meeting up socially outside work.

One outbreak that shut down a health and wellbeing premises, impacting on service users, in our wider region was sparked after an employee showed holiday pictures on a mobile phone to colleagues. Three out of four of the people who got close together to look at the pictures during a break time tested positive for COVID.

Unless you are in a designated “work bubble” with a set, small team of colleagues, you must try and keep 2 metres between yourself and anyone you do not live with both in and outside the workplace. You also should not share anything like smoking products, cups, utensils or crockery with colleagues or pass around mobile phones to show pictures or videos as you might also be sharing the virus without knowing. In addition  it is imperative that everyone abides by ‘rule of six’ guidance and does not organise social events where more than six people will meet up.  This includes meals out in restaurants.

Unless you are travelling with people in a designated “work bubble”, sharing a car is not advised. Some employers may ask their workforce not to do this at all.

If you do share a vehicle with someone you do not live with please try to:

  • share the transport with the same people each time and have as few sharing as possible
  • open windows for ventilation
  • travel side by side or behind others, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
  • face away from each other
  • consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
  • clean your car between journeys - make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
  • when applicable: ask the driver and passengers to wear a face covering

Jan Haxby, Director of Quality and Nursing at NHS North East Lincolnshire CCG, explained: “We spend so much of our days at work and share both good and difficult times, it’s easy to think of our colleagues as family. While in many ways you are part of a bigger work family, failing to social distance means you are putting each other at risk, as well as risking taking the virus home with you.

“Because most of us are so busy at work, often doing jobs that are not at all related to COVID, it can be easy to get completely absorbed in what we’re doing and forget for a while about the virus and the restrictions in place to prevent the spread. Tea breaks offer much needed relaxation and people may temporarily forget they are not at home and relax too much when it comes to social distancing.”

Many people, especially younger people, can have COVID with extremely mild or no symptoms at all. This makes the virus very easy to pass on. Unfortunately, this means anyone could unknowingly be carrying it and could unknowingly pass it on to someone more vulnerable than themselves who may become extremely ill.

Nationally, the number of new COVID-19 infections has reached the highest levels since May and North East Lincolnshire has seen a sharp increase in cases since the start of September. If a number of colleagues have to self-isolate for 14 days because a member of staff has tested positive, this can have a real impact on the organisation, other staff, customers or people who need to use vital services you provide.

If everyone in the workplace follows the guidance at all times, it means they are unlikely to be considered a contact and have to self-isolate should someone in the workplace catch COVID.

“Please remember that anyone can get this virus and anyone can spread it, please don’t risk taking it home,” added Jan Haxby.

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