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August 2020

‘Long Covid’ is real and patients suffer debilitating symptoms for months

Groups supporting survivors of virus warns doctors are dismissing problems or misdiagnosing long-term effects.

“Long Covid” is genuine and leaves patients suffering debilitating symptoms for many months after their recovery from coronavirus, experts have confirmed.

Campaign groups supporting survivors of the virus have previously warned that doctors are dismissing ongoing problems or misdiagnosing the ongoing effects of Covid-19 as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Launched on 20 August 2020 in the first study to show a conclusive pattern, researchers at North Bristol NHS Trust found that three quarters of virus patients treated at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital were still experiencing problems three months later.

Symptoms included breathlessness, excessive fatigue and muscle aches, leaving people struggling to wash, dress and return to work.

More information: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/19/long-covid-real-patients-suffer-debilitating-symptoms-months

HSE eBulletin: Coronavirus (COVID-19) – latest advice and information

An update on the latest information and advice for employers and employees around coronavirus: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKHSE/bulletins/29a95db

Smell and taste loss points to high NHS worker Covid-19 infections

A large proportion of UK healthcare workers may already have been infected with Covid-19, according to new research led by the University of East Anglia in collaboration with University College London (UCL).

In May, Public Health England added loss of taste or smell (anosmia) to the list of tell-tale symptoms for Covid-19.

The research published on 6 August 2020 in The Lancet Microbe found a high prevalence of anosmia cases among healthcare workers between mid-February and mid-April. Senior author Prof Carl Philpott, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Smell loss as a symptom of Covid-19 is particularly important for healthcare professionals because they are at the frontline of pandemic – and at high risk of both contracting and spreading the virus.”

The research team distributed questionnaires to staff at London’s Barts Health NHS Trust – one of the largest NHS trusts in the UK. The questionnaire was completed by 262 healthcare workers in the week 17-23 April. At this time, 73 (27.9 per cent) of the participants had been tested for Covid-19, with 56 of these (76.7 per cent) confirmed positive.

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-960-11-august-2020#_Toc48036937

UK NHS Health leaders seriously concerned about impact of COVID-19 on their staff

Chief executives from across the NHS in England have become seriously concerned about their staff, with increased levels of anxiety and fatigue being reported during the pandemic. There is additional concern in NHS organisations with more black and minority ethnic (BME) staff.

In a report – NHS after COVID-19 – recently published by the NHS Confederation, chief executives from NHS trusts across England also reveal concern about the impact of the pandemic on poorer communities and the fear among leaders that they could face another major surge in the virus.

The report comes ahead of guidance expected from NHS England and NHS Improvement which will outline the next phase of the NHS response to the pandemic.

The report comes ahead of guidance expected later this week from NHS England and NHS Improvement which will outline the next phase of the NHS response to the pandemic.

More information: https://www.nhsconfed.org/news/2020/07/first-time-ceos

Coronavirus, SARS-COV-2, COVID-19 and HVAC systems

The CIBSE website offers guidance and outlines the current understanding of the possible routes of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (including airborne aerosol transmission) and possible responses that Building Services Engineers adopt to reduce transmission risks in the built environment. The current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to develop rapidly with relevant advice being updated regularly and an increasing body of research being published. 

Government, NHS and Public Health England websites, as well as those of the devolved administrations should be consulted for current policy across the UK. 

CIBSE is the UK member of REHVA, the European Federation of Heating and Ventilation Engineers. REHVA has developed a COVID-19 guidance webpage giving information and guidance and has developed a bibliography on how to operate and use building services to minimise the spread of the virus through HVAC or plumbing systems. The guidance was further updated on 3rd April 2020 to reflect new knowledge and evidence becoming available.

For full details and links to various authoritative organisations visit: https://www.cibse.org/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-and-hvac-systems

Unite’s unique support set to reassure extremely vulnerable workers as they return to work

Amid the confused messaging concerning vulnerable workers returning to work as the Covid-19 lockdown eases, Unite, the UK’s leading union, has produced detailed guidance to help ensure these workers return safely to the workplace.

An estimated 627,000 workers are deemed to be in the extremely vulnerable category. Recently, the government changed its advice to say that this group of workers no longer has to shield but should aim to return to the workplace.

However, with lockdown going on for longer than anticipated and local lockdowns emerging as a growing feature of the continued response to the virus, and with many workplaces without the necessary health and safety specialists, Unite has acted to provide clear information designed to reassure an uncertain workforce.

Unite’s new checklist is for use by its workplace reps as they assist members who have been shielding to safely return to work provided it is “Covid-secure”.

The union says that this is yet another example of the trade union movement acting proactively to support public health and the recovery of the economy in response to the pandemic. Unite’s checklist advises reps to ensure that employers are consulting with union reps on all aspects of the work being undertaken by extremely vulnerable workers.

More information: https://unitetheunion.org/news-events/news/2020/august/unites-unique-support-set-to-reassure-extremely-vulnerable-workers-as-they-return-to-work

News from the USA: Cannabis and Work – The Need for More Research

Cannabis sativa has been used for a wide variety of industrial, medical, and non-medical uses for thousands of years, yet remains a source of controversy across the fields of medicine, law, and occupational safety.

Access to and consumption of cannabis have increased as a result of more favourable public attitudes and state access laws. Nearly 18 percent of full-time workers and 21 percent of part-time workers used cannabis in 2018. Lifetime, past-year, and past-month use among full-time workers all increased from 2017 to 2018. The implications and challenges of increasing cannabis consumption by workers requires urgent and critical research attention. These issues are discussed in a new commentary, Cannabis and work: Need for more research, in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

More information: https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2020/08/20/cannabis-work-research

US NIOSH Webpage Highlights CDC Guidance for Chemical Disinfectants

A new NIOSH webpage, Hazard Communication for Disinfectants Used Against Viruses, provides information on health hazards that could be caused by cleaning products and disinfectants.

Also included are recommendations for barriers and respiratory protection that workers can use to protect themselves from these hazards.

More information: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/disinfectant

US NFPA Codes and Standards under Attack

By Jim Pauley, President and CEO, National Fire Protection Association (FPA)

The USA NFPA’s codes and standards are the result of a well-functioning system that has delivered fire, electrical, and life safety to the public for nearly 125 years. Serving as the longest-standing, most successful partnership between the public and private sectors, this system has fuelled our economy, saved government immeasurable resources, and benefitted society in countless ways. And it is now under attack.

NFPA and other codes and standards developers are facing legal challenges driven by those who make the simplistic, erroneous claim that codes and standards should be free. This movement argues that if any governmental body, anywhere, decides to incorporate a standard by reference, then the entire copyright to every portion of that standard is automatically forfeited. In the wake of this campaign, we increasingly see people flooding the market with counterfeit versions of our standards, riddled with inaccuracies and peddled for profit without regard to the harm they cause to public safety.

Those behind the “standards must be free” campaign unjustly condemn copyright protection for our works and shrug off the consequences of tearing down our rights. They blithely say that SDOs can just find other ways to recoup the massive costs of creating our standards. The folks behind this mindset don’t have an interest in the system. Nor do they comprehend the huge undertaking required to produce high quality standards year after year, which reflect the latest research, technologies, and learnings from tragedies. Furthermore, they fail to offer any alternative solution for how the end-product would be developed and delivered, or by whom the cost for that development and delivery would be absorbed; it is wilfully naïve thinking at best.

Full article: https://www.nfpa.org/nfpanetwork

Quitting Smoking?

In the UK around 6.9 million people over the age of 18 smoke. Although rates of smoking have decreased in recent years, the number of people who smoke remains high. Smoking harms almost all organs in the body and it is the leading cause of preventable deaths in England. Smoking can damage your blood vessels and heart, which increases your risk of having a heart attack.

Quitting smoking can be very difficult, but it is an important step for reducing your risk of heart disease. Here are some tips for stopping smoking:

More information: https://heartresearch.org.uk/ht-smoking

COVID-19: guidance on protecting people most likely to get very poorly from coronavirus (shielding) – an easy-read guide

This colourful guide published by Public Health England is for very vulnerable adults, children and young people in England who are shielding from coronavirus.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

New UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) chair appointed

The UK Department for Work and Pensions has appointed Sarah Newton as Chair of the Health and Safety Executive Board.

The appointment commenced on 1 August 2020 and is a five-year posting. She replaces Martin Temple.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey said: “I’m pleased to welcome Sarah to this important role and look forward to working with her.

“Her insight and experience will be huge assets as we work to safely resume everyday life across the country, helping to build confidence within business and workers as we get Britain back into work.

“I would also like to thank Martin for his dedication throughout his service over the last five years.”

Sarah Newton said: “As we move out of the nationwide lockdown and learn to live with Covid-19, the role of the HSE has never been more critical. I am looking forward to working with the HSE non executive and executive leadership team, tackling the challenges, building on the strengths of the organisation and working in partnership with employers, unions, trade associations, professional bodies, academics and others, enabling Great Britain to work safely and well.”

More information: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/sarah-newton-appointed-as-new-chair-of-hse

Covid safety breaches at University of Oxford put October reopening plans at risk

The University of Oxford has been accused of flouting government guidelines on reopening universities. The university has refused to share health and safety risk assessments as staff try to ensure the university is able to reopen safely in October 2020.

UCU wrote to University of Oxford vice-chancellor Louise Richardson last month formally requesting that the university share risk assessments about staff safety after trying to raise the issue on multiple occasions with the university.

The university responded to the request saying, “it is not practical or useful to share all risk assessments with Oxford UCU”. The university has previously claimed that staff and student health was its top priority.

An agreement between universities and unions on working safely on campus through the pandemic says that universities must consult with trade unions on staff health and safety, and about how the institution will manage risks from Covid-19 when re-opening.

It makes clear that universities must undertake risk assessments and review them “in consultation with trade union health and safety representatives.” Government guidelines for reopening universities mention the agreement as part of efforts to “help ensure campuses are as safe as possible and protect the health and wellbeing of staff, students and visitors to campus”.

More information: https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/10928/Covid-safety-breaches-at-University-of-Oxford-put-October-reopening-plans-at-risk

Serious concerns over UK shielding ‘pause’

Serious concerns have been raised about the UK government’s plans ‘to pause’ its shielding policy and the challenges that will then face thousands of extremely vulnerable people returning to the workplace.

Unite said that the world of work had changed dramatically since the lockdown was introduced in March and questioned if ministers had thought through all the implications of ‘pausing’, as Covid-19 was still prevalent across the UK.

Unite pinpointed key issues such as mental health as people were fearful of returning to a work environment over which they had no control; concerns about disciplinary procedures for those too worried to return to work; and lack of adequate policies for a structured return with the necessary induction programmes.

The union is also concerned that many employers will not have organised ‘vital’ professional health assessments, necessary to identify and implement extra measures needed to protect an extremely vulnerable group.

More information: https://unitetheunion.org/news-events/news/2020/july/serious-concerns-over-extremely-vulnerable-going-back-to-workplace-as-shielding-paused-on-1-august

HSE urges Blackburn city businesses to take five steps to become COVID-secure

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is out and about talking to businesses in Blackburn and the surrounding areas to ensure they are COVID-secure to help tackle the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

To support the understanding of any patterns in the confirmed coronavirus cases in the area, HSE is working alongside Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council in the regulation of workplace health and safety and alongside local public health authorities. Inspectors are out visiting businesses across Blackburn and surrounding areas, putting employers on the spot and checking that they are complying with the latest guidance.

To be COVID-secure means businesses need to put in place workplace adjustments, keep up to date with the latest guidance and put measures in place to manage the risk and protect workers and others. There are five practical steps that businesses can take to do that:

More information: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/07/27/hse-urges-blackburn-businesses-to-take-five-steps-to-become-covid-secure

Figures reveal that numbers of people killed in Great Britain have fallen, yet agriculture continues to have the highest rates of worker fatal injury

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published a report that reveals agriculture has the worst rate of worker fatal injury in Great Britain. Last year, 21 people were killed in agriculture, one was a child.

The report, Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2019/20, has been published to coincide with the start of Farm Safety Week 20-24 July 2020. Led by the Farm Safety Foundation charity, the week shines a light on safety and wellbeing in the sector. The HSE statistics highlight that agriculture continues to have the worst rate of worker fatal injury; eighteen times higher than the average rate across all industries.

Transport-related incidents, such as overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles, were responsible for more deaths than any other cause last year. Around half of the workers killed were aged 55 years or older, with older workers being disproportionately most at risk of fatal injuries on farms. The youngest person killed last year was a 4-year old child.

More information: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/07/20/figures-reveal-that-numbers-of-people-killed-have-fallen-yet-agriculture-continues-to-have-the-highest-rates-of-worker-fatal-injury

TUC says workers shouldn’t be feeling the heat

More needs to be done to protect workers from the risks of working in extreme heat, the TUC has said.

“Time in the sun can be enjoyable for many, but it also creates serious hazards at work,” warned TUC safety lead Shelly Asquith. In a blog posting on the union body’s website she added: “It’s not just unions being hot-headed – in the worst cases, workers can die as a result of working in heat or sun exposure. This includes some of the most serious illnesses, including skin cancer and organ failure. What’s more, scientists have recently predicted that 40 Celsius temperatures in the UK are becoming more likely. Adaptions to work, to keep people safe, are not keeping up with the rise in temperatures.”

Calling for a wide range of safety measures, she said: “Heat and sun exposure should be included in workplace risk assessments – a process any employer must legally carry out. All work-related illness associated with hot weather and sun exposure should be identified as risks, with a clear outline of the action plan to mitigate against each risk.”

More information: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/risks-union-health-and-safety-news-number-959-5-august-2020#_Toc47531249