Coronavirus has led to the closure of learning institutions across the globe. Here are key risks for education industry workers and strategies to keep them safe.
To date, stats are showing that coronavirus (COVID-19) infections are doubling every three days in Australia.
Although many private schools and education facilities have closed, the prime minister stated that as of yet, countrywide school closure is not foreseeable for the immediate future.
The reason for this is that, as indicated by other countries who have followed this route, complete school closure could have widespread effects on the economy. Countrywide school closure is also foreseen to limit the number of health care workers that are available, as many would have to stay at home for child care purposes.
Children have been documented as the group with the lowest risk of contraction and have the lowest mortality rates at present.
However, the same is not true for education workers. While students might be a low-risk group, education staff face the same risk as workers in other industries.
In order to control the virus spreading within schools and among staff, it is vital that HR departments know about the key risk factors for education workers, as well as what strategies to implement to maintain the safety of staff.
Read on to learn more.
Textbooks, Homework, and Stationery Pose a Key Risk
The coronavirus has been shown to survive for up to 3 days on metal and plastic surfaces, and 24 hours on cardboard.
The hotspots for contamination are locations such as door handles, railings, taps, and any other surfaces that staff have to touch on a consistent basis.
However, while these high contact zones are considered to be dangerous points for transmission, they can be sterilized frequently.
On the other hand, items such as textbooks, stationery, and homework sheets are not as easily sterilized as they might be sensitive to moisture and sprays. At the same time, these are also items that education workers need to handle regularly throughout the day.
As infection risk is lower among children, fortunately, there is a reduced likelihood that they will be the source of infection through these items. However, staff will still need to take extra care around the handling of paper and other items sensitive to sterilization, especially with regards to staff-to-staff handling.
Staff Rooms and Bathrooms Are Hotspots for Infection
As mentioned above, surfaces that have to be frequently touched by staff are potential hotspots for infection. For this reason, staff rooms and bathrooms need to be disinfected as regularly throughout the day as possible.
Special attention should be given to items such as handles, light switches, telephones, communal pens, touch screen displays, buttons, kitchenware, taps, nobs, etc.
For more information on maintaining good hygiene practices in the workplace, read this post.
Remote Programs May Help to Protect Education Workers
Many schools around Australia are implementing remote programs to support students who opt to stay at home. The benefit of this to education workers is that it can help them to limit contact with others by either working from home or working in a less crowded environment at school.
Although the government is discouraging sending learners home, there are many families that prefer to retain their children at home and who would opt to follow an online curriculum.
For this reason, school administrations should not disregard the option of online learning and support during the coronavirus pandemic, as this may assist to protect education workers from increased infection risks.
The Importance of Providing Education Workers With Information on the Virus
Although administrative measures can be made to limit the contamination of surfaces and decrease infection rates within educational facilities, much of the prevention also has to be on an individual basis.
To contain the spread of the virus, it is essential that education workers stay informed on how it transmits and what sterilization and protection measures to take.
Therefore, it is crucial the HR informs staff about the virus and provides reminders about personal sterilization methods on an ongoing basis.
Here are a few key facts that all workers should know:
- The virus can survive on surfaces for extended periods of time
- The virus can travel through the air in water droplets
- 6 feet between people is thought to be a safe distance for avoiding infection
- Masks can stop transmission via water droplets in the air
- Masks can also discourage involuntary face and mouthing touching
- To avoid infection, hand sterilization should be done as frequently as possible, especially after touching high-risk surfaces such as door handles, taps, or light switches
- The coronavirus can situate itself under the fingernails, therefore special attention needs to be paid to the nails during hand sterilization
It is essential that all education workers are informed of these points and remain updated as new information on the coronavirus is released.
What to Do If an Education Worker Has Had Contact With a Confirmed Case
If an education worker has come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, they should seek medical attention to check whether or not transmission took place.
Staff members who develop any of the coronavirus symptoms should also seek medical assistance. Some of the common coronavirus symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)
If a staff member has contracted the virus they are required to self-isolate themselves to prevent it from spreading to those around them (as per government recommendations). This means that no staff members should be required (or allowed) to stay at work if they have contracted the virus.
Worker's Insurance and the Coronavirus
Many people are wondering whether or not workers' compensation will offer coverage for those suffering from COVID-19 infections.
The answer to this depends largely on whether or not it can be proven that a staff member irrefutably contracted the virus at work or as a result of their work. More education about the virus is still needed before an individual can make such a claim. If this is the case, a claim should be initiated.