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Omicron: Keep your guard up

Mike Robinson

Employers must take action to protect staff in light of Omicron variant, says British Safety Council

THE British Safety Council has been working with employers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to understand and evaluate risks to put appropriate controls in place to safeguard their people and businesses.

Commenting today on the threat that the new Omicron COVID-19 variant poses to the workplace and how employers can best manage the risks, particularly in the run up to Christmas, Mike Robinson (pictured), chief executive of the British Safety Council, said: ‘Most employers have taken sensible precautions during the pandemic to help protect their staff against catching or passing on COVID-19. The swift way they responded to new Government guidance ensured that the workplace did not become the source of transmission that people feared it might.

‘It is vital that we all maintain our efforts and don’t let down our guard, especially when we are waiting to find out exactly what risks Omicron may pose to our health and the way COVID-19 could spread further. None of us wants to go backwards and see our NHS, schools and other vital services threatened through disruption or overwhelmed. The impact of this on people’s mental health and well-being has also been significant.

‘Omicron has the potential to replace Delta as the dominant variant, and that would mean many more people likely becoming infected, which is why we support the Government’s call for people to take up the chance of a booster vaccine when offered.

‘Our view at the British Safety Council is that employers will know their organization best and be able to judge what they can and should do. We would advise them to review and where possible avoid any non-essential face-to-face contact. This may mean some or all staff working remotely, holding meetings online where it is feasible to do so, and looking at postponing Christmas parties until we are clearer on the risks, especially if they are bringing large numbers together and where non-essential travel is involved.

‘I know it’s a tough call to ask people to hold off from celebrating physically together in the run up to Christmas, especially when staff have worked so hard this year, but there are other ways of people coming together using online technology and I’d urge employers to look at alternatives, at least until the picture is clearer on Omicron and the risks that it poses.’

The British Safety Council has taken its own precautionary action in light of the new Omicron variant. It says all the following actions are temporary and will be reviewed as more information comes to light:

  • Cancelling or postponing any planned overseas business travel from the UK
  • Delivering any UK face-to-face training or auditing remotely
  • Suspending any staff or client face-to-face meetings in the UK until further notice
  • Working remotely and temporarily closing our UK office to all but essential activities
  • Cancelling a planned staff Christmas party.

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