Sandwell Council has issued an urgent warning to employers in the borough to protect their staff against the new variant of coronavirus.
As the new variant is spreading rapidly and many people still have to go to work it is imperative that Sandwell firms take care of our essential workforce. A large proportion of the population in Sandwell does not have the option of working from home as they work in industries crucial to keep the rest of the country operating.
Sandwell’s director of public health Lisa McNally urged people to take action now to prevent more deaths and hospitalisations due to Covid-19. Her concern is particularly focused on those that still have to go to a workplace during the lockdown.
“The number of people who still have to go to work during this lockdown is very high in Sandwell,” she said.
“For example, the proportion of our local population working in processing plants or operating machines in factories is around twice as high as the national average. It’s also significantly higher than the West Midlands average.
“In addition, we have lots of people working in schools, care settings and essential retail jobs.”
Ms McNally went on to say that as there is evidence that the new variant of the virus is easier to catch and more deadly than previous versions, it is crucial that employers take all possible steps to protect their workforces.
Precautionary measures that should be in place include supporting staff to maintain a safe distance from each other and the public, the provision of the right protective equipment, and accessible facilities to wash their hands regularly.
She continued: “Most importantly, employers need to ensure that people with symptoms, or who otherwise should be isolating, do not come into the workplace. That can rapidly turn into a very large outbreak with fatal consequences.”
Sandwell Council’s Deputy Leader Councillor Maria Crompton added: “A large section of our population in Sandwell don’t have the option of working from home. They work in industries and services that keep the rest of the country going.
“I’m asking all employers to take their duty of care to staff seriously during this extremely dangerous time.
“Employees should not be afraid of speaking up if they feel Covid-19 guidance is not being followed in their workplace. Everyone has a right to this protection.”
Advice for operating a COVID safe workplace is available on the government website.
Workers can also get a rapid Covid-19 test at West Bromwich town hall. The rapid testing programme is available for anyone who is unable to work from home and who does not have any Covid-19 symptoms. As many as one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and may be spreading it without realising.
Any business that has two or more positive cases among their staff must report this to the council’s Public Health team. The Public Health team can also advise employers who need information or support. To contact the Public Health team email PHCovid19_Enquiries@sandwell.gov.uk.