How to risk manage COVID?

Sep 1, 2021

 

How can you risk manage COVID?  COVID is a global problem with it being higher risk in some regions than others.  Whether you are an individual, family, employer or anyone else in a position of responsibility you should carry out a risk assessment when a hazard is identified. 

 DISCLAIMER: This article does not replace the advice or directions from the authorities, it is written to help you understand the different means for risk control.  Check with your local authorities for updates on restrictions and outbreaks.  If you are sick self-isolate and call for medical advice.

 Part of the risk assessment involves using ‘The Hierarchy of Controls’ to come up with suitable control measures to reduce the damage caused by the hazard.  There are multiple tiers to the Hierarchy of Controls with the top control (Eliminate) being the most effective and the bottom control (PPE) being the least effective.  PPE is the least effective as they hazard is still out in full force and you are just relying on a thin shield to protect you.

 To have an effective disaster plan you should address all levels where possible as having more than one control will be safer.  If your one control fails to work you need other controls backing up to help prevent being exposed to the hazard.

As controlling COVID is difficult to most of us, for this article I have made the hazard the infected person who is spreading the disease.

 The levels of the Hierarchy of Controls include

  • Eliminate
  • Substitute
  • Isolate
  • Engineering
  • Administration
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

 There are a couple of different variations (wording) of this control system but they all cover the same topics.

Image Credit: https://tapintosafety.com.au/workplace-hazards-and-the-hierarchy-of-controls/

Emergency Kit

Eliminating the hazard

‘Eliminating the hazard from the environment’

 Eliminating the virus from the planet is not going to happen any time soon.  We can take action to eliminate the virus from our local environment.  The theory of eliminating humans may be on some people’s minds but is not legal (at the moment).  But we can try to keep the infected people out of our personal space.

 How can we keep the virus out of our personal space?

 Stay away from anyone who is ill.  The problem with COVID is that the infection period can have little if any symptoms at the start so people can be infectious without you knowing it.

Limit your access to the general public to reduce the risk of infection.

Cleaning – regular thorough cleaning with antiviral cleaners.  Cleaning all surfaces, handles, buttons, air conditioner filters, fabrics and more.

Maintain good personal hygiene.  Washing hands regularly, gargling with Listerine or Betadine Gargle for 30 seconds every 5 hours has shown to reduce the virus load in the throat [1], nasal rinse if you think you are in a high-risk zone.  These steps may not totally kill the virus alone but any risk management strategy has multiple steps.  Only relying on one strategy may not solve the problem.

Improve your health and immune system – eat a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, have a balanced diet, check for any vitamin and mineral deficiencies as this affects your immune system [3].  There are numerous studies regarding Vitamin D deficiency and COVID severity [7]

Avoid anything that gives you inflammation, gut problems or allergies as COVID can cause or enhance inflammation in the body with Cytokine storms. [4]

Substitute the hazard

‘Removing the risk by substituting the hazard with a less risky option.’

 

The infected person is the hazard so what can we do to substitute exposure to the infected people?

  • Work from home
  • Online shopping, click and collect, home delivery
  • Home schooling
  • Online meetings over the internet
  • Keeping sick staff out of the workplace (any sickness)
  • Phone appointments with doctors

Employees come to work sick for a few different reasons.

  • They won’t get paid if they don’t turn up
  • They have had high-pressure workload thrown at them and they feel like they are always behind.
  • They are scared they will get sacked if they don’t turn up or don’t complete the task on time.
  • They don’t consider other staff, customers and employers by spreading the illness through the business.
  • They have run out of sick pay and need the money.

Employers need to look at their business risk management plans and come up with some control measures to keep sick staff out of the workplace.  Working from home, online or on reduced duties at home is better than the whole workforce getting sick at the same time. 

 Forcing vaccinations on staff will not stop them from getting sick or passing it onto others, it just reduces the severity.   And each person will handle the vaccine differently, which could still lead to staff being off sick as some people have stronger side effects to the vaccines than others.

 

 

Engineering a control

‘Designing something to prevent or mitigate the effects of the hazard’.

Prevention

Get healthier – boost your immune system with a balanced diet and hydration.  [3]

Nutrition – your immune system and bodily functions need a range of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and anti-inflammatory agents to work effectively.

Designed

Vaccine – not all vaccines are the same.  In history some vaccines helped eradicate a disease but some other vaccines just minimise the effect of the disease.  Scientists have been trying for the last 100 years to eradicate certain diseases and we still have them.  Viruses mutate or the vaccine wears down in our bodies over time making the vaccine ineffective.  At the time I wrote this the COVID vaccines did not stop you from getting the virus only reducing the severity of the disease [5]. 

Do your research and analysis where the information is coming from as some groups are forcing it down your throats while others are going doomsday.  When doing your research validate the information as there are a lot of lies out there from all levels.

Social distancing – setting up stickers on the floor, barricades and limiting the number of people in an area to ensure social distancing is maintained.

Administration

‘Changes to the way people work with and think about the hazard’.

 

Training – television ads, social media posts, websites, media all play a part in public education.  Employers have a duty to conduct safety training of their staff if they are in an industry where they could be exposed to the virus or infected people (pretty much every industry).

You can also train yourself by carrying out your own research online.  Find some reliable medical professionals who have websites or online videos to become more aware of the situation and how it is changing.

Communication – checking in as you go shopping in higher risk zones is a means of communication.  I can’t see the need for everyone to check into everywhere when the region has never had a case.  All this does is create resentment towards the authorities as the public feels it’s an invasion of privacy.

 If you have the symptoms of COVID you would communicate with your doctor so risk measures can be put in place and medical treatment delivered as needed.

Policies and procedures – after completing a risk assessment families, workplaces and businesses would create a set of rules based on the control measures to mitigate the risk.  These rules would be then communicated to all necessary personnel to be actioned.  After implementing the rules review them regularly to see if they are working or not.

Risk management plans – everyone needs to at least ask – What will I do if I get COVID?  What will I do if someone I know gets COVID? What if COVID comes into my area?  Having a plan set in place before it happens and communicated to those around you helps the situation if it should arise.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

‘The least effective method, used to reduce exposure to the hazard.’

 

Masks – used to prevent virus droplets from being spread from you and to prevent you from inhaling the droplets from others.  They should provide some barrier if worn properly (covering nose and mouth) and replaced at least once a day.  There may be exemptions to wearing masks if you have breathing problems or a child under 2 years old [6]

Face Shields – more aimed at protecting you from larger particles for example spitting.  They don’t protect you from aerosolised particles that can flow around the shield [6].

Gloves – gloves are not necessary but you can wear them if your risk assessment says so.  But the issue is the same across all industries concerning wearing disposable gloves.  You can still touch some contaminate and then scratch your eye, touch something not contaminated and spread the problem.  Good regular hand washing does just as good.  In every situation when you should wash your hands you should be changing your gloves.

Protective clothing – more need for medical staff who have regular contact with people infected with the virus.  If you reduce contact with contaminated surfaces and sick people and change clothes daily, washing etc you shouldn’t need protective clothing.  Again, refer to your risk assessment.

Ensure your PPE items are in your emergency kit for easy access.

Summary

Carry out a risk assessment for your particular situation.  Look at the Hierarchy of Controls and come up with a plan on the multiple methods you will use to prevent yourself from coming into contact with the virus, minimising your contact if you find yourself in a virus hot zone and how to prevent spreading it to others.

 I could go on further but I’m not writing an encyclopedia.  Do your research, check out multiple sources to get a balanced view.  There is a lot out there pushing agendas and some of them are just out to make money from the whole thing.  Check out the reference links below for a start.

 Remember, if you are sick and have a fever, cough ring your doctor or if it’s life-threatening ring your emergency hotline (000 in Australia).

 To get your free emergency kit checklist click here.

 

References

  1. Mouth Washes That Inactivate Coronaviruses – Drbeen Medical Lectures https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSqT6vHTMzg

 2. Airborne dispersion of droplets during coughing: a physical model of viral transmission  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-84245-2

 3. COVID and Vitamin D – Dr Berg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRwts0iztVs&list=PLgDrtjSieciaMevZnBehnjfvwMkjWg07l&index=3

 4. Cytokine Storm in COVID-19: The Current Evidence and Treatment Strategies   https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.01708/full

 5. Why are fully vaccinated people getting infected with COVID-19?

https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/why-are-fully-vaccinated-people-increasingly-being

 6. Your Guide to Masks

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html

 7.  Studies suggest link between Vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 infections

https://www.whio.com/news/local/studies-suggest-link-between-vitamin-d-deficiency-covid-19-infections/DHQQDQQZ3RBLJA3ARID7M7QCIE/

 

 

 

 

 

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