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The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging countries around the world to find solutions to a global public health emergency. With the virus now present in more than 150 countries and territories, governments are taking unprecedented action aimed at containing the outbreak, with some countries essentially on lockdown.
During a special Marsh webcast — now available for replay — panelists discussed how businesses can address the changing realities of the pandemic. This include the exponential increase in employees working remotely — something new for many companies.
Jeff Smagacz, Ergonomics Practice leader within Marsh Risk Consulting, noted that there can be a number of risk factors for employees working remotely. The immediate need to shift to a work-at-home model means that some companies are struggling to address basic requirements for effective remote work, including good workstations and chairs. Trip hazards and mental stress can also contribute to a higher risk of injury for remote workers.
A few simple actions, however, can improve employees’ well-being while working from home. These include using sturdy and adjustable chairs, alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day, and taking micro-breaks every hour to stretch and move.
Nathan Wolfe, founder and chairman of Metabiota, an analytics firm that specializes in modeling pandemics, epidemics, and public health crises, spoke about the potential impact on the livelihood of billions of people around the world. Many companies have already laid off or furloughed employees as the economic effects of the pandemic continue to grow.
Dr. Lorna Friedman, Global Health Leader within Mercer’s Multinational Client Group, underlined the differences between containment and mitigation measures. While containment involves trying to detect and stop known chains of transmission through the isolation of cases, possible contact quarantines, and travel restrictions, mitigation involves community-level actions like social distancing. Mitigation measures are normally introduced when a virus is spreading more broadly within a community and transmission chains cannot be tracked. She added that there are likely to be more efforts to move towards a suppression strategy, which aims to reduce the reproduction number — the average number of secondary cases each case generates — of the virus.
And as more social distancing measures are implemented, Dr. Friedman underlined the importance of telemedicine not solely for COVID-19-related issues but to address other health needs — such as physical therapy — at a time when in-person visits may be difficult.
Although the number of new cases as well as the death toll continue to climb, Wolfe noted that it’s not unreasonable to assume that transmission and spread is likely to decline during the summer. And early data has shown that extensive measures in China seem to have slowed COVID-19’s spread. Meanwhile, early trials for a vaccine have begun, although Dr. Friedman noted that it will likely take up to 18 months to establish the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
The webcast dedicated most of its time to answering audience questions. James Crask, Global Resilience Advisory Lead within Marsh Risk Consulting, encouraged businesses to have regular and honest communications with both staff and employees.
Kelly Thoerig, Marsh’s US employment practices liability coverage leader, noted that employers should follow Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention recommendations that employees who are sick should stay home.
Dennis Tierney, director of claims in Marsh’s Workers’ Compensation Center of Excellence, said any claim related to COVID-19 will be investigated and questions from insurers or third-party administrators will likely revolve around symptoms, confirmation of the virus from medical professions, and information on any contact with someone with a known infection and a travel history both in the US and overseas.
And if you have further questions about homeworker comfort and safety best practices, please send an email to email@example.com. We will be sure to reply to you within 24 hours.