The Official Journal of the Italian Society of Occupational Medicine recently published an article (07/12/23) which examines lessons learned in occupational medicine from the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, to allow comparison with other countries. Despite prior research and laws, necessary resources to protect worker health were lacking when the pandemic began.
Weak public health guidance, which did not recognize airborne transmission, was applied to workplaces, leaving workers unprotected, especially regarding respiratory protective equipment (RPE).
The Health and Safety Executive did not produce guidance to protect healthcare workers, who were at high risk. The UK COVID-19 Inquiry should address these shortcomings but also ensure robust implementation of recommendations.
Recommendations should include substantial measures to improve indoor air quality and a permanent pandemic management organization with adequate resources.
The enforcing authority must be required to publish more specific workplace guidance than public health bodies. Occupational medicine needs better preparation to assert responsibility for protecting worker health.
Future research must investigate the best ways to mitigate airborne infection and manage post-COVID sequelae. In summary, worker protections were lacking at the pandemic’s start in the UK, highlighting lessons for occupational medicine.
The full article can be read here.