13 March 2020
These instructions will be modified as required as we obtain further information on the COVID-19.
Establishing a preparedness team
It is recommended that workplaces establish a team that takes responsibility for the preparations which are necessary for the epidemic.
The team will co-ordinate preparations and employee communications, keep the contingency plan up-to-date and provide instructions as necessary on topics such as cleaning, cases of illness, isolation and quarantine. The team will monitor the national situation, the restrictions by the authorities, the recommendations by the government, the travel advisories issued by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the guidelines issued by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The team will also assess the impact of various scenarios, such as quarantines, on operations and supply chains.
COVID-19 mechanism of transmission and the severity of the disease
Coronavirus is transmitted from one person to another mainly by means of a droplet infection in close contact.
Most of the people who contract the disease experience mild symptoms and recover well. However, some people may experience serious symptoms. The majority of the patients who have experienced serious symptoms have been elderly persons, and many of them also have underlying illnesses.
COVID-19 prevention measures at the workplace
Prevention measures protect employees, customers and partners alike. The measures also help the society to maintain its important activities.
Cleanliness and hygiene
Maintain a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene at the workplace. Unclean surfaces present a risk of infection. Hygiene-related measures also help prevent other infectious diseases, such as seasonal influenza and gastrointestinal diseases.
- Cleaning guidelines are available on the FIOH website: Cleaning guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19 infections
- Maintaining a high standard of hygiene and general cleanliness is especially important at workplaces where people work close to other people and used shared equipment, tools or instruments.
- Keyboards and other devices should also be cleaned regularly. Request cleaning instructions from equipment manufacturers and suppliers and make sure that the necessary cleaning supplies are easily available.
- Provide guidance on regular and effective hand washing (THL video) and remind people about proper coughing hygiene (THL video).
- Ensure that everyone who visits the workplace, including partners and subcontractors, have access to hand washing facilities. If hand washing is not possible, keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer available.
- Remember to observe the guidelines yourself – managers and supervisors play an important role in setting the right example
- Instructions on hand washing and coughing hygiene can be printed from THL’s material bank (A4, A3, MP4)
- More detailed instructions on hand washing and coughing (in Finnish).
Consider whether there is a need to change the sickness absence policies of the workplace.
- When an employee falls ill, staying home prevents other employees from being infected.
- Unnecessary load on health care services should be avoided. Spending time unnecessarily in the waiting areas of health care facilities increases the risk of infection. However, those who are ill should naturally seek treatment or give a sample for testing when necessary.
- The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health supports the Confederation of Finnish Industries recommendation on adopting the practice of self-certified sick leave during epidemics. This would make it possible for employees to stay at home to recover by notifying the employer themselves, without a doctor’s certificate, for 3–7 days, for example. See the recommendation issued by the Confederation of Finnish Industries (in Finnish)
- In your operations, prepare for a larger-than-usual number of sickness absences this spring.
Travel and quarantine
- Prepare a travel policy to prevent employees from unnecessary exposure to infection.
- Observe the travel advisories issued by THL and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
- Travel advisories issued by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (in Finnish)
- Ministry for Foreign Affairs travel notification
- Consider whether electronic meeting tools could be used instead of travel to epidemic areas or if travel could be postponed.
When an employee returns from a trip
- According to the decision of the Government of Finland employees who have returned to Finland need to stay two weeks at home and keep social distance.
- A person can only be ordered into quarantine by a physician in charge of communicable diseases (Communicable Diseases Act 1227/2016).
- Remote work arrangements can be agreed on with quarantined employees if necessary.
- Kela can pay a sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease when an employee is ordered to stay away from work in order to prevent the spread of a communicable disease such as the novel coronavirus. The sickness allowance is also available to the provider of a child under the age of 16 who is placed in quarantine, making it impossible for the provider to continue working while the quarantine is in effect.
- Kela press release on sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease
Information on quarantine on the THL website
Remote work and other precautions
To prepare for the possibility that the risk of COVID-19 infections will increase significantly in Finland, think about the measures that could be taken at your workplace to prevent everyone from being taken ill at the same time.
- Promote remote work.
- Face-to-face meetings should be limited to only those that are absolutely essential.
- Where possible, use virtual meetings and electronic communication.
- When spring comes, bring out the bicycle stands as early as possible. Use flexible working hours and offer more opportunities for shift work to minimize the amount of time spent by employees in crowded public transport systems and also to minimize the number of employees who are at the workplace at the same time.
- Note that employees who are taken ill may suffer from feelings of anxiety or depression. They may need support.
- Arranging a public event with more than 10 people is prohibited by Government decision.
- Take account of the changing conditions and situations at work when assessing workplace hazards and inform employees about them.
- Arrange orientation for employees to new tasks and ensure sufficient competence.
- Guide employees and make sure they protect themselves and follow the instructions given.
- Take account of possible increased solitary work when assessing hazards and arranging employee orientation.
- Pay attention to the ability of employees to cope both physically and mentally in the exceptional times we are living. Make sure that employees have sufficient time to recover. (add here a link to mental guidelines to be provided later)
- Focus on safety communications at the workplace and ensure the flow of information in both directions in shared workplaces. Inform everyone working on the same premises about safety matters.
Further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristiina Kulha, Senior Communications Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, email@example.com