Workplace COVID-19 saliva test pilot

A workplace saliva test pilot program has begun in Victoria to help in understanding the logistics of continuous testing in higher-risk workplaces.

The first phase of the pilot, a partnership between the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute) - a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne hospital - and the Victorian Government, is currently being rolled out across three Victoria Police stations. About 1000 police officers will be tested over a two week period in Bendigo, Dandenong and Melbourne. 

Using saliva to test for COVID-19 as an alternative to a nasal swab is a method validated by the Doherty Institute and has been proven to be highly accurate. There will be three methods of collecting saliva to better understand the most effective and comfortable way to mass test in a workplace setting: mouth to container, swab under the tongue, and mouth to straw to tube. Read more: Melbourne University media release

Coronavirus may cause 'wave' of neurological disease

COVID-19 can cause worrying neurological symptoms like a loss of smell and taste, but Victorian scientists are warning the damage the virus causes to the brain may also lead to more serious conditions such as Parkinson's disease. They say there is a worrying precedent. Five years after the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 1900s, there was up to a three-fold increase in the incidence of Parkinson's disease.

Study co-author Kevin Barnham from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health said he believed a similar “silent wave” of neurological illness would follow this pandemic. Findings published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease describe a “two-hit hypothesis”: The brain gets inflamed from something like a virus, then something else comes along later causing more damage and eventually Parkinson's disease develops.

“Evidence is already suggesting the triggers for Parkinson's disease are there with this virus,” Professor Barnham said. “We can't put a number on it, but with 30 million people worldwide affected by this virus, even a small shift in the risk of getting Parkinson's would lead to many more people being diagnosed.” Florey Institute scientist and co-author of the paper, Leah Beauchamp, said there was an opportunity to get ready. “We weren't prepared the last time - more than 100 years ago. We have the tools and we can get ahead of this now,” she said. “The real question is: Are we prepared to take action now to avoid history repeating itself?” 
Read more: Beauchamp, L et al. Parkinsonism as a Third Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic? [Full article], Journal of Parkinson's Disease, published online pre-press, 22 September 2020. ABC News 

UK Study: Many thousands of work Covid-19 cases unreported

A new study has found that the UK's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance outlining when employers should report work-related Covid-19 may miss ‘many thousands’ of cases and should be widened. 

Professor Raymond Agius of the University of Manchester’s Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health assessed the guidelines on reporting requirements under the RIDDOR regulations that dictate when an employer should report a work-related Covid-19 infection, death or dangerous occurrence. Practitioners were asked to estimate the likelihood that COVID-19 disease may have arisen from two scenarios, one of which is reportable to the HSE as a dangerous occurrence under the current guidance and one which is non-reportable.  The participants ranked the non-reportable scenario as the most likely to result in a COVID-19 work-related infection.

Professor Agius found the HSE guidance does not correspond with Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on the highest risk jobs, as the guidance excludes reports from occupations where employees are working with the general public as opposed to persons known to be infected. The professor also assessed the guidance on when doctors should report a COVID-19 death that is attributable to employment to the coroner. In findings reported in the journal Occupational Medicine, the professor concluded the threshold to report a case to the coroner is much lower than the HSE guidance, as it allows notifications from any form of employment. The coroners’ guidance also corresponded better with the data from the ONS which indicates how high the risk is for different occupations.

“Current RIDDOR coronavirus guidance from the HSE is difficult to apply. Available evidence suggests that it might have failed in capturing many thousands of work related COVID-19 disease cases and hundreds of deaths. Thus, the HSE is missing valuable opportunities for investigations that could lead to advice to prevent future disease and death,” Professor Agius said. “The HSE guidance on RIDDOR reporting relating to COVID-19 would benefit from amendment to improve clarity and ease of use and to explicitly allow reports from a wider range of occupations dealing with the general public.” He added HSE need to increase its inspections substantially in order to investigate reports.
Read more: SOM news release. RM Agius. COVID-19: statutory means of scrutinizing workers' deaths and disease,  Occupational Medicine,  21 September 2020. Source: Risks 966

Americans and masks

We recently received an email from - a US group that writes reviews, guides, articles and does some research on an investigation they had done on the mask-wearing habits of Americans. We cannot vouch for how robust the research methods and results are, but we have included it here as it is of interest. In Victoria, where the government has made face coverings mandatory, we have seen a high level of compliance. Here is a summary the organisation provided of their work: 

Governments all around the world have put in the effort to control the epidemic. Wearing masks is the primary method of managing the spread of COVID-19. But, in the United States, a huge portion of the population resists wearing face masks.

We decided to delve a little deeper into this growing problem and see the real vision Americans have, particularly their behavior on the face mask policy. Chris Norris, together with a team of experts, analyzed 2041 Americans across the U.S. Here is what we found:

  • 87.3 per cent of Millennials surveyed think that wearing face masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and helps public health - but only 57.64 per cent of Millennials are truly wearing a mask
  • 38.8 per cent of those surveyed don't wear face masks because people aren't wearing them
  • 14 per cent stated they felt anxious when wearing a face mask because other people would look at them.
  • 41.4 per cent confirmed that they used cloth masks during the COVID-19.
  • 26.3 per cent are using N95 Respirators to avoid COVID-19.
  • 36.8 per cent bought face masks and toilet paper for their friends' birthday gifts during the COVID pandemic.
  • 46.7 per cent thought that their partners should wear a mask when having sex.
  • 78.2 per cent said that if friends or relatives come to visit them, they need to wear a face mask until they leave.
  • 51.4 per cent have dreamed of infecting with the coronavirus while sleeping.

Read more on the study: U.S. Behavior on Face Masks during COVID-19,


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