Research

Action call on airborne virus transmission

Following a statement this month from top US scientists that ‘airborne’ transmission is a major cause of COVID-19 spread, the opposing position taken by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has come in for further criticism.

The recognition of airborne transmission risks has been discounted by WHO throughout the pandemic. Acceptance of this mode of transmission would signal that a much wider range of workers in health care and other occupations should have been provided much higher levels of protection. In recent weeks, both US and UK authorities have changed their guidance to acknowledge this airborne mode of transmission, and their positions are now closer to the long-established guidance from the global trade union body ITUC.

Now a paper published in the journal New Solutions, analysing WHO’s workplace safety guidelines on COVID-19 and comparing it to ITUC’s position, notes: “The WHO’s health and safety guidelines on COVID-19 at work are unacceptably complacent in parts, patently dangerous in others and contain serious gaps. Omissions include no mention of the essential role of labour inspection and enforcement, and a lack of recognition of potential interactions with other workplace hazards, and of the necessity for wider employment protections to make safety and safe behaviour a realistic prospect.” Highlighting ITUC’s call for greater precaution to protect workers, it adds: “Potential risks in outdoor work and the need to address the impact of job segregation related to inequalities in health outcomes are also absent. The advice on physical distancing, requirements for protective equipment, and the estimations of risk by occupation is also error strewn and potentially dangerous.”
Read more: Rory O’Neill. WHO Knew. How the World Health Organization (WHO) Became a Dangerous Interloper on Workplace Health and Safety and COVID-19, New Solutions, first published 8 October 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/1048291120961337Source: Risks 970 

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