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Dodič Fikfak: Risk assessments are used to anticipate and prevent the introduction of the virus into companies

Metoda Dodič Fikfak, Director of the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine, and the Government spokesperson, Ambassador Jelko Kacin spoke about the current situation regarding COVID-19 at a press conference.

Director of the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine Metoda Dodič Fikfak

Director of the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine Metoda Dodič Fikfak | Author Nebojša Tejić/STA

On Thursday, 3,645 people were tested, and 192 new infections were confirmed, which is slightly more than five per cent. The third record is the sum of all infected people since March, which today exceeded the 5,000-person mark. To be precise, we now have 5,007 people who have tested positive for the new coronavirus. 60 people are hospitalised, 15 people are in intensive care but none have died.

The most, i.e. 52, positive cases were found in Ljubljana, seven in Domžale and Črna na Koroškem, respectively, six in Maribor and Celje, respectively, five in Slovenjske Konjice and four in Kranj and Medvode, respectively.

Since a growing number of outbreaks are located in working environments, the Director of the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine, Metoda Dodič Fikfak, pointed out that employers must think more broadly and foresee in their risk assessments how to prevent the introduction of the virus and how to support a normal workflow. This is the first time that “a biological risk factor (virus) has broken into the work environment”, she said, and added that it is understandable that numerous employers do not understand risk assessments as being something that they should supplement or change in the context of the epidemic.

Coronavirus does not exist only in the workplace, but it can be transmitted there: workers in numerous organisations pass products they make to each other; they make a semi-finished item and pass it on to the next worker. The virus can spread through such items even when the workers in a factory do not meet each other. Metoda Dodič Fikfak emphasised several ways to contain the spread of the virus in work facilities, and particularly pointed out disinfection and the ventilation of production facilities, and the organisation of the work process into separate groups of workers who do not meet, and mingle with, each other.

She stated entrances to companies, time recorders, washrooms, toilets, areas for smokers and dining areas as critical points for the spread of the virus: “The abundance of problematic areas requires a team to monitor and, if necessary, correct risk assessments.” The National Institute of Public Health cannot prepare instructions that would be as accurate and specific as employers would expect, as work processes in organisations differ. Therefore, the Director of the Institute of Occupational, Traffic and Sports Medicine advised employers to consult safety engineers and occupational medicine specialists.