As occupational health practitioners brace themselves for the easing of Covid restrictions next week, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (FOM) has published new guidance on vaccination and testing.
The guidance, Covid-19 Guidance on Vaccination and Testing, emphasises that occupational health professionals should continue to encourage vaccine take-up on a voluntary basis.
Covid testing and vaccination
Any vaccination programme, whether voluntary or mandatory, should include and comply with a range of ethical and legal considerations, the faculty has reiterated, including (among others) being consistent with national regulatory guidelines, informed by consent, with proper and accurate record-keeping, and where people have the opportunity to discuss any concerns.
For testing programmes, employers were likely to turn to OH for support in setting up programmes around access to the workplace, fitness to work, remote working, contact tracing, prevalence, research and international travel, FOM suggested.
Again, such programmes needed to be underpinned by clear and well-communicated ethics guidance, it emphasised.
Dr Steve Nimmo, FOM president, said: “Throughout the pandemic occupational health professionals have provided critical support to businesses and organisations in managing risk and protecting workers.
“Occupational health professionals should continue to encourage the uptake of Covid19 vaccine on a voluntary basis to protect individuals and populations. We fully understand the difficult policy decisions the government has to make in protecting the population. There is a live debate about whether NHS staff should be vaccinated as a condition of employment. It is our professional advice that a voluntary system is the correct ethical approach and would result in higher vaccination rates.”
Separately, FOM has urged employers and workers to remain cautious as restrictions lift next week.
It is advising that “sensible” workplace precautions including social distancing should remain and masks should still be used in crowded indoor spaces, including public transport. London mayor Sadiq Khan, for example, has already announced that masks will remain compulsory on the capital’s transport network after 19 July.
Dr Nimmo said: “Covid-19 cases continue to rise and we believe it is a sensible approach that people should consider wearing masks in crowded indoor workplaces and on their commute on public transport.
“Our faculty represents the leading experts in workplace health and we are advising employers and workers across the UK to remain cautious as restrictions are lifted.”