BOHS backs national report highlighting action needed to protect health workers from COVID-19 infection

The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS), the Chartered Society for Worker Health Protection has strongly endorsed the findings in a comprehensive report by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB). The report, published today, aims to understand the factors that could contribute to the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the NHS and where there may be opportunities to reduce that risk even further. The investigation draws heavily on the experience of those working across the health service, from strategic national planners to hospital porters.


BOHS particularly welcomes recommendations in the report that bring a focus on established and proven means of worker health protection. Recommendations 4, 5 and 6 highlight the need for national leadership, the application of a hierarchy of exposure controls and other specific measures to integrate good occupational hygiene measures into the National Health Service infrastructure in England and Wales. This follows growing concern in BOHS that the NHS lacked expertise and had insufficient focus on protecting its workforce from COVID-19 through rigorous application of established and proven measures of biological exposure control.

We hope this report is a watershed for the protection of healthcare workers in England and Wales. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how selfless NHS workers are. Their focus through the pandemic has been the protection of patients at all costs, even when it has threatened their own health and wellbeing.  But as this report highlights, the pandemic has exposed the absence of national strategies and occupational hygiene expertise in the protection of staff from hazardous health exposures

commented BOHS President, Kelvin Williams.

“This report recommendations highlight the need to systematically integrate a hierarchy of COVID-19 controls into the infrastructure of the health service. This is the only way to ensure that we can protect the people at the heart of the NHS and prevent over-reliance on PPE with all the cost, complexity and risk involved.”

BOHS members have been at the centre of support for effective PPE deployment, but are delighted with the report’s recommendations broadening out the national NHS strategy to include consideration of other occupational hygiene measures, such as ventilation systems and better building management.

“HSIB have produced a timely report that should be read carefully by NHS managers and Infection Control Leads. It is not concerned with blame, but proposes practical measures that, if put in place, could significantly reduce the chances of workplace exposure to COVID-19 in our biggest employer,” said BOHS CEO Kevin Bampton.

“The focus on training and national coordination is vital. The NHS can marshal huge amounts of clinical knowledge on patient infection control, but that does not translate to having all the answers on how to best protect its workforce. This report’s recommendations can really help NHS leaders save lives and protect the NHS. We strongly endorse the report and its recommendations, not least because of its focus on sound principles of occupational hygiene.”