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Forced to go in with dangerous students

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by hhhh, May 28, 2020.

  1. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Obviously trying not to say anything which could identify the person, so am skimping on details

    An ex-colleague works for a group running skills workshops for adults. Since the lockdown, they have been teaching online. Now they've been told they have to go in, even though many of the students are highly likely to break distancing rules. When one teacher said to the (non teaching) manager that she was concerned about students eg spitting on her (they can be challenging), the manager said they could cancel the course if something like that happened. But this could be too late...Corona doesn't give you a one lesson chance, and say I'll only kill you the second time a student endangers you!
    This is in an area with a very high Corona rate-and in fact the local council has banned schools reopening due to safety issues, even for small numbers. They are only open for keyworkers' children/vulnerable. The local NHS has been warning to stay at home if possible because of the high rate in this area, on FB posts.

    She is not in a union so please don't say that (I am, and thought it!). Anything I've read on the union page is more geared towards schools.
  2. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Star commenter

    Her fears are quite valid and understandable. I know it is not easy to do but my advice would be for your friend to ask for a copy of the risk assessment that has been done ( if they don't have one this should prompt them into doing one) so that she can see the measures that they are taking to control the risk.
    Also , is there a union she can join such as Unison or Unite? She could have a look online. It doesn't take long to join one.
    Has spitting occurred often in the past? If so she should bring this up with her managers and ask them how they intend to reduce the risk of that because as you say it's too late once it happens. Prevention and risk reduction needs serious consideration by her managers. They have a duty of care towards your friend whilst she is in their employment.
    If she still feels unsafe about going back then she could contact her local MP and ask them for support. In the town where I live our local MP was challenging employers who were not looking after employees.
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    This instant, @bedlam has said all I would have said plus some, except I would add that if it's that dangerous, maybe the course shouldn't run, and that maybe management need to know that if an incident happens H&S executive and police will be contacted before they're told.
  4. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Spitting etc has happened-I don't know how many times, but from what she says, her adults are likely to be more risky than most of the students in any school I've taught in (and that's a few)! Like with infants, some people don't mean to harm anyone, but just don't remember to distance.
    agathamorse likes this.
  5. diddydave

    diddydave Established commenter

    I believe the NEU has said that any issues to do with COVID will be supported by them even for new members:

    "Pre-existing issues: With the exception of issues relating to the Coronavirus, please note the NEU cannot offer representation or legal assistance to members with problems that exist before they submit their application."
    agathamorse likes this.
  6. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    The bottom line is that if she isn't in a high-risk group, i.e. morbidly obese, being pre/diabetic, etc. then the risk of a serious negative outcome is actually quite low. The reason this has spread so quickly and so easily is that a large proportion of the infected don't even notice it.

    If she's in a high-risk group she needs to get a letter from her doctor, if she's not in a high-risk group then perhaps she should phone her doctor for reassurance?
  7. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    I agree with @Bedlam3 advice to see the RA. If spitting is a risk then face shields would be appropriate I would have thought (they are working with adults not children, so the excuse to try not to use PPE given to schools would not count).
  8. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    So what is the approximate risk of someone in their 40's, not in a high risk group, requiring hospital treatment if they get Covid19?
  9. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    The initial data from China suggests an all groups mortality rate of 0.4% for those in the age group 40-49. These have been verified by the WHO. These numbers also match up very well with current UK data, there was a detailed study in the lancet of all UK Covid deaths and I found the table below most interesting:

    As you can see from the table, age itself isn't much of a risk factor until around 66+ for men and 71+ for women. Before that age it's the illnesses that come with getting older such as diabetes that seem to cause the increased risk. Bear in mind that the same figure for seasonal flu is 0.1-0.3%.

    So from currently available data the risk would appear to be rather small and the figures above are probably an over-estimate.
    dumpty likes this.
  10. DFC

    DFC New commenter

    Irrespective of your question, your friend really should be in a union already especially as she is working with high risk behaviour.

    She is setting herself up for a very difficult road if a malicious allegation were to be made or if she were to be assaulted / hurt in any way in the duty of her post.
  11. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I don't know details of where your friend works, but the behaviours are probably similar to those seen by nursery staff and childminders. Neither of these have routine PPE and are returning next week.

    Many special schools have been fully, or almost fully, open throughout and again staff have no routine PPE.

    No it isn't ideal, and I don't know the science as to whether it is more dangerous as these students are adults, but if it is a college, then the rules aren't that different to those working in schools with children who show similar behaviour.
    Which is the part that is most concerning and probably the bit that can be used in negotiations. Though if these adults are counted as vulnerable, it may well be a loophole.
  12. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    The risk of dying is low yes, but what is the risk of requiring hospital treatment (I would class that as a serious negative outcome)
    jlishman2158 and averagedan like this.
  13. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    Good question! The only data around that I can find, and is being used by the Imperial model, is that from the initial outbreak in Wuhan. Apparently 4.3% of 40-49 year olds needed hospital treatment, most of these are going to be people with a co-morbidity unless the hospitalisation pattern follows a vastly different trend to the pattern of those who have a terminal outcome.

    This figure includes people taken in just for observation, an oxygen mask, etc. and doesn't necessarily refer to intubation and the medically induced coma that comes with it. So it's not necessarily a serious negative outcome, it may be that you're in for a couple of days have a lung scan and go home.

    So, there's no data of amazing quality but what there is looks reasonably good for those who are otherwise healthy. Hence the shielding plan.
    Stiltskin likes this.
  14. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    No I've not been able to find data on this either. I am sure there was at the start of the pandemic though.

    Based on what I know from a few hospitals near me the figure seems to be around the 5% (35-44yo) mark, as your data suggests.
    The number of those with underlying health conditions is similar % to the general population though. Although this changes for those needing critical care.

    That said requiring hospital intervention through oxygen masks or similar is a serious negative outcome imo. Having seen a healthy person struggle to breathe because of this. Also the possible consequences if 1 in 20, 40 year olds need hospital admission on the NHS capacity
    averagedan likes this.
  15. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I really sympathise. I have taught some of these sort of adults and their behaviour is very challenging. They would absolutely delight in spitting and breathing on a teacher. Then say it was only a joke. Only banter. I remember one who deliberately passed wind in a teachers face. (No action taken)
    I can offer no solution n the short term. Management is unlikely to support the teacher. Maybe if the teacher has an underlying condition they could be signed off by their doctor as unfit to work due to covid risk.
    in the long term I would be looking to work elsewhere. There's always one or two students who make it worthwhile but they're not worth the risk to your health
    sabrinakat and agathamorse like this.
  16. averagedan

    averagedan Occasional commenter

    There I completely agree with you! The only time that the average adult is at serious risk, if they have no underlying conditions, is when the NHS' capacity to administer medical care is exhausted, then the death-rate jumps to about 5-8% from around 1%. As I argued on another thread - my personal view is that we should not be unlocking right now due to the current rate of community transmission and the current estimate of R being well above 1 for a large part of the country.
    baitranger likes this.
  17. baitranger

    baitranger Senior commenter

    You may not catch Covid 19 through being spat at, but you could catch a number of other serious diseases, including TB, viral meningitis and hepititis.
    I was never directly spat at while teaching but I had a pen covered in a child's spit thrown at me and also put my hand on a doorknob covered in spit. Both incidents were shocking and worrying. I left the school very soon after those incidents although I didn't have another job to go to .
  18. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    The problem with face shields is that they could be counter productive and just provide a target.

    Better than being hit though.

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