General guidance

According to current information, one of the most important ways to prevent infection is for both workers and customers with symptoms to stay at home. In the field of performing arts, this means a major change in the working culture. During the the pandemic, people no longer come to work sick, but have a low threshold for staying at home.

Other measures reduce the risk of asymptomatic infection spreading. General guidance includes the following actions:

  • reducing close contact
  • maintaining a 1–2 m safe distance from other people
  • hand hygiene (soap wash and hand sanitation) [1]
  • general coronavirus cleaning instructions [2]

In the field of performing arts, it is not entirely possible to avoid close contact (especially performers in a show), so limiting the number and duration of close contacts becomes an important means of avoiding infection. We recommend dividing the workplace into teams (or “families”) which colleagues do not change between and in which they avoid contact with other teams’ members.  The aim is to prevent possible transmission of infection to the entire workforce.  Attention should also be paid to social interaction: hugging and shaking hands should be avoided during the pandemic.

The national guidelines for the performing arts do not discuss the use of personal protective equipment, but each organization must make a decision based on its own risk assessment. Similarly, each organization must follow the instructions of the authorities. If the national guidelines are inconsistent with the guidelines given by the authorities, the authorities’ guidelines must be followed.

About the virus in general

According to current information, coronavirus is primarily transmitted as a droplet infection when someone with the disease coughs or sneezes. When a person coughs or sneezes, in addition to larger drops, very small droplets may also be created that may remain in the air for a short time in the form of aerosols. On present information, however, the risk of airborne infection is low.[3]

The virus can also be transmitted through contact with surfaces, but the role of surfaces in the spread of the disease is not significant according to current knowledge.

Sensitive laboratory methods have shown that the virus can persist on various surfaces from a few hours to three days.[4]

The majority of those infected with coronavirus have a mild form of the resulting disease. The most serious cases and deaths have been observed in patients over 70 years of age who already have underlying diseases, such as severe heart disease or diabetes with organ damage. People over 80 years of age are at the highest risk.[5]

Symptoms of coronavirus infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain, tiredness, rhinitis, nausea and diarrhoea. The disease has also been associated with dysgeusia and odour disturbances.[6]

At the time of publication of the national guidelines, the coronavirus epidemic in Finland has continued to slow down. Regional differences are large.[7]

Risk assessment and employer’s responsibilities

According to the Occupational Safety Act, the employer is responsible for the safety and health of employees at work.[8] The employer must assess the safety of all employees, jobs and workstations. [9] The assessment must be carried out in cooperation with occupational health services, occupational health and safety, and employees. The employer must orientate the staff with the instructions.

For example, a survey of personnel can be used in making a risk assessment. The assessment shall take into account both physical and psychosocial risks (such as increased workload due to return to work or compliance with safety instructions). In addition, risk groups must be taken into account. The risk assessment shall take into account things such as the number and duration of close contacts and opportunities for personal protection.

A risk assessment survey sent to the staff of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet is available here (in Finnish).

We recommend continual cooperation with occupational health services. It is important to protect groups at risk, to direct employees with fear or anxiety to occupational health services and to ensure that access to the coronavirus test is easy.

We recommend continuing the “self-report to supervisor” practice during the epidemic to make it as easy as possible for people to stay at home when ill.

We also recommend taking a look at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s code of conduct for employers to prepare for the coronavirus epidemic and to support mental well-being during return to workplaces.

Use of common spaces

  • The reduction of close contact can also be extended to common spaces, i.e. each department/work space is accessible only to those for whom it is necessary.
  • We recommend staggering teams’ meals and breaks to reduce the number of contact between the teams.
  • If possible, entrances and break rooms can also be divided between different teams.
  • It may also be useful to set one-way walkways in some premises, such as separate entrance and exit, if that is necessary to reduce the opposite traffic.
  • We recommend that only a few people at a time (catering spaces, lifts, toilets) enter narrow spaces and prefer the stairs to lifts.[10]
  • Particular care must be taken to ensure the cleanliness of common objects such as microwaves and computer keyboards. All frequently touched surfaces (e.g. door handles, armrests, table surfaces, light switches, taps) should be cleaned carefully and frequently. Instructions for cleaning can be found on the website of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Action in the event of infection

If a coronavirus infection is diagnosed, an infectious disease doctor and nurse will advise on further action.

  • If symptoms start at home, stay at home and contact occupational health services if necessary.
  • If symptoms start in the workplace, the employee is directed either home or a space in which he or she cannot infect others, but from which there is a telephone connection to occupational health services.
  • The aim is to identify persons exposed during the 24 hours before symptoms occur. The actual tracing is the responsibility of the municipal infectious disease doctor.
  • The employer may report that an infected person has been diagnosed at a workplace but must not name the infected person.[11]
  • Supervisors should have up-to-date roster information so they can analyse the situation.

Visiting staff and performances

We recommend that visiting employees are familiarized with the venue’s safety instructions in advance and commit to working according to the security instructions of each organization.

Recommendations for action for different professional groups

More detailed recommendations for the activities of sub-groups within the national guidelines have been drawn up for those working on stage, with props, in staging, wardrobe, makeup and orchestras.

In particular, instructions related to the occupational safety of customer service agents can be found in the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s instructions for service sectors.[12]

We recommend that in occupational groups where work can also be done remotely, consideration should be given to continuing remote work. In particular, consider continuing to hold meetings remotely. Particular attention should be paid to employees who work for more than one organization or move between different occupational groups. We recommend that organizations provide support for their employees with information technology if necessary.

Futher information

More information for employers and employees can be found on these websites:

Sources:

[1] National Institute for Health and Welfare 5.6.2020. Infection and protection – coronavirus. Accessed 14 June 2020. https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/ajankohtaista/ajankohtaista-koronaviruksesta-covid-19/tarttuminen-ja-suojautuminen-koronavirus

[2] Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 28.5.2020. Cleaning guidelines for preventing COVID-19 infections. Accessed 14 June 2020. https://hyvatyo.ttl.fi/koronavirus/ohje-siivoukseen

[3] Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 3.6.2020. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Code of Conduct for employers to prepare for the coronavirus epidemic. Accessed 16 June 2020. https://hyvatyo.ttl.fi/koronavirus/ohje-yrityksille

[4] National Institute for Health and Welfare 5.6.2020. Coronavirus transmission and incubation period. Accessed 14 June 2020. https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/ajankohtaista/ajankohtaista-koronaviruksesta-covid-19/tarttuminen-ja-suojautuminen-koronavirus/koronaviruksen-tarttuminen-ja-itamisaika

[5] National Institute for Health and Welfare 13.6.2020. Symptoms and treatment — coronavirus. Accessed 16 June 2020. https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/ajankohtaista/ajankohtaista-koronaviruksesta-covid-19/oireet-ja-hoito-koronavirus

[6] National Institute for Health and Welfare 13.6.2020. Symptoms and treatment — coronavirus. Accessed 15 June 2020. https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/ajankohtaista/ajankohtaista-koronaviruksesta-covid-19/oireet-ja-hoito-koronavirus

[7] National Institute for Health and Welfare 14.6.2020. Progress report on coronavirus. https://thl.fi/fi/web/infektiotaudit-ja-rokotukset/ajankohtaista/ajankohtaista-koronaviruksesta-covid-19/tilannekatsaus-koronaviruksesta

[8] Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 3.6.2020. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Code of Conduct for employers to prepare for the coronavirus epidemic. Accessed 14 June 2020. https://hyvatyo.ttl.fi/koronavirus/ohje-yrityksille

[9] Regional State Administration Agency 9 April 2020. Press releases 2020. Each employer must assess the health risks posed by coronavirus (Occupational Safety and Health) Link.

[10] Safe work, services and mobility. Good practices for business use. Confederation of Finnish Industries EK — 19.05.2020, 1. Ensuring a sufficient physical distance between workers. https://ek.fi/wp-content/uploads/Turvallinen-tyo-asiointi-ja-liikkuminen_hyvia-kaytantoja-yrityksille_opas_19052020.pdf

[11] Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman 2020.  Frequently asked questions about coronavirus and data protection. Accessed 14 June 2020. https://tietosuoja.fi/koronavirus

[12] Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 3 June 2020. Guidance for service industries to prevent COVID-19 infections. Accessed 16 June 2020. https://hyvatyo.ttl.fi/koronavirus/ohje-palvelualalle


Update information:

The Finnish version of this page was updated on 14 June 2020.