Coles employees demand better protection against coronavirus

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Employees at Coles are claiming the hand sanitiser being provided to them at work is leaving them feeling unsafe and not adequately protected against COVID-19.

The retail giant has reportedly switched from providing alcohol-based hand sanitiser, which is recommended by health authorities, to products that don’t fall into this category, ABC News reported on Sunday.

An employee at a Coles store in Melbourne, Tony Williams, argued staff felt safer using the recommended product, and he was confused as to why the head office would make the change.

“Why don't we have the other stuff? Like, why not? Why change it? You feel safer...We certainly feel less safe,” he told the publication.

Coles has come under fire for the hand sanitiser it's offering employees. Source: AAP

Mr Williams said “anxiety levels” had escalated among workers, who were under the general belief that the non alcohol-based sanitiser was not as effective as the alternative they were previously being provided.

Hand sanitiser containing at least 60 per cent alcohol has been recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services and Safe Work Australia as the most effective neutraliser of the coronavirus.

A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia employees across the country were being provided with “a number of different hand sanitiser products”, including ethanol-based products.

“The safety of our team members and customers is our highest priority,” they said.

One of the products it said was being provided to staff was Safe T Guard by the brand Jasol, which they said had been tested for its efficacy in neutralising COVID-19.

“Independent Laboratory testing proved that Safe T Guard kills 99.99% of the COVID-19 virus when rubbed on hands for one minute and allowed to air dry,” a letter from the company read.

Staff (not pictured) have complained they feel unsafe without access to alcohol-based sanitiser. Source: AAP

However, the company that conducted the test did so on a hard surface and failed to test its effectiveness as a hand sanitiser, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union said.

“It's fundamentally flawed,” Union Secretary Josh Cullinan said, adding that the union had been raising the issue with the supermarket for the past six weeks.

Another Coles employee said there is a concern the change in hand sanitiser could lead to community transmission.

“There's a lot of people in the stores and everyone's using it, so there's a chance that that could be the location where transmission happens in the community because of people not using an efficient sanitiser,” they told the publication.

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