Health and Safety in the Workplace – Covid-19
As lockdown restrictions continue to be lifted employers are bringing employees back into the workplace. The most important aspects of this are the safest and healthiest possible conditions the employer should be putting in place for their employees.
An employer will continue to have a legal duty to maintain health and safety in workplace practices. In addition to that they are now required to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment before an employee returns to work. This risk assessment must be done in consultation with a recognised trade union or employees to keep the workplace safe from the virus. Employers are also encouraged to keep themselves and their employees informed of updates to public health guidance.
Employees who have symptoms of the virus must let their employer know immediately, follow public health advice and stay at home. If the symptoms come on while at work, go home immediately.
There are 5 Steps to working safely:
· CARRY OUT A COVID-19 RISK ASSESSMENT
· DEVELOP CLEANING, HANDWASHING AND HYGIENE PROCEDURES
· HELP PEOPLE TO WORK FROM HOME
· MAINTAIN 2M SOCIAL DISTANCING, WHERE POSSIBLE
· WHERE PEOPLE CANNOT BE 2M APART, MANAGE TRANSMISSION RISK
Government guidance remains that employees must work from home wherever possible. An employer should ask employees to attend the workplace only if the work cannot be done at home and only if it has taken all reasonably practicable steps to reduce the risks from coronavirus. Employers should communicate clearly with employees about the measures that have been put in place.
There are many measures your employer can take to keep you safe at work. These will depend on your job and your workplace, but may include:
· Ensuring good ventilation in the workplace
· Staggering working hours and shifts, so that fewer people are in the workplace at any one time, and employees avoid rush hour on public transport
· Adding floor markings and signage to implement social distancing
· Setting up screens or barriers between workers
· Instructing employees to wash their hands as often as possible, for at least 20 seconds (and provide soap and hot water)
· Regularly deep cleaning the workplace
If all appropriate actions have been taken and having sought advice from HSENI or similar authority, the employer still cannot provide a safe working environment, the employer must close.
You may have questions like:
“What can I do if my employer is not following the government’s guidance on social distancing at work?”
“I have to get public transport to work, but I fear catching Coronavirus on my commute. What can I do?”
“Can my employer dismiss me if I refuse to come to work because I’m worried about coronavirus?”
We are here to help you with the answers to those questions and any others you have.
* GUIDANCE ON THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) IS CHANGING DAILY WE ARE HERE TO HELP PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION. *