28 Jul COVID-19 Security at Work
As the world begins to return to normal – albeit a new normal – post COVID-19, it is understandable to feel some anxiety.
If you are going back to work after being furloughed, or working from home, you may have considerable concerns. Whether you work in an office or factory environment, out in the community or on the road, or working with the public, your employer is obliged, by law, to keep you safe and minimise any risk. Obviously, that is always the case – but the COVID-19 crisis requires quite specific and very different risk management.
Has Your Employer Completed a Risk Assessment?
Before any return to work, phased or otherwise, your employer should have completed a comprehensive COVID-19 risk assessment – and this should be made available to everyone. An employer must protect people from harm, including taking all reasonable steps to protect workers and others from COVID-19. Your employer must:
- Ascertain which actions, setting or circumstances may risk transmitting the virus.
- Consider which staff may be at risk.
- Determine how possible exposure to the virus could be.
- Take action to eliminate the risk, or at the least to minimise it.
- People from some backgrounds, and with certain conditions, seem to have a higher risk of catching the virus, and of poorer outcomes so this should also be considered.
Companies employing fewer than five people are not required to produce a written risk assessment, but it would still be good practice.
Has Your Employer Taken Every Precaution?
Your employer should take every reasonable precaution and take practical action to mitigate the COVID-19 risk and keep you safe. This could include:
- Social distancing.
- Staggered shifts.
- Extra handwashing facilities and, where necessary, sanitation stations.
- Improved or extra hygiene measures.
- Consulting employees and talking about their obligations.
- Appropriate training, coaching and management.
- Allowing employees to work from home where possible.
Simply completing and displaying a risk assessment is not enough. Your employer needs to take action to keep you and your colleagues as safe possible. Now your employer needs to take action, in very specific ways, to be as COVID-19 secure as possible. There are several procedures your employer can implement to make your workplace COVID-19 secure.
Has Your Employer Implemented Social Distancing?
Social distancing is something we are all familiar with now, and it is essential at work, too. Wherever possible, you and your colleagues should remain 2 metres apart, or, if that is impossible, 1 metre with ‘mitigating factors’. To facilitate this, your employer should mark work areas with tape, provide adequate signage, use barrier screens if possible, avoid staff working face-to-face and minimise people’s movements throughout the workplace.
Is Your Workplace Hygienically Clean?
Hygiene and cleanliness within the workplace have always been essential and, to maximise COVID-19 security, now it is crucial. The virus can be transmitted from people to surfaces. When other people then come into contact with those surfaces, they can become infected. Ensuring the cleanliness of your workplace – of any workplace – reduces the potential transmission of the virus. Hygiene protocol is a critical part of your employer making your workplace COVID-19 secure and keeping you safe.
Should Your Employer Provide You With PPE?
Employers are legally obliged to provide you with a safe workplace. If, even after taking all these reasonable measures, there is still considerable COVID-19 risk, your employer should think about providing Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE. PPE is specially designed protective equipment intended to protect your health and safety in the workplace. PPE for COVID-19 may include gloves, masks, visors or even respiratory protective equipment. When your employer provides PPE, it must be correctly CE marked and properly fitting. It must be appropriately stored and maintained and used following appropriate training.
Have you Contracted COVID-19 at Work?
If you feel you have contracted COVID-19 due to your employer’s failings or negligence, you may need to pursue a compensation claim. You will need to prove that you contracted the disease in the workplace and that your employer did not take all reasonable precautions to protect you. It is likely to be extremely difficult to prove that your condition was caused by your employer’s failure to protect you, given the many other potential sources of infection. Hopefully, this will not be the case and your return to work will be smooth and stress-free and your employer will do everything possible to ensure your health and safety.