Return to the Workplace with a Practical Risk Assessment

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The Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) has issued some practical solutions to help risk assess all work places. Employees and Employers must collaborate and take responsibility, immaterial how unpalatable they may be to ensure all workers and workplaces are safe.

The publication of the Return to Work protocol on Saturday the 9th May provides welcome guidance and information for all employers and employees in relation to the ‘new way of working’. https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Return-to-Work-Safely-Protocol.pdf

There is no doubt that the changes required will have implications that will reduce productivity and create a burden on some businesses as they struggle to maintain efficiencies whilst introducing social distancing measures.  However, given the seriousness of this pandemic it is incumbent on us all to ensure that everything possible is done to reduce the risk of it spreading. Businesses must take responsibility to ensure that measures no matter how unpalatable, are implemented to mitigate the risk. Physical distancing, new cleaning regimes, new waste disposal requirements are some of the new way of working necessities. This Protocol is not intended to replace the existing measures that essential businesses, which have continued to operate, have already implemented; however, such businesses should review their existing measures to ensure they are in line with this Protocol.

It is important that a collaborative approach is taken by both the employer and the employee in ensuring the business can operate in a safe and controlled manner. This ‘new way of working’ will take a period of adjustment. We in the freight distribution and logistics sector have been working hard to ensure the free flow of essential goods and services are uninterrupted during these extraordinary times. Ensuring that safety measures such as physical distancing and utilisation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where necessary is nothing new to us. However, we must now all review our daily practices and adhere to these new guidelines. It is noted that this is a living document and subject to change. It is critical that more is done to adopt the guidance for individual sectors that can become more easily implementable and provide clearer roadmap to compliance.

Employers must provide information on COVID 19 for their staff and include information on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19; how it spreads; cleaning routines that need to be implemented; correct waste disposal; provide guidance and advice on hand and respiratory hygiene; physical distancing and correct use of PPE. While the document is detailed it also specifically mentions that wearing masks ‘is not a substitute for other measures’ such as hand washing and physical distancing. The evidence suggests that where social distancing is compromised the wearing of facemasks provides valuable protection against the spread of this disease. This approach must be considered by employers when carrying out the risk assessment of activities that take place, developing and implementing the control measures to reduce and or remove the risk.