COVID-19 has impacted businesses in various ways. From a health and safety perspective the risks that employees are exposed to while working have changed. This means that there is a shift in how the employer must fulfil their responsibilities. Employees will need to be assured that measures have been implemented to reduce the likelihood of COVID spreading in the workplace, while those who continue to work from home need supports to permit them to continue to do so safely.
Official Government Departments including the Health & Safety Authority have worked to provide guidance and set down their expectations with a view to managing these risks. As one of Ireland’s leading Facilities Management companies, our clients rely on us for remaining up to date on all government guidelines and regulations, including all COVID-19 updates around working in the office as well as working from home.
What we deem as the workplace has changed over the last 8 months and could remain that way for the foreseeable future, so it is our job to adapt and continue to provide guidance around the evolving workplace so our staff and our client’s staff can work within a safe environment.
This COVID Update was issued to each of our clients at the end of last year and it aims to summarise those requirements set down in the “Work Safely Protocol” and the “Guidance on Working from Home for Employers and Employees”.
During the COVID Pandemic, it is estimated that up to one third of the Irish working population are working from home. An employer has a duty of care to ensure that all employees can work safely regardless of their working location. These unusual dynamics mean that often the lines of responsibility are blurred since the employer has limited influence in an employee’s home. The HSA (Health & Safety Authority) have recently published a guidance document for both employers and employees to help define where the responsibilities lie.
On Friday 20th November 2020 the Government of Ireland published the Work Safely Protocol. This document is intended to provide an update on the previously issued Return to Work Protocol. The document makes it very clear that COVID-19 is not only a public health issue, but it is very much considered an Occupational Health issue too.
In its announcement, the Government outlined some key changes from the previous Return to Work Protocol document, these relate to Public Health guidance on the control of outbreaks, the selection of hand sanitisers and the wearing of masks or face coverings. Some other notable changes include updated information on how COVID spreads and how long it last on surfaces.
The protocol also requires employers to consider contingency measures to deal with any potential reduction of workforces due to COVID-19. There is a reference to the newly introduced EU “Traffic Light” system for travel and the document also clearly states the employer’s responsibility to complete a Risk Assessment where COVID-19 is a potential hazard in the workplace. It refers to the update to the Biological Agents COP (Code of Practice) to include SARS-Cov-2 (also known as COVID -19).
We hope that you find it informative, you can download by clicking the button below. If there is anything within the update that you would like to discuss further, please contact our EH&S Manager, Karren Hannon at firstname.lastname@example.org