COVID 19 has placed unprecedented stress on employers, employees and those attempting to manage safety. Given the nature of the pandemic and the speed at which it is evolving responding is more similar to dealing with an emergency than normal hazards within the workplace.
Initially all employers must consider how their current work practices align with the restrictions which are advised.
Each employer will need to revise all risk assessments and SOPs to incorporate the risk posed by COVID-19 and to reflect public health guidance. These risk assessments will need to consider the following control measures:
- The removal from the workplace of as many non-essential personnel as possible.
- The consideration of measures necessary within the workplace to adhere to social distancing.
- Enhanced cleaning measures necessary to ensure that contact points are cleaned on a more frequent basis and the recording of same.
- The implications that complying with HSE guidance may have on other hazards present within the workplace and the means by which these will need to be managed during this period. Such hazards may include
- Increased potential for lone working (social distancing and reduced numbers in the workplace)
- Provision of first aid ( How this is to be done, measures if a person becomes symptomatic at work)
- Transport within the workplace or to the workplace ( use of park and ride facilities, use of communal work vehicles, employees ride sharing)
- Provision of welfare ( toilets, portaloos, drying rooms etc..)
- Staggering of breaks etc.
- Areas where increased interaction is likely ( Smoking areas, water coolers etc..)
- Management of contractors ( Revision of RAMS to take account of COVID-19, essential versus non-essential works, contractors gaining access to the site)
- Manual handling ( Reduced ability to carry out two person lifts, alternatives during this period)
The above list is by no means exhaustive and will vary significant depending on the nature of your workplace.
The review of existing work practices in light of COVID 19 should be documented and communicated to those affected by the revised control measures.
In arriving at control measures useful guidance is available on the Health and Safety Authorities website on dealing with Biological Agents .
Where your employees are working from home there is also good advice available on what employers should do during this time.