Return To Work Safely Protocol – Some Key Features
The Return to Work Safely Protocol was published by the Government on the 8th of May 2020 and is available from the gov.ie website. The protocol is the result of a collaborative effort by the HSE, HSA and the Department of Health. It is a document designed to assist employers and workers in the safe return to work following the COVID-19 pandemic and is described as a “living document” which means it is subject to change. It is a general document applicable to all industry sectors. The following are a non exhaustive list of the key features:
- The document stresses the need for strong communication and a shared collaborative approach between employers and workers and requires regular engagement.
- Each workplace will appoint at least one lead worker representative charged with ensuring that COVID-19 measures are strictly adhered to in the place of work. This person must receive the necessary training and they will have regular and meaningful engagement with their employer and/or trade union etc.
- Employers must provide COVID-19 induction training for all workers.
- Employers must develop a business COVID-19 Response Plan.
- Employers must update their occupational health and safety risk assessment and safety statement.
- Employers must take into account workers individual risk factors such as age and health etc.
- Employers must include a response plan to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19.
- Employers must keep a log of contact/group work to facilitate contact tracing.
- Employers should review and revise existing sick leave policies and amended as appropriate.
- Employers must estimate and issue a pre-return to work form for workers to complete at least three days in advance of the return to work. The protocol includes five questions that should be included in the return to work form that require a yes/no answer from the employee.
- Employers must provide induction training for all workers.
- Employers must implement temperature testing in line with public health advice.
- In relation to dealing with a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers must identify a designated isolation area in advance.
- The employer must also include a defined response structure to deal with a suspected case.
- Employers must provide enhanced advice to employees with regard to hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene.
- The employer must ensure and provide for physical distancing across all work activities to include a no handshaking policy, organise workers into teams who consistently work and take breaks together, organise breaks to ensure maintained of physical distancing, conduct meetings as much as possible using online remote means, provide one way systems for access/egress routes in the workplace.
- Cleaning of work areas must be conducted at regular intervals and the employer must provide workers with essential cleaning materials to keep their own workspace clean.
- With regard to customer facing roles, the employer must eliminate physical interaction between workers and customers as much is as reasonably practicable and provide hand sanitisers at entry and exits points.
- Employers should also put in place support for workers who may be suffering from anxiety or stress and provide information to employees returning to work.
- The protocol also states that air conditioning is not generally considered as contributing to significantly to the spread of COVID-19 and switching off air conditioning is not required to manage the risk but they are encouraging adequate ventilation and to open windows were feasible.
The protocol is helpful and should not be regarded as a non-exhaustive list of what to do. There are many additional requirements for employers and workers to ensure a safe return to the workplace.
If you have any queries in relation to employment law please do not hesitate to contact Niall MacCarthy or Brendan Dillon on email@example.com or by telephone on 01 2960666.