Employers ‘duty bound’ to make Covid-19 updates to H&S policies

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 Irish employers are obligated to make Covid-19 updates to their health and safety policies, says a leading health and safety consultant.

Employers are being urged to update safety measures, risk assessments and safety statements to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 as some employees prepare to return to work.

Workers will gradually start returning to work, with almost 150,000 building workers expected to return this month.

Safe Team health and safety consultant, Paul McLaughlin, says that when they do, employers will be responsible for taking steps to protect staff from the spread of coronavirus.

He says: “Employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees.

“While the risk of contracting coronavirus is not one created by work, it is clearly a risk that can be increased by normal working practices. Employers have a duty to identify and take appropriate measures to mitigate.

“To remain compliant, avoid negligence claims or reduce risk of an outbreak within the workplace, employers must be vigilant in maintaining normal health and safety procedures while undertaking COVID-19 safety precautions,” Mr McLaughlin adds.

He outlines a “number of factors” that must now be considered by employers in the workplace. To identify shortfalls in their health and safety policies, Mr McLaughlin says employers should ask themselves the following questions.

  • Do you have a COVID-19 responsible person?
  • Have your staff (at work or returning to work) received COVID-19 training?
  • Have you risk assessed your premises specifically in relation to COVID-19?
  • Have you updated your safety statement to incorporate COVID-19?
  • Have you updated your control measures?
  • If an employee becomes ill with COVID-19, do you know what to do? Can you determine reportable under health and safety regulations?
  • Have you considered those particularly vulnerable to the virus: pregnant workers, people beyond typical retirement age and those with underlying health conditions?

Employers obligations towards home workers

Meanwhile, employers maintain responsibility for the health and safety of their employees when they are working remotely.

Mr McLaughlin explains: “The risks to employees working remotely must be assessed with clear guidance and training. Adequate lighting and ergonomic equipment must also be provided while ensuring it is safe and without risks to health.”

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