Explained: 8 key points from the Return to Work Safely Protocol
The Government has introduced a new Return to Work Safely Protocol, outlining the steps employers and employees will need to take to ensure that the reopening of workplaces over the coming weeks and months won’t cause a surge in Covid-19 cases.
When it was published, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, said that “collaboration between employers and workers will be central to the success of our return to work”. To help keep you up to date, we’ve outlined some of the key aspects of the Government’s protocol below, from staggered breaks to a ban on handshakes.
Lead worker representatives
According to the protocol, each workplace must nominate at least one “lead worker representative” who will work with the company’s Covid-19 response management team to ensure safety measures are being followed.
For larger companies, there will need to be a proportionate number of representatives to ensure successful compliance among employees. All employers will be required to give their representatives the necessary training to carry out the role.
Company Covid-19 response plans
Every company must set out a Covid-19 response plan that the lead worker representative will help roll out. Companies that already have a plan in place will be required to revise and update it where necessary before employees can return to site.
Employer response plans will need to address the level of risk the workplaces pose to employees and individual risk factors they might have, such as age or underlying health conditions. Plans must also include the controls necessary to address any health and safety risks identified, and contingency measures to deal with potential staff absences.
Responding to suspected Covid-19 cases
All companies will also need to prepare their protocols for dealing with suspected Covid-19 cases among staff. Here, the Government advises that employers create and maintain a log of any employee contact and group work to facilitate contact tracing if a potential case does arise.
Employers will also be required to display accurate information on Covid-19 symptoms and up-to-date information on HSE and Government advice, and provide instructions for workers to follow if they develop any of these symptoms at work.
Along with a lead worker representative, response plans will need to nominate a person or team responsible for responding to suspected Covid-19 cases in the organisation. An easily accessed isolation area must also be identified away from other workers, ideally behind a closed door.
An important thing to note is that employees will be responsible for staying informed and monitoring themselves for symptoms. If an employee believes they have begun to develop symptoms while at work, they will be required to tell their managers immediately.
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