With governments beginning to ease Coronavirus lockdown measures, we need safe and effective policies and practices for returning to workplaces. But how can we return to the workplace while also limiting the spread of COVID-19? To do this, occupational safety and health (OSH) knowledge, planning and a common approach will be vital.
Most of Europe has been under lockdown for weeks, if not months, to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. This has put significant pressure on workplaces, with decision-makers having to either implement new practices very quickly or suspend activities altogether. Now, as we start to see the number of deaths and infections in many countries decrease, many policymakers and employers are looking at how we can ensure workers’ safety as they begin to go back to their workplaces.
At the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), we have developed a collection of resources for safe and healthy working in the context of the pandemic and its aftermath, under the slogan ‘Healthy Workplaces Stop the Pandemic’. As part of this initiative, which is fully in line with the European Commission’s response to the pandemic, we have compiled a range of workplace guidance on COVID-19.
Policies and practices must be based on the application of sound OSH principles to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus and minimise its spread. Therefore, the Healthy Workplaces Stop the Pandemic web page links to reliable guidance documents, awareness-raising material and other resources on the virus and its impact on work and workplaces.
An excellent place to start is COVID-19: Back to the workplace – Adapting workplaces and protecting workers. This EU guidance (available in 25 languages) provides important information on using risk assessment as the starting point for reducing workers’ exposure to the virus and describes how workplaces and work practices can be adapted. It provides nearly 400 links to guidance specific to sectors from all over Europe and beyond, for example on retail in the Netherlands or construction in Italy.
In addition, within the existing collection of online interactive risk assessment tools for small and micro enterprises, a new OiRA tool will soon be helping employers carry out their COVID-related online risk assessment. With COVID-19 demonstrating the impact that biological agents can have on the workplace, it may be helpful to read more generally about minimising work-related exposure to biological agents.
"Raising awareness and preparing everyone for the ‘new normal’ in the workplace are vital. It will be hugely important that workers and employers alike understand from the beginning how the virus is spread and how it can be prevented from spreading, so that action plans are implemented consistently by all in the workplace"
Raising awareness and preparing everyone for the ‘new normal’ in the workplace are vital. It will be hugely important that workers and employers alike understand from the beginning how the virus is spread and how it can be prevented from spreading, so that action plans are implemented consistently by all in the workplace. We have produced several short animated videos as a great way to raise awareness, as they are easy to share.
What’s more, although there are certain jobs and sectors in which workers cannot work from home, teleworking remains an option — or indeed a requirement — for many. For example, our staff have been teleworking throughout the lockdown, and we have produced guidance on making teleworking as safe and effective as possible. The advice covers making sure equipment is safe, maintaining good mental health and keeping moving throughout the day.
We have also developed a phased back-to-work protocol based on the current advice; this will be implemented at our offices in Bilbao in line with the gradual easing of lockdown. Our number-one priority is ensuring maximum protection for our staff.
If businesses and organisations base their actions and the information they provide to their workers on accurate and up-to-date knowledge and guidance, the circumstances will be right for a safe, healthy and effective return to the workplace.
Check out our two COVID-19 related videos below. You can also download these videos and more from our website: https://www.napofilm.net/en/napos-films/
The Coronavirus pandemic has serious implications for the workplace, for workers and for businesses. Napo wants to help. However, it is difficult to present all the prevention measures in a short film, so Napo focuses on a common risk - contamination by the hands - and shows in typical ‘Napo-style’ how the contamination can spread and how the impact can be reduced.
Because of the measures to contain the coronavirus, many people are required to work from home. This may not always be as good as working in the office. There are many new factors to consider such as the work equipment and workstation, working alone, family and children, interruptions and finding a new work routine. Napo wants to ensure that everyone can work at home productively, and as safely and healthily as possible. With the support of the Boss and co-worker Napette, Napo has some good advice, and says: "Stop the pandemic, work at home… and work safely!"