We are living thorough the world’s worst pandemic in more than a century. Thousands of people have died and thousands more have been hospitalised. Without the courage, expertise and and professionalism of our front line and support workers, society would not have been able to respond as it has.
Safe, Scientific and Agreed
As governments, and others, start to talk about easing lock-down, a return to work and the ‘new normal’ it is important that any steps that are being considered are safe, scientific and agreed.
Covid 19 should cause us to re-think our attitude to health and safety at work as well as public well being. Whether an easing of restrictions is being planned for public transport, schools, factories, offices, warehouses or public spaces, the same tests and rules must apply.
A full risk assessment must be undertaken for every area of life being considered for a lock-down relaxation.
For workplaces, that assessment must involve the staff, trade unions, management and owners. The specific risks must identified, decisions must be based on evidence and best practice and everyone involved must be consulted. It must be Safe, Scientific and Agreed
Each workplace plan needs to be signed off by either the trade union health and safety representative or by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to make sure that they meet all requirements including two metre distancing, PPE and hand hygiene.
All workplace risk assessments must be communicated to workers before they return to work. For schools, any new arrangements need to be made available to support staff, teachers, pupils, parents and relatives. For public transport, staff , commuters and passengers all need to be clear in advance about how health and safety and two metre distancing are going to be safeguarded. For offices, warehouses, factories and for retail outlets the priority must be a ‘safe, scientific and agreed’ path to easing lock-down .
Simply and sensible as that sounds it cannot be taken as a given or as a foregone conclusion.
Too often during this crisis the health and safety of front line and support workers has been taken for granted and casually jeopardised. The lack of PPE and other safety equipment has been an on going issue. Too often solutions to these life threatening risks have been replaced by jingoism, sound bites and the pursuit of profit
Easing the lock-down restrictions has to be governed by a different approach and a different set of rules. We owe it to each other, we owe it to the front line workers and those who support them and we owe it to the all those who have lost relatives and friends and to those who have given their lives saving others.
If securing a safe, scientific and agreed easing of lock-down takes time to achieve then that is a price well worth paying.