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COVID-19: How to protect staff and avoid legal consequences

As the return to the ‘new normal’ post COVID-19 workplace starts to become the focus for many organisations as lockdown measures relax, International SOS urges businesses to make sure that the return is safe and sustainable.

In many locations, it is also becoming evident that court cases may ensue if businesses do not implement the correct mitigation measures.

Dr Mark Parrish, Regional Medical Director, Northern Europe at International SOS comments:

“Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts. As part of ensuring the sustainability of operations, organisations must protect the safety and well-being of their employees throughout the return to work. Anything less could result in a backwards step in the successful return to operations, in the fight against COVID-19 and could even result in prosecutions.”

Dr Parrish continues, “While no business can guarantee preventing the spread of infection, vital precautionary steps will minimise risks, fulfil duty of care responsibilities and promote workforce resilience.

“Whatever the circumstances, whether an office, a factory, a retail outlet or even out on an oil rig, preparation and ongoing actionable insights drawing from the most up to date information are a must to detect threats, mitigate risks and provide swift treatment if needed.

“Taking into account governmental guidelines and assessing what is necessary for a particular workforce, both from a logistical perspective and personal one, to return safely will take great measures for many businesses. It will be the organisations that implement the correct measures which will have the greatest chance of success in return to operations.”

Read more about COVID-19 in the mining sector

International SOS highlights eight steps for returning to WORKSAFE operations:

Workspace environment: consider screening, zoning, barriers, cleaning protocols, ventilation, access, and the provision of PPE & IT equipment where needed.

Operations: isolation, essential hygiene, health and medical measures; health questionnaires and providing physical and mental health support.

Regulations: policies monitored, in line with Government regulations and ensuring medical needs are fully covered including Occupational Health and Safety and travel.

Knowledge: understanding of the latest quarantine and transport requirements and medical certificates.  Ability to do contact tracing and quarantining in a timely manner. Privacy considerations are also a must.

Social distancing; limiting numbers to the workplace, space planning, staggering working hours and days, including A/B team shifts, continued flexible and remote working.

Alert: setup automated methods to be alerted to emerging threats: new local clusters, second waves, and changing security risks e.g. civil unrest

Fortify: establish partnerships with apolitical infectious disease experts, providing accurate and timely advice

Empowering employees: communication and training is key to deliver new workplace arrangements and policies. Engaging leadership and role modelling are critical. Effective complaint practices.

The details of this were presented at a webinar: how to ensure a safe return to the workplace in Africa. To view the recording, click here

For up to date information on COVID-19, click here