Safety should hold tremendous importance for every company. First and foremost, every employee has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. By creating a safe and healthy workplace, companies also protect themselves.
Healthy employees who feel safe and comfortable in their work environment will work more productively than employees who become injured or sick in the workplace. Fixing workplace hazards will help to keep employees working at their best through each workday, instead of taking time off to heal from an injury or illness. This holds true for office workers as well as those working in jobs traditionally considered more dangerous, because sitting for long periods of time each day can cause dangerous health disorders. Office workers who are encouraged to take short breaks throughout the day to move around may feel better, enjoy far better long-term health benefits and accomplish more than workers who remain at their desks.
A company will quickly develop a reputation as negligent if it allows employees to work among avoidable hazards. The company's customers, competitors and the general public will probably perceive the company as unprofessional if they learn of the company's safety oversights. Fewer people may purchase goods or services from the company as a result, and the company may have a more difficult time securing any loans it might need.
Measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19 that apply to all workplaces and all people at the workplace include frequent hand-washing or disinfection with alcohol based hand sanitizer, respiratory hygiene such as covering coughs, physical distancing of at least 1 metre or more according to the national recommendations, wearing of masks where distancing is not possible, regular environmental cleaning and disinfection, and limiting unnecessary travel. Clear policies and messages, training, and education for staff and managers to increase awareness of COVID-19 are essential. The management of people with COVID-19 or their contacts is also critical e.g. requiring workers who are unwell or who develop symptoms to stay at home, self isolate and contact a medical professional or the local COVID-19 information line for advice on testing and referral.
Workplaces for jobs at medium risk require daily cleaning and disinfection at least two times a day of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, including all shared rooms, surfaces, floors, bathrooms, and changing rooms. Consider suspending any activity where physical distancing of at least 1 metre cannot be implemented in full. If this is not possible, increase ventilation, implement enhanced regular hand hygiene, and require staff to wear appropriate face masks, goggles, gloves and work clothes during cleaning procedures that generate splashes, providing training on their use. Organize changing and washing of work clothes at the workplace, so that workers to do take them home.
What are the rights, duties and responsibilities of employers?
Employers, workers, and their organizations should collaborate with health authorities to prevent and control COVID-19. Cooperation between management and workers and their representatives is essential for workplace‐related prevention measures. International labour standards on the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers in occupational safety and health should be fully respected.
Employers, in consultation with workers and their representatives, should plan and implement measures to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 at the workplace through engineering and administrative controls, and provide personal protective equipment and clothing according to the risk assessment. Such measures should not involve any expenditure on the part of the workers.
Special measures are needed to protect workers at higher risk of developing severe disease, such as those age 60 and over, or with underlying medical conditions, upon recommendation of the occupational health services. Workers in the informal economy and digital labour platforms, those in small enterprises, domestic and migrant workers should not be left behind in the protection of their health and safety at work and their livelihood.
There should be no social stigma or discrimination at the workplace for any reason, including access to information and protection from COVID-19, occupational health services and mental health and psychosocial support.
If COVID-19 is contracted through occupational exposure, it could be considered an occupational disease and, if so determined, should be reported and compensated according to the international labour standards and the national schemes for employment injury benefits.