Under the Health & Safety at Work regulations in Ireland there are extensive obligations for employers to ensure the safety of their workers, employees, and visitors in the work premises.
If you are an employer, you have extensive legal obligations to safeguard all people in your workplace. As part of the Health & Safety at Work regulations, there are health and safety rules covering a plethora of issues such as the use of computers in the workplace, regulations on working with hazardous materials, construction regulations, manual handling regulations and many others. In the absence of compliance with health and safety regulation in the workplace, there comes an increased risk of injury at work and work accidents. This, in turn, leads to an increase in personal injuries to employees, contractors and clients.
ENSURING YOU’RE COMPLIANT- RISK ASSESMENT
Risk assessment is a core area of any employer’s responsibility under the health and safety regulation scheme. Employers have a legal obligation to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk to health and safety which should properly include a comprehensive ergonomic review.
Risk assessment entails the following:
Identifying potential hazards.
Assessing any person who might be harmed by such hazards.
Assessing the likelihood & seriousness of harm and introducing risk control measures.
Employers with 5 or more members of staff must record risk assessment.
Continuously reviewing risk assessment.
TRAINING TO REDUCE RISKS IN THE WORKPLACE
Employers are obligated to train staff to identify hazards in the workplace, and educate them on how to take steps to avoid personal injury caused by these hazards. There is considerable apprehension and growing evidence that while companies may have facilitated home working during Covid-19 lockdown, these workplace changes have had an adverse effect on the implementation of health and safety policy and compliance in the workplace. Because many workplaces have either been vacant or have had reduced occupancy in the past few months, normal health and safety procedures have been either impossible or impractical. Naturally, the implication of health and safety procedures has at best been reduced and at worst, been totally forgotten about.
I’M CONCERNED ABOUT RETURNING BACK TO WORK- WHAT CAN I DO?
There is a need for increased vigilance when it comes to implementing health and safety procedures for employees soon returning to work. Hazard audits may not have been carried out during lockdown and there has certainly been reduced consultation between employers and employees in regards to real and perceived hazards. The implementation of safety procedures to minimise new hazards has been sporadic, inconsistent or non-existent as a result of lockdown. Furthermore, resuming normal workplace activities after such a long period of enforced inactivity may result in a significantly altered workplace and new dangers and hazards. This comes with an increased risk around health and safety policy, prodedures, and hazard audits. It is at times like this, when we are most likely to forget about safety audits, that we must remember to proceed with them the most.
PUTTING SAFETY FIRST
Before you do anything regarding safety policies in your workplace, remember that putting safety first is the most important thing you can do. Here are some tips on how to put safety first in your workplace post Covid-19.
Consideration: Consideration should be given to changes in the workplace environment with an emphasis on new hazards. Carry out a full safety audit and hazard audit, ergonomic review and offer a consultation with employees before recommencing work.
Refresher: After such prolonged absence, all staff should be refreshed on existing health and safety procedures, and educated on new health and safety procedures. These procedures will come about following a hazard audit.
New Procedures: New procedures and health & safety measures identified in the hazard audit of the new or enhanced work environment should be discussed with with employees, and should be scheduled and implemented strictly.
THE AFTERMATH OF LOCKDOWN FOR THE WORKPLACE
There is a concern that unless the above mentioned steps are followed, the aftermath of the lockdown for workplaces could mean an avalanche of personal injury cases and injury at work accident cases resulting in referral to personal injury solicitors.
If you’ve experienced an injury in the workplace, you should contact your Injuries Board solicitor, Injuries Board lawyer, your PIAB solicitor or MyCase Law Firm. Doctor’s appointments to attain medical reports for the Injuries Board process can be difficult to procure at the moment, but an injury solicitor such as MyCase Law Firm should be able to arrange a medical review for you. The Injuries Board will accept applications filed by applicants or their injury solicitor without a medical report, which will fast track your case going forward.