Wednesday, 28 September 2022

UN: Firms must ensure workplaces are safe as employees return

The United Nations (UN) has urged governments and employers to ensure the cleanliness and safety of workplaces as workers in some countries return to work. In a new report, the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) emphasised the importance of meeting occupational safety and health criteria before resuming operations to minimise the employees’ exposure to COVID-19.

“Without such controls, countries face the very real risk of a resurgence of the virus,” the ILO said in a statement published today, 28 April. The ILO report comes amid the easing of restrictions in some European countries. China had earlier loosened its measures last month, but the country remains cautious of the risk of a resurgence.

“The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount… In the face of an infectious disease, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are and how resilient our businesses will be as this pandemic evolves,” ILO chief Guy Ryder noted in a statement.

A key recommendation of the report is that employers should map hazards and assess risks of contagion in all work operations. Such assessments should continue as well after work has resumed. Risk control measures, including reducing physical interaction among staff, improving ventilation, providing protective gear and regular sanitisation, must be adapted to each sector of the workplace as well.

Mental health support must be provided for staff as well, ILO said.

ILO occupational safety and health expert Manal Azzi also urged the public to observe basic hygiene rules, such as frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes and maintaining a proper distance. “You still see people not respecting respiratory etiquette. These are basic things that we need to be raising awareness on,” Azzi said in a virtual conference.

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