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April 28, 2020

Safeguarding measures crucial for returning workers

Safeguarding measures need to be put into place for employees returning to work after the lockdown, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says, as it urges governments to take action to minimise risk.

By Michelle Russell

Safeguarding measures need to be put into place for employees returning to work after the lockdown, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says, as it urges governments to take action to minimise risk.

The ILO has warned that as the pressure mounts on countries to ease their lockdown restrictions, without adequate safeguards for returning workers, there could be a second wave of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

It suggests all employers carry out risk assessments and ensure their workplaces meet strict occupational safety and health criteria beforehand, to minimise the risk to workers of exposure to Covid-19.

“The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount today,” says director-general of the ILO, Guy Ryder. “In the face of an infectious disease outbreak, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves.

“It is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families and the larger communities, ensure work continuity and economic survival.”

The ILO has developed a three-pronged strategy to ensure a safer return to work in the Bangladesh context: the adoption of several safety and health measures at work based on dialogue between employers and workers; employment retention through work-sharing and reskilling; and essential social protection measures to ensure access to subsistence allowance, basic healthcare and income security for formal and informal sector workers.

It has also set out a list of recommendations:

  • Mapping hazards and assessing risks of contagion in relation to all work operations, and continuing to assess them following a return to work.
  • Adopting risk control measures adapted to each sector and the specifics of each workplace and workforce. These may include:

1: Reducing physical interactions between workers, contractors, customers and visitors and respecting physical distancing when any interactions occur. 2: Improving ventilation in the workplace. 3: Regularly cleaning surfaces, ensuring workplaces are clean and hygienic, and providing adequate facilities for handwashing and sanitisation.

  • Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to workers where necessary and at no cost.
  • Providing arrangements for isolating suspected cases and tracing every contact.
  • Providing mental health support for staff.
  • Providing training, education and informational material about health and safety at work, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any workplace controls (including PPE).

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