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The World Day for Safety and Health at Work promotes the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases globally. The theme for 2021 is focusing on strategies to strengthen national occupational safety and health (OSH) systems, to build resilience, to anticipate, prepare and respond to current and future crises.

The COVID pandemic health crisis is also a workplace health crisis. It has affected almost every aspect of work, be it the risk of transmission of the virus in workplaces or occupational safety and health (OSH) risks, which have arisen because of measures to mitigate the spread of COVID. While changes to working arrangements since the pandemic have presented many opportunities for workers, these have also posed OSH risks, including physical, mental health and wellbeing.

British Safety Council is therefore taking today to promote awareness of the importance of investing in resilient OSH systems, particularly for mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID in the workplace. The need for suitably robust COVID-19 workplace management arrangements has been brought into even sharper focus given the current virulent second wave happening in India, where staggeringly high numbers of new daily cases have occurred.

Whilst many organisations around the world have embraced the increased responsibility of making their workplace COVID secure, others have struggled both to implement appropriate measures to restrict the potential for occupational exposure to the virus and with the changing nature of the situation.

British Safety Council recently carried out a survey asking employers whether they have or will be carrying out a COVID specific risk assessment ahead of employees returning to work. The results of the survey showed that 95% of the employers that responded have or will be carrying out a COVID risk assessment. For some employers this meant reviewing and updating an existing risk assessment in combination with return to work interviews and ongoing conversations to ensure workers feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.

Peter McGettrick, Deputy Chair of the British Safety Council, said:

“The lessons are still being learned from the COVID-19 pandemic but the crucial role of workplaces in preventing and controlling virus outbreaks is clear. Suitable health and safety measures at work can significantly impact the spread of disease, while also protecting workers and wider society. Governments, employers, and workers all have a role to play in combatting COVID. Collaboration is key.”

“Whilst some countries are gradually lifting COVID restrictions, employers and Governments must not be complacent about workplace safety. It is vital to remain vigilant, to maintain appropriate measures and to guard against a resurgence, particularly as new waves continue to impact regions around the world. Everyone should be safe at work and employers must take the steps necessary to mitigate risk and remove their workers from danger.”