World Day for Safety and Health at Work – 2021

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28.04.2021 – Author: Roxana Abrasu

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be a challenge for employers in the area of health and safety at work. The need for business continuity, and at the same time the obligation to create and maintain a healthy working environment in the new pandemic reality, have determined employers to be more focused on this area. Such focus was noticeable including through the investment of significant financial resources in creating a healthy working environment.

The directions set during this period, both at national and at global level, were aimed at ensuring compliance with the measures imposed in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The international labor standards seen as main key drivers in responding to the COVID-19 crises were:

  • Promotion of social dialogue and workplace cooperation
  • Guidance for safeguarding decent work in crisis responses and recovery
  • Protection of the health and safety of workers
  • Promotion of a national preventive safety and health culture

During the pandemic, the main occupational health and safety rights and obligations of the employers are:

  • to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplaces, working tools, equipment and processes are without risk to employees’ health;
  • to provide, where necessary, adequate protection working equipment (at no cost to the employee);
  • to provide, where necessary, for measures to deal with emergencies and accidents;
  • to ensure that employees and their representatives are consulted, informed, and trained in the area of health and safety.

At the same time, for the employees and their representatives (trade union or employees’ elected representatives) the main occupational health and safety rights and obligations are:

  • to comply with the health and safety at work instructions and take care for their own safety and that of others;
  • to receive adequate information & training in the area of health and safety at work;
  • to remove themselves from any situation which they have reasonable justification to believe presents an imminent and serious danger to their life or health;
  • to be consulted and co-operate with the employer in the field of health and safety at work;
  • to use safety devices and protection working equipment correctly;
  • to report any hazardous situation, work accident or injury.

However, on top of the above health and safety at work requirements, the pandemic came with a set of particular requirements and measures to contain the virus. These are:

  • provisions for the identification and control of potential sources of exposure;
  • implementing a specific set of procedures and protocols to prevent and deal with COVID-19 in the workplace, like:
    • epidemiological triage;
    • physical distancing and mask wearing;
    • organizing the work space so as to ensure the minimum 1.5 m distancing;
    • implementing working from home arrangements;
    • safely dealing with positive cases of COVID-19 in the workplace;
    • personal protective equipment;
    • safe commuting to and from the workplace, etc.
  • Adapting the work needs to ensure compliance with quarantine requirements.

Thus, it is of maximum priority for each employer to assess the working risks and to take the appropriate corrective measures, to continuously keep under observation the working environment, to cooperate with the health and safety provider in order to properly organize the workplace (considering also the business needs), to be interested in improving working practices and to invest in individual and collective working protective equipment.

It is important that we all adopt a responsible attitude and behavior, both in the workplace and outside of it, as only by working together we may leave behind these difficult times we are living in.

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