The Government has revised official Covid work safely guidance on ventilation, vaccinations and antigen testing following consultation with unions and employers. The new advice reflects the most up-to-date public health advice for the workplace, setting out the range of measures required to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including information on how to approach the use of antigen testing.
The work safely protocol revises the Return to Work Safely Protocol – first published in May 2020 – drawing on the latest National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) and health department advice on controlling the virus.
The protocol was originally developed following the insistence of Fórsa and other unions that the safety of workers and the people they serve must be protected as staff returned to workplaces after the first lockdown. Fórsa subsequently won commitments that the protocol would apply in the civil and public service, and to staff who have attended workplaces throughout the pandemic.
The revised advice says the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in a workplace is to practice physical distancing, adopt proper hand hygiene, follow respiratory etiquette and increase ventilation.
The protocol also emphasises the need for effective communication and a shared collaborative approach between employers and workers, and says employers are required to keep their Covid-19 response plans up to date.
The document provides information on how to use antigen testing appropriately in the workplace, and advises that it should only be used as an additional health and safety measure, and not as a substitute for any other precautions.
The revised protocol also provides a range of examples and reminders on the importance of ventilation. Employers are advised to consider how they can improve ventilation in workplaces, including simple actions like airing rooms and keeping windows open.
As rollout of the national vaccine programme continues, the protocol says the decision to get a vaccination is voluntary. However, employers are required to review their risk assessment in cases where workers choose not to be vaccinated.
If it’s deemed that an unvaccinated worker is not safe to perform certain work tasks, the employer may have no option but to redeploy them to other work.
But any such decision would need to be agreed between the employer and a medical practitioner in consultation with the worker.
The full Work Safely Protocol document is available HERE.
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