An Aberdeen safety consultant has warned local employers to adhere to guidelines issued by Trade Union Congress (TUC) this week.
The Trade Union organisation’s recommendations include urgent update of all risk assessments.
Despite the legal requirement to keep up to date records, a TUC survey of more than 2,000 safety representatives revealed only a quarter believed risk assessments had taken place in their workplaces during the past two years.
Managing director of Safetynet, Craig Cooper said: “As a country, we know so much more about coronavirus than we did a year ago, and our processes need to be changed to take that into consideration.
“For now, we are of course all still expected to work from home, and particularly anyone with a desk-based job should not be attending their workplace.
“But when we are back in the office, factory or retail environment, there are a number of steps which can be taken by employers to keep their workplace as safe as possible and reassure staff that it is safe to return.
“One place to start is cleaning – the TUC survey showed that over a quarter of people do not think their workplace is cleaned adequately, which is something employers can look at straight away.
“New and different cleaning processes may need to be implemented, with employees informed of the additional practices.”
A key recommendation from the report is to ensure there is adequate ventilation to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Cooper continued: “Managing the flow of air is a necessary precaution.
“From using monitors to simply keeping windows open, it is vital that employers ensure enough fresh air is coming into the building.
“This amounts to 10 litres per second of outside air into workplaces, with unoccupied rooms given time to ventilate.
“Along with this, of course, is an employer’s obligation to maintain a minimum working temperature of 16 degrees Celsius – not always easy in the changeable north-east of Scotland.”
Businesses that fail to comply could face HSE inspections, following TUC’s calls for the government organisation’s power to be increased.
Mr Cooper said that employees have the right to refuse to return to an unsafe workplace.
He added: “Research conducted in November by the TUC showed that over a third of workers were worried they would not be able to socially distance from colleagues, and 26% of people thought they might be asked to come back to the workplace when it is not safe.
“The TUC has said that it will back members who believe they are in danger at work if there are insufficient Covid-prevention measures.”
TUC has sought clarifications from the Health and Safety Executive’s classification of coronavirus as a ‘significant’, instead of ‘serious’ workplace risk.
Mr Cooper concluded: “Employers who break the rules on workplace safety, such as asking people to come to work when they could work at home or failing to provide the correct personal protection equipment, should be fined and prosecuted say the TUC.
“However, the classification of Covid-19 by the HSE limits the options inspectors have when it comes to enforcement.
“Now, however, the TUC has argued that, after years of funding cuts, health and safety inspections are a major priority to enable the economy to rebuild, in a safe and sustainable manner.”