COVID-19 and Safety at Work (NI)
Under the Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978, employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of employees and workers when working. In order to ascertain what measures are required to ensure this, employers often carry out a risk assessment that helps them to assess these risks and the best way of minimising them. Given the risks of the COVID-19 infection in the workplace, we recommend employers carry out a risk assessment at this time with a view to minimising any health risks to employees. Whilst each assessment will vary depending on the nature of the business concerned, it does seem to us that simple measures would include:
- Provision for employees who are infected with COVID-19 and are medically incapable of work
- Provision for employees who are self isolating due to a risk of transmitting COVID-19 but are not certified as medically incapable of work
- Advice regarding the transmission of COVID-19 and the provision of simple barrier methods (such as hand sanitisers etc.) and advice regarding work practice to help prevent its transmission
- Provision of up-to-date communication (and if necessary training) with employees as the situation develops
- Preparation for alternative ways of working outside the employers place of business, if possible, such as home working
- Ascertaining the risks of infection to especially vulnerable employees such as pregnant women and employees with chronic illnesses and making provision for them
All employers should review their contracts of employment now and ensure structures are in place to protect employees.
Employees are often unaware that the Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978, also places duties on them. An employee has a duty to take reasonable care of himself or other employees or workers. If therefore an employee becomes aware that they are suffering from a disease that may affect their performance at work that potentially risks the health and safety of their fellow employees or persons at work, then they must inform their employer. If an employee fails to do this, disciplinary action may well be taken against them.
This article does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be sought to address specific circumstances.
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