The Wales Trades Union Congress (Wales TUC) is calling for the creation of a national enforcement forum in Wales to coordinate workplace health and safety compliance and enforcement activity once lockdown is eased.
The trade union body believes that social distancing and other health and safety measures are best achieved and sustained in partnership between employees and employers. However, these partnership arrangement do not exist in many workplaces and other measures are therefore needed to keep all workers safe.
Shavanah Taj, General Secretary of Wales TUC said: “We know that unionised workplaces are safer. Partnership working between employers and unions means that health and safety is informed by actual practices, and both workers and the employer have a shared interest in making it a success.
“But lots of Welsh workplaces aren’t unionised, and we’re very concerned that some of these won’t reopen safely. They need clear, simple advice about how they can keep staff and customers safe, including how to do a COVID specific risk assessment and what measures they need to introduce to protect their staff, including those that need additional personal risk assessments, such as pregnant workers, disabled and BAME workers. The best way we can prepare for more people to return to work is by ensuring that employers understand their responsibilities and know how to do the right thing by their workforce.
“We are therefore asking Welsh Government to work with us, employers, business and enforcement agencies to establish a national forum to coordinate enforcement activity related to the 2 metre social distancing law and other workplace measures designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The forum should produce Wales’s enforcement strategy, as well as online advice and training on how to reopen and operate safely”
The Wales TUC is also calling for additional investment in environmental health services and a strategic approach to workplace outbreaks:
“Welsh Government has introduced additional measures to keep workers safe and now everyone has access to a test, but an easing of the lockdown may present new challenges, including pressure on public transport.
“We’d like the forum to consider how employers should respond to workplace outbreaks. Employers need to know what to do if the virus appears be spreading within the workplace – including what advice they should be giving their staff in this situation and when they should contact environmental health.
“We’re all facing the same challenge, so our only sensible and practical option is to work together and use the resources we have to deliver the safest possible return to work.”