NUJ guidance – Covid-19 Health, safety, wellbeing & work
Health and Safety Committee notes for members, reps, chapels and branches.
The UK has a wonderful piece of legislation called the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA) 1974. This is primary legislation supported by regulations and codes of practice – that specifically include measures necessary around biological agents such as the coronavirus.
As well as protecting workers, obeying the HSWA can be very business-friendly as, over time, it can significantly minimise costs associated with illness and injury.
Throughout its response to the (infectious) coronavirus and the disease it causes (Covid-19), the UK government seems to have ignored the HSWA. This has not been helpful for either employers or workers. The response, especially to lightening lockdown regulations, has been far clearer in the Republic of Ireland. For workers, the UK government response needs guidelines such as these. In Ireland, the Return to Work Safely Protocol: COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers is more than adequate .
The HSWA relates to organisations which recognise trade unions and those which do not. The obligations are very similar, except that consultation rules are different for unrecognised organisations.
The HSWA applies to places of work, in other words wherever work takes place and covers visitors to an employer’s premises as well as workers. Workers have mutual obligations not to endanger one another.