UNISON has written to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) asking for updated guidelines to protect workers following the discovery of a new variant of coronavirus.
The union is asking the HSE to underline the increased risks to staff, particularly disabled, black and other vulnerable workers with underlying health conditions who are still in the workplace could be at particular risk of the new variant.
In the letter to the HSE, assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said improved safety measures would include working from home, change to duties to less hazardous duties
‘Despite some of the measures recently announced by the government, it remains the case that many of our members working in key public services will be required to attend their workplaces and work with clients, potentially putting themselves at risk of infection.
‘I am sure you will appreciate this has led to a growing and understandable anxiety among our members, regarding their own safety and that of their friends, family and the public they serve.
‘This is particularly the case among disabled, Black, older, and those workers with underlying health conditions, who are at greatest risk of dying from the disease or having serious life-changing outcomes.
‘It is essential that these workers know that everything that is reasonably practicable is being done to keep them safe. Employers should be reviewing their risk assessments and the safety measures required.’
UNISON welcomes some of the measures the HSE has put in place in recent months, including the use of spot checks in some sectors, and the guidance it has available on its website. However, the union now believes the HSE needs to introduce new measures.
These include allowing staff, especially those most vulnerable, to change duties so that they could work from home or carry out less hazardous duties. Improved testing of both staff and service users, as well as moving services that involve face to face transaction to remote/virtual platforms.
UNISON also recommends improved social distancing and significantly reducing the number of people using indoor spaces, improved air conditioning and ventilation and wider spread use of PPE, where other measures are deemed insufficient.
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