Image courtesy International Labour Organisation.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has released a new tool on safety and health for decision makers in the world of work, to confront COVID-19.

According to the ILO, the new guide “seeks to facilitate the application of safety and health measures in times of COVID-19”. It is aimed at companies, workers and their representatives, as well as other stakeholders involved in a task that is considered decisive for productive reactivation.

Vinícius Pinheiro, ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. (Image: ILO)

ILO Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Vinícius Pinheiro, notes that the guide contains 10 steps for the design of return strategies for offices, factories and all kinds of workplaces in Latin America and the Caribbean that are faced with the progressive lifting of measures.

“Occupational safety and health must have the highest priority. We must get used to the idea that the workplace will no longer be the same and that it will be in this scenario where a decisive battle against the pandemic will be waged,” he remarks in the foreword to the publication.

The 10-step tool for a safe and healthy return to work in times of COVID-19 is available in English and Spanish and is easily downloadable from the ILO Caribbean website, here…–en/index.htm

It takes a clear and simple approach to explaining key considerations such as priorities, stakeholders, main objectives, and finally 10 steps that can be followed to promote safety and health at work in times of COVID-19.

“Occupational safety and health must be considered as a fundamental investment to protect workers and their families and to ensure the continuity of companies,” Pinheiro explained. “It is one of the keys to reactivating production with decent work and for reconciling the objectives of containing the pandemic and economic recovery.”

The guide is aimed at employers and their representatives, workers and their representatives, joint safety and health committees, occupational safety and health professionals and related institutions and organizations, among others.

The objectives of the tool are to support the adoption of preventive measures in the workplace against the risk of contagion of COVID-19 and other risks associated with the pandemic. It also encourage social dialogue on the subject and promote good practices to develop occupational health and safety protocols.

The ILO notes that part of the guide’s prevention and control objective is avoiding new outbreaks of the contagion that endanger lives and affect reactivation strategies. It also aims to design safety and health strategies with a human-centred approach.

The 10 steps are:

1.     Set up a team to plan and organize return to work

2.     Decide who returns to work and how

3.     Adopt engineering and organizational measures

4.     Adopt regular cleaning and disinfection of premises

5.     Promote personal hygiene measures

6.     Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and inform on its correct use

7.     Health surveillance of workers

8.     Consider psychosocial and other risks

9.     Review and update emergency and evacuation plans

10.   Review and update preventative and control measures

The tool details a series of measures that can be taken in the workplace to comply with each of these 10 steps.

The issue of safety and health in the workplace is identified by the ILO as an essential component of country responses to the pandemic.

On 28 April, World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the ILO Caribbean Office hosted a virtual roundtable to discuss the challenges of returning to the workplace. The video recording of the session is available here.

The 10-step tool for a safe and healthy return to work in times of COVID-19 was developed by Ms Carmen Bueno, Occupational Safety and Health Specialist at the ILO Office for the Southern Cone of Latin America, and Mr Ariel Pino, Social Protection and Occupational Safety and Health Specialist at the ILO Office for the Caribbean.