Keighley News 15thMay 2020
NOBODY should return to work without a Covid-19 risk assessment agreed with the workforce or union, say campaigners.
Keighley Trades Union Council has warned that workers could become victims of Government policies being made “on the hoof”.
It called for risk assessments to be done for all workers and workplaces, and all public transport, schools, colleges and nurseries.
TUC president Steve Davison said: “We all know the consequences of failure to do so – tragic deaths amongst transport workers, in hospitals and care homes.
“New arrangements have been agreed between the trade unions and employers, but most workers are unaware of the details.”
Mr Davison spoke after a meeting of Keighley TUC to discuss last week’s call by the Government for people in many industries to return to work.
Mr Davison said employers were already had a legal duty of care, but Covid-19 meant a need for special assessments for at-risk groups of workers such as the young, pregnant, disabled, manual workers, and Black and Minority Ethnic.
He added: “There needs to be specific guidance for every economic sector. Every employer can now get guidance of how to produce risk assessments specific to their workplace rather than rip generic RAs from the web.
“The best way to produce satisfactory outcomes is to use the best expertise, the workers, who have years of practical experience of work and working practices.
“This is especially true in the trade union-organised workplace with the presence of Safety Representatives who legally the employers must consult, and secure their support for health and safety measures.”
Mr Davison said trade unions had argued employers should publish their risk assessments. They had also succeeded in demanding extra funding for the Health and Safety Executive.
“As a last resort workers need to know their legal right to refuse to work in dangerous conditions where they are in ‘serious and imminent danger’. This right has been in existence since 1993.
“All workers are under enormous economic, physical and mental pressures as a result of the virus. This will not change quickly and may even worsen. There has never been a better opportunity for workplaces to consider better ways of working.”