Please note: Safe Pass Training, like all other class room training courses in Ireland, is not being delivered due to Government restrictions which have been put in place because of COVID-19. It is unlikely that this type of classroom training, in its current form, will resume until colleges/schools reopen.
Good news for some people: a Law has been passed to confirm that all Safe Pass cards that expired since March 2020 will be treated as valid until Safe Pass Training resumes. Click here for the legal paperwork.
Bad news for some people. Anyone who does not have a legally recognised Safe Pass card (take note of the above) will be unable to get one, until Solas resume certifying the courses. The change in the law applied to people who were legally compliant prior to lockdown, ie had a valid Safe Pass card. Under the Construction Regulations it is a legal requirement that certain people (not everyone) is it possession of a valid safe pass card, or other card recognised by solas. For further advice on this matter consult with your legal adviser.
Going back to work? Be aware things are going to be a lot different than before. Things must be different, because COVID-19 is not going away and according to most medical experts will be a big concern for at least 2 years. You must be proactive not reactive in the current climate. This virus has killed a lot of people. According to reliable stats at the time of writing, the number of death is being reported as being 382,914 people. According to a medical expert,who spoke at a conference which I attended (by video link), the virus in question is so small that 250 million of them can rest on the point of a needle. Of course work can continue BUT it must be done safely. Imagine if you or one of your employees transmitted the virus to another person and that person died. Would you be able to say you followed all the guidance? Would you be able to prove to a court of law that you followed all the guidance? Do you document everything?
If you are an employer, you will need to have a private chat with each employee to ensure they feel ok about going back to work. Click here to go through the SOP which the CIF issued. It is a very good document and well worth a read. It clearly points out things you must do. Some employees may be very worried because they might have someone at home that they don’t want to bring the virus back home to them. They may feel safer if you explain all the new plans to them. Others may show up to work carrying the virus, and not know about it. Others may show up, knowing they are sick, but need the money. What will you do if someone feels ill at work or fails to show up, or shows up displaying a temp? Are you aware of what you must do? Under the common law duty of care, you must mitigate all possible risks.
All the above and much more must appear in your Safety Statement, and associated policies. Have you a Covid-19 compliance officer? Who has the Covid-19 compliance officer training? What happens if s/he is ill, have you another one appointed? Do you need a few Compliance officers? Have you a lead COVID-19 compliance officer appointed. Please note, it is not the compliance officer’s duty to provide a safe place of work. It is your duty as am employer. If you are self employed, you are considered an employer, you employ yourself. If you are an employee (ie a worker) you must do the job exactly as advised by your employer, and do not under any circumstances put yourself, your fellow workers, or others including members of the public in danger.
Many employees might be able to give you ideas on how the job can be done safer. Some employees have been in a very stressful situation during the past few months and it might take them a bit of time to adjust to going back to work. Do not assume anything. Things are going to be a lot different. Householders will want to feel happy allowing you into their house. You must ensure do not bring the virus into their house. You must update your safety statement, risk assessments, and all other documents as there is now a killer virus at large i.e. COVID-19. Get your employees to have a look at the documents as they can add bits to some of the documents. You must ensure that everyone is aware of the new changes that have resulted as a result of COVID-19. First Aid is another point that needs to be looked at. First Aid must be provided in the workplace..How is the first aider going to perform physical(social ) distancing and provide first aid. You need to ask him/her. Are you happy with the response? What about CPR? All documents/training etc must be in a form and manner which your employees understand. You must ensure they understand, maybe there are bits they don’t fully understand.
Employees fitness to return to work: Many employees have been away from work for the past few months. You need to ensure they are both physically and mentally fit for their duties. How will you reach this conclusion? Will it stand up in Court? You will need to consider if they need refresher training. Some person might have forgotten how to operate a machine. Do they remember how to check a harness before use? What about a pre-use check on a MEWP? What about pre-use checks and powertools ? Does everyone remember how the phone system works? What about the emergency plans eg fall from a height rescue procedure, fire/first aid/accidents in the workplace. Make sure everyone’s training certs, cards are in order. Ensure all machines/equipment are safe and working. Tyres will need to be looked at by a competent person. Ensure none of your drivers have lost driving licenses, got points etc since the lockdown.
Publications: A lot of publications have been printed to help people who are considering returning to work. Look out for publications from the H.S.A. , the C.I.F, the Government, insurance companies and other stakeholders. You will need to take account of these publications and be aware they will change. There are an awful lot of things to take into account because of COVID-19. Hopefully you already know that you must do everything reasonably practical to ensure the workplace is safe for all your employees and all others that may be affected by your actions or your failure to act. A final reminder is that your duty of care under the common law has not gone away. You must mitigate all possible risks in the workplace.
When can a business reopen? Click here for details from the HSA.