Employers urged to protect staff from pandemic

Sunday May 3 2020

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Employees of the Los Angeles United States Postal Service (USPS) plant work amid the Covid 19 pandemic on April 29, 2020 in California. The International Labour Organisation says employers need to ensure their workplaces meet strict occupational safety and health criteria, to minimise workers’ exposure to Covid-19. PHOTO | VALERIE MACON | AFP 

By The EastAfrican

As part of this year’s international Labour Day celebration marked every May 1, the International Labour Organisation has urged collaboration between governments, employers and workers’ associations to prevent and control Covid-19 in the workplace.

The ILO’s call comes as pressure mounts on countries to ease lockdown restrictions and allow citizens to return to work. The labour agency said employers need to ensure their workplaces meet strict occupational safety and health criteria, to minimise workers’ exposure to Covid-19. The agency said without such controls, countries face the risk of a resurgence of the virus. Putting in place the necessary measures will minimise the risk of a Covid-19 second wave at the workplace.

“The way we protect our workers now dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves,” the ILO statement says.

Protecting workforce

ILO director-general Guy Ryder said the safety and health of the entire workforce is paramount.

“It is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families and the larger communities, ensure work continuity and economic survival,” he added.

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The organisation said risk control measures should particularly be adapted to the needs of workers at the front line of the pandemic especially health workers, nurses, doctors and emergency workers, as well as those in food, retail and cleaning services. ILO also highlighted the needs of the most vulnerable workers and businesses, in particular those in the informal economy, migrant and domestic workers. Measures to protect these workers should include — among others — education and training on safe and healthy work practices, free provision of personal protection equipment as needed, access to public health services and livelihood alternatives.

WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said the pandemic has shown the need for strong programmes to protect the health and safety of workers, medical professionals, emergency responders, and the many other workers risking their lives.

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