Branch Secretary :

Ventilation and masks needed to protect workers

Perspex screens may increase risk


Call for update of health and safety risk assessments


Ministers have been urged to scrap perspex screens between desks over fears they actually increase Covid transmission by restricting airflow.  They have also been reminded of the importance of health and safety risk assessments.


Since the beginning of the pandemic the number of Unite health and safety reps in our branch has more than doubled. They have played an important role in improving safety and will take the opportunity to remind employers of the importance of updating risk assessments and involving reps in that process.


Working from home


Experts from SAGE, the UK government’s science advisory group, warned ministers that working from home will likely need to remain an option beyond the 19 July date for unlocking restrictions in England if the government wants to curb the spread of the new Delta variant.


The government has also been advised to roll out major changes in the workplace for those returning to the office, including mandatory ventilation systems and face mask requirements. The papers commissioned as part of the government’s social distancing review showed ministers have been urged to scrap perspex screens between desks over concerns they increase Covid transmission by restricting airflow. The SAGE review found social distancing provisions and masks were effective measures, but expressed scepticism at the effectiveness of cleaning programmes and sanitisers, which were considered less effective than handwashing to suppressing the virus.


Risk assessments


The SAGE review notes: “Existing health and safety regulations and enforcement processes can be harnessed to achieve better infection control in all workplace settings. This would involve using personal and workplace risk assessments to evaluate infection risks to everyone in the workplace and then identify, implement and monitor appropriate methods of reducing these (e.g., better provision of PPE; staggered shifts/alternating workdays to avoid overcrowding at work and when travelling to work).” It adds: “This strategy can be implemented through employers and reinforced by helplines to enable employees to report inadequate implementation.”


See our branch health and safety toolkit here


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