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Covid-19 Applying the Principles of Prevention (Part 2)

10 November 2020

Continuing on from my post on the 28th of October

Covid-19 Applying the Principles of Prevention (Part 1)

Part 2

  1. The adaptation of the place of work to technical progress.

The use of virtual conferencing and meeting technology is nothing new but it has seen a massive increase in uptake and implementation across many sectors in Ireland. The apparent short-term benefits are, the removal of the risk of physical contact and elimination of commuting to and from meetings.

It’s important to remember that when we introduce a control measure that it, in itself, should be risk assessed.  Articles such as “Tips to avoid Zoom Burnout” indicate that there may be a need for more investigation before virtual meetings are accepted as a long term approach to conferencing.

  1. The replacement of dangerous articles, substances or systems of work by safe or less dangerous articles, substances or systems of work.

We’ve seen examples of new systems being implemented in every type of workplace in the country. Supermarkets have one-way systems and limits on capacity. Food outlets have become take away only.  Multiple storey buildings will reserve lifts for limited use. There are a myriad of systems being implemented all over the country which attempt to interpret government guidance to some degree. Washing your hands before entering a premises and maintain a distance of 2 meters while at work, a common theme throughout.

  1. The giving of priority to collective protective measures over individual protective measures.

Priority opening times for vulnerable persons is a good example of a collective preventative measure. Any measure that aims to protect a larger group of people without the need for the individual to have to remember to comply with a particular measure will be more effective. If we put a guardrail on a roof then we don’t need to issue each individual with a personal fall arrest system. With such high responsibility on each individual person this will remain a difficult challenge.

  1. The development of an adequate prevention policy in relation to safety, health and welfare at work, which takes account of technology, organisation of work, working conditions, social factors and the influence of factors related to the working environment.

This may include use of personal protective equipment (PPE).  Where PPE is to be used it should be noted that this is a “Last resort” control measure. PPE is not a catch all solution and, in many cases, it can provide a false sense of security.

The face coverings we see people wearing now are not a form of personal protective equipment. Face coverings are there primarily to reduce the spread of airborne water droplets that might carry the virus. The source of these are the nose and mouth.

By wearing a mask you are not protecting yourself but you are potentially protecting the people around you.

  1. The giving of appropriate training and instructions to employees.

People need to understand the reason why they are being asked to act in a certain way. This is important to achieve full compliance. Training may need to be preceded by a consultation process.  Information needs to come from a reputable source, be concise and be credible.

Whichever approach you decide to take for your workplace you should measure the effectiveness and not be afraid to try a new approach if something is not working.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. Feel free to get in touch if you have comments or suggestions for any future articles.

Shane Lynam



(Shane Lynam has been a safety practitioner in Ireland for 15 Years. Shane holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Health & Safety Management, a Post Graduate Diploma in Occupational Safety, Health & Hygiene and a Bachelor’s Degree in Science (Microbiology and Human Physiology)