Covid-19 Compliance Officers to Become the New Norm in the Workplace
2 June 2020
Having a designated COVID-19 compliance officer within the workplace is looking like becoming the new norm. This person or persons will be tasked with ensuring businesses meet any instructions or rules issued by the Government in order to allow them to continue trading.
As we emerge from lockdown, the working landscape will look and feel different, with compliance now being of maximum importance. Businesses will have to adapt according to whatever protocols are put in place. The Return to Work Safely Protocol published by the HSA and the HSE, the Department of Health and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, describes the steps that employers and employees should take before a workplace reopens to make sure they can return to work safely. It also covers how businesses should operate after they reopen to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
The Return to Work Safely Protocol sets out specific duties of the employer, including:
- The duty to appoint at least one lead worker representative to make sure safety measures are in place and being followed.
- Updating business and safety plans, including the business COVID-19 Response Plan, the occupational health and safety risk assessment and the safety statement. Include how to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19 in the safety plans and appoint a dedicated manager in charge of dealing with suspected cases.
- Develop, consult on, communicate and implement workplace changes or policies.
- Send out a pre-return to work form to employees at least 3 days before their return to work. The form will ask employees to confirm they have not had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, have not been diagnosed or suspected of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, have not been in close contact with someone confirmed or suspected of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and are not self-isolating or cocooning.
- Provide COVID-19 induction training for all staff.
- Put in place temperature testing in line with public health advice.
It will be the job of the Covid-19 compliance officer to ensure that this, and future protocols are being adhered to.
According to the Association of Compliance Officers Ireland (ACOI)’s chief executive, Michael Kavanagh, “Organisations will have to adhere to strict rules to ensure we hold our ground in the fight against the spread of the disease. In order to do this, employees and management will need to know exactly what they have to do. Invariably, one person, or even a team of people, depending on the size of the organisation, should be tasked with ensuring compliance.”
The Covid-19 compliance officer will essentially act as a go-to person for the HSE and gardaí regarding putting the necessary processes and procedures in place.
What is not sure is for how long a business will need to have a designated Covid-19 Compliance Officer in the workplace. What is more of a certainty is that businesses need to ensure that the Return to Work Safety Protocol is strictly adhered to now; and the first step towards this is to have a trained Covid-19 Compliance Officer in the workplace at all times.
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