ILO urges to make worker returns safe as lockdowns ease

ILO urges to make worker returns safe as lockdowns ease

As some countries begin to ease their lockdown restrictions, governments and employers must prepare workplaces and ensure people can return safely to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19, the UN said.

In a new study, the International Labor Organization stressed the importance of ensuring that workplaces meet strict occupational safety and health criteria before allowing people to return to their jobs, in order to minimize their exposure to the novel coronavirus.

"Without such controls, countries face the very real risk of a resurgence of the virus," the United Nations agency said in a statement.

The ILO's report comes as a number of European countries are beginning to gingerly scale back lockdown measures, and as authorities in China, which began loosening restrictions last month, fear a second COVID-19 wave could be looming.

The report stressed that by putting in place a range of measures, employers can minimize the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace.

"The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount," ILO chief Guy Ryder said in the statement.

"In the face of an infectious disease outbreak, how we protect our workers now clearly dictates how safe our communities are, and how resilient our businesses will be, as this pandemic evolves," he stressed. "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."

Tuesday's report stressed that risk control measures should be especially adapted to the needs of workers at the frontline of the pandemic, like health workers and those in food retail, but stressed that other workplaces also needed strategies to deal with the COVID-19 threat, The AFP reported.

Employers, it said, should map hazards and assess risks of contagion in relation to all work operations, and should continue to make such assessments after work resumes.

They should also adopt risk control measures adapted to each sector and each workplace, including for instance reducing physical interactions between workers, contractors, customers, and visitors, improving ventilation, regularly cleaning surfaces, and providing protective gear like masks to any workers who need it.

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