'It is only by implementing occupational safety and health measures that we can protect the lives of workers, their families and the larger communities'
As the pressure mounts on countries to ease their lockdown restrictions, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has urged governments to take action to prevent and control Covid-19 in the workplace with active involvement and dialogue with employers' and workers' organizations.
All employers need to carry out risk assessments and ensure their workplaces meet strict occupational safety along with health criteria beforehand, with a view to minimize risk of exposure to Covid-19 to workers, the ILO said in a statement on Tuesday.
It said without such controls, countries will face a very real risk of the resurgence of the coronavirus. Putting in place the necessary measures will minimize the risk of a second wave of contagion contracted at the workplace.
"The safety and health of our entire workforce is paramount today. 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," said ILO Director General Guy Ryder.
"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.
In particular, risk control measures should be specifically adapted to the needs of workers at the front line of the pandemic. These include health workers, nurses, doctors and emergency workers, as well as those in food retail and cleaning services, the statement said.
The Country Director of ILO Bangladesh, Tuomo Poutiainen, said: "As some industries begin to slowly resume operations, the ILO has developed a three-pronged strategy to ensure a safer return to work in the Bangladesh context. The first step is the adoption of several safety and health measures at work based on dialogue between employers and workers, and a shared understanding of coronavirus risks."
"To prevent transmission of the virus and safeguard workers, the ILO has developed Covid-19 specific OSH [occupational safety and health] guidelines, together with the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments [DIFE]. Furthermore, the ILO is recommending employment retention through work-sharing and reskilling, in addition to essential social protection measures to ensure access to subsistence allowance, basic healthcare and income security for formal and informal sector workers."
The ILO also highlighted the needs of the most vulnerable workers and businesses, in particular those in the informal economy, migrant and domestic workers, the press statement said.
Measures to protect these workers should include, among others, education and training on safe and healthy work practices, free provision of PPE (personal protective equipment) as needed, access to public health services and livelihood alternatives, it added.
A pandemic announced by the World Health Organization (WHO), the fast spreading coronavirus, which was first reported in China's Wuhan, has claimed the lives of 211,663 and infected 3,066,417 people across the world till 1:25pm on Friday, according to worldometer.
As many as 923,448 people have recovered from Covid-19, a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, which has spread to 210 countries and territories across the planet.
As of Monday, Bangladesh has recorded 152 deaths and 5,913 cases from the Covid-19.