Returning to Safe Workplaces in Wales

Published date
Whether working from home, already back at work or preparing to return, we’re all facing changing times. Shops, businesses and schools opening means that not only do we need to make sure our workplaces are safe but that our commutes are safe too.

We want to help Health and Safety reps play their role in ensuring workers in Wales are safe and workplaces are Covid-secure. To help you, we’ve put together some resources so you can find the information you need quickly.

What Health and Safety reps in Wales should know about making Wales Covid-secure

The Welsh Government has taken a cautious approach to protecting people in Wales. Here is what you need to know if you are a Health and Safety rep in a Welsh workplace.

Read about what individuals and businesses can and cannot do during the outbreak

Read the general Welsh Government advice on Coronavirus

2 metre distance rule

The law in Wales requires reasonable measures to be taken to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres while working in Wales.

Read the Welsh Government guidance on maintaining physical distance at work

Face coverings or PPE

We welcome the Welsh Government’s recommendation on the wearing of face covering in public.

Remember a face covering is not Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  If your employer has taken all reasonable measures to protect you from coronavirus and still cannot mitigate the risk they must provide you with suitable and sufficient PPE.

BME workers

BME communities are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus.

Read our guide on what your employer can do to protect BME workers

What can Health and Safety reps do to make workplaces Covid-secure workplaces?

If your employer is asking colleagues to return to work outside home, they must make sure it’s done safely to protect the health of workers, customers, and the public.

Covid-19 risk assessments

A Covid-19 risk assessment is essential. But how do you know your employer's doing the right things? This quick guide to Covid risk assessments looks at how it should be done.

Also read our blog on what Health and Safety reps can do to support colleagues in work and at home.

If you work in the NHS or social care make sure you use the Welsh Government’s individual risk assessment tool, which takes into account the extra risk to BME workers.

HSE Guidance

You can find all the latest guidance on Covid-19 from the HSE on their website

Watch our webinar with the Health and Safety Executive on what reps and employers can do to make the workplace safe. 

Working from Home

Your employer is responsible for the protection of the occupational health and safety of staff who work from home as well as office-based workers. There are some important factors you need to bear in mind if you work from home, for some or all of your working week. In particular, if your organisation is new to home working,
take a look at our blog on safely working from home.

Home workers should also have a risk assessment. Use this quick guide on home working risk assessments to see how it should be done.

Watch our Webinar on safe home-working

Mental health

Coronavirus has impacted workers in many ways, but one we all share has been the impact on our mental health. Worrying about job security, being coerced into unsafe work environments or adapting to the challenges of working from home and being with family 24/7 are just some of the issues affecting workers.

But there are ways to protect your mental health and even improve your mental wellbeing.  As a Health and Safety rep you will be busy helping others but it’s important to take the time to look out for your own mental wellbeing too.

Join our weekly Coping with Covid bite-size video sessions. Each session with teach you tools and techniques to help you look after yourself and cope with these challenging times.

Read our blog for some tips on looking after your mental health during the coronavirus crisis.

Watch a replay of our webinar on tackling isolation.

The Mental Health Foundation have also produced a useful guide for looking after your mental health during the Covid-19 outbreak.

What rights does a Health and Safety rep have?

Trade unions have the right under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 to appoint workplace Health and Safety reps. These regulations give various rights to Safety reps. They also require employers to set up a safety committee and to inform and consult Safety reps in good time on matters relating to health and safety.

Read our guide to your rights has a Health and Safety rep.

Your employer has legal responsibilities under Health and Safety at work Act 1974 Part 1 item 2.  Read the legislation in full.

What are your rights if you refuse to work because of safety concerns over coronavirus at your workplace?

All workers have a right to be safe at work, wherever they work and whatever they do. The law which protects workers who refuse to work because of safety concerns is Section 44.1 of the Employment Act 1996.

Read our blog explaining your right to refuse to work.

Remember you must talk to your union full time officer for advice before taking any action under Section 44.

Wales TUC new online courses for reps during Covid-19

The Wales TUC Education Service is launching a new range of courses delivered online by our expert tutors. Courses will include:

  • Assessing risk and Covid-19 in workplaces
  • Mental health awareness 
  • Equalities impact of Covid-19 on people with protected characteristics 
  • Redundancy, Covid-19 and the Law  

The course brochure will be available online soon. Join our email mailing list to find out when it’s available.

Covid-19 resources from trade unions

Make sure you also look at your own union’s advice on coronavirus.