Blog: Your safety is paramount as we start to return to workplaces

As lockdown restrictions ease and workplaces open up, we need to make sure our staff are kept safe

general secretary Christina McAnea with UNISON members outside a London hospital

If COVID-19 has done anything, it’s reminded us all of the vital importance of workplace health and safety. Something, of course, we’ve always known at UNISON.

As lockdown restrictions continue to be eased across all four nations – thanks in no small measure to the success of our NHS vaccination program – many of us over the coming weeks or months will be returning to the workplace for the first time in quite some time.

Of course many of you have continued to go into your workplaces to keep public services going during the pandemic, or have been out working in the community providing essential support to people who need it. You will know – only too well – how important health and safety issues have become.

But for many, this further step on the journey to our old way of working will be a welcome opportunity to catch up with colleagues, return to some normality – or just get out of the house!

However this will also be accompanied by some anxiety and stress. After so long away from your workplace that’s only natural.

We believe that the key to keeping you safe is for employers to carry out comprehensive risk assessments. This involves employers identifying all those things that may be a risk to your health and safety, and making sure everything is done to keep you and the friends and colleagues you work with safe.

This includes not only COVID-19 but, of course, all the other hazards that we’re all too familiar with, such as stress, bullying, violence in the workplace, or lifting and manual handling injuries.

Some of you will also be faced with new things which you’re unfamiliar with, such as COVID testing procedures. Whatever these are, it’s your employer’s duty to provide you with the training you need.

But, whatever your worries and doubts, you can be sure of one thing – UNISON will be there at every step of the way to provide you with the support you need, as we have throughout this pandemic.

And it’s our safety reps who are key to this. It is through them that we can hold employers to account and campaign to fight to keep you and other workers safe. I’m proud that UNISON has the strongest network of safety reps in the trade union movement, and you have the opportunity to join them.

By becoming a safety rep you can play a vital role in keeping yourself, friends and colleagues safe. If you want to find out more on how to become a safety rep, please visit Be on the Safe Side Campaign

We also have a workplace health and safety review tool which is available to UNISON’s safety reps and How to work safely plus our coronavirus – your rights at work information hub.