Conquering Covid

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New international guidelines aim to make it easier for organisations everywhere to manage the risks posed by Covid-19 at work.

Although there is a vaccination programme in place in many countries, the need to manage workplaces to prevent the spread and transmission of Covid-19 will remain for some time to come. In this context, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has launched a publicly available specification (PAS), ISO/PAS 45005:2020 Occupational health and safety management – General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike most other ISO/PAS standards, it is currently free to access and download from the ISO website.

In response to the urgency of the situation – and the need for immediate information – ISO/PAS 45005:2020 was developed in just three months, while the average ISO International Standard normally takes three years to develop. To achieve this, occupational health and safety experts from 26 countries worked to produce the guidelines, which were then approved by the 80 member countries of ISO’s technical committee for occupational health and safety management (SO/TC 283).

ISO/PAS 45005:2020 is applicable to organisations of all sizes and sectors, including those that:

  • Have been operating throughout the pandemic
  • Are resuming, or planning to resume, operations following full or partial closure
  • Are re-occupying workplaces that have been fully or partially closed
  • Are new and planning to operate for the first time.
The new ISO guidance provides advice on protecting workers from the risk of being infected with and spreading Covid-19. Photo: iStock Miodrag Ignjatovic

The document provides guidance relating to the protection of workers of all types (for example, workers employed by the organisation, workers of external providers, contractors, self-employed individuals, agency workers, older workers, workers with a disability and first responders); and other relevant interested parties (such as visitors to a workplace, including members of the public).

It should be stressed that ISO/PAS 45005:2020 is not intended to provide guidance on how to implement specific infection control protocols in clinical, healthcare and other settings because of the differing international approaches. For specific technical information, organisations should still refer to their governments, regulators and other professional bodies that have published specific technical guidance on working safely during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ISO/PAS 45005:2020 guidance does, however, provide a framework under which Covid-19 controls can be effectively managed. Therefore, by implementing the guidance in this document, any organisation will be able to:

  • Take effective action to protect workers and other relevant interested parties from the risks related to Covid-19
  • Demonstrate that it is addressing risks related to Covid-19 using a systematic approach
  • Put in place a framework to enable effective and timely adaptation to the changing situation.

The British Safety Council offers a Covid-19 Assurance Assessment Service that provides professional support, guidance and independent assurance to enable organisations to develop and implement suitable protocols and arrangements for managing the risk from Covid-19 at work. The service has now been updated and aligned to reflect the general requirements of ISO/PAS 45005:2020.

ISO/PAS 45005:2020 can be downloaded here.

Dr Keith Whitehead is senior environmental consultant at the British Safety Council.


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