Minister notes significance of this year's world work health and safety day

Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center).
Social affairs minister Tanel Kiik (Center). Source: ERR

Tuesday is World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2020, which focuses on maintaining strong health and safety in the workplace. Naturally, this year's day is dominated by the global coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the workplace, though additional demands placed on employees once the exit process from the restrictions required by the pandemic start to be lifted also need consideration, says social affairs minister Tanel Kiik, in addition to the issue of economic effects and job losses.

"We can only lift the restrictions gradually, and people's return to work must also be made safe," Kiik said, via a press release.

"The risks of the work environment must be reassessed if necessary in the light of the new situation, he went on.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has also stressed the importance for employers to update risk assessments in the light of changed working conditions, paying particular attention not only to physical health aspects but also to psycho-social risk factors that might have a significant impact on workers' mental health.

"This requires greater attention to occupational health, hygiene habits, as well as recommendations on social distancing, teleworking and other exposure-reduction measures. The need for psychological counseling is [also] certainly growing," the minister added.

"As we emerge from the crisis, we should continue the best practices of staying home or, where possible, working remotely in the event of minor symptoms, in order to maintain our health and not infect others. During the emergency situation, this is also supported by the reimbursement of sick leaves from day one."

Measures taken so far to support the economic situation of workers and their families are well under way, Kiik went on.

Over the course of three weeks, more than 32,000 workers have benefited from the Unemployment Insurance Fund's (Haigekassa) wage measure, Kiik noted.

"Of course, the rising unemployment rate is a cause for concern, but I believe that in good cooperation with employers and with the support of the measures of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, we will be able to avoid the worst-case scenarios," he said.

The International Labor Organization has emphasized that ensuring safety and health at work is essential for coping with the coronavirus pandemic, and for continuing to work.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work is marked on April 28 and aims to focus on the prevention of accidents at work and occupational illnesses worldwide.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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