CIPD: With many parts of the UK hit by the worst flooding in decades, the TUC has urged employers to offer affected members of their workforce sympathy and support.The TUC has published guidance for employers to help the thousands of workers whose homes are already under water and employees whose homes are at risk as more heavy rain is forecast.
The guidance suggests allowing staff to use showers and washing facilities at work as well as giving employees time off to deal with problems caused by the water. It also said that workplaces sited within flooded areas must be deemed safe before anyone returns to work. Employees have been advised against trying to get into work until it is safe to do so. In addition to the risk of vehicles being swept away or breaking down in the floodwater, the TUC said people should not attempt to wade to work in their wellies as murky floodwater will conceal hazards, such as uncovered drains, beneath the surface and is likely to be contaminated with sewage.
Workplaces fortunate enough to have escaped the floodwater may still find themselves without electricity or running water, and it would be unreasonable and unsafe for employers to expect staff to work until power and water supplies have been restored, the organisation said.
Where workplaces have been flooded employers need to ensure that they are safe for staff to return, the TUC said. This means checking that any affected factory, shop or office is not only dry, but has also been cleaned and disinfected. Portable gas or oil heaters can be used to speed up the drying process, but these should be placed in well-ventilated rooms, away from any flammable materials, according to the safety advice.
A qualified electrician should check that any electrical equipment that has come into contact with floodwater is safe to use, and similar checks should take place before the power supply is turned back on. Fire exits, fire alarms and emergency lighting systems will also need to be looked at.
Hugh Robertson, TUC senior health and safety officer, said: “Our thoughts go out to all the businesses and individuals whose livelihoods and homes have been affected by the floods. Many people have been evacuated from their homes and are understandably incredibly upset by the damage the water has caused to their properties and most treasured possessions.
“In these difficult circumstances work is likely to be the last thing on people’s minds, but employers whose workplaces have escaped the floodwater or which are in unaffected areas should be sympathetic to the problems being experienced by their employees and allow them time away from work.
“And when the water finally starts to recede, although employers and their staff will be keen for a return to normal as soon as possible, it’s important not to risk avoidable injuries and accidents by doing things in a rush. Employers need to check that their workplaces are safe before asking their staff to come back to work.”
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Health and Safety in the Aftermath of Flooding is available at http://www.tuc.org.uk/healthandsafety/flooding