The PCS DWP group executive committee has made clear that our number one priority, throughout this pandemic, is the safety of our members and it is committed to supporting branches in achieving this.
PCS has pushed for as many members as possible to be allowed to work from home, as the safest way of ensuring your safety, however, due to the DWP's start being wellbeing other civil service departments in terms of available IT and the slow process of building DWP systems on to the kit, and with only being able to send out between 500 and 600 per day, the process is taking much longer than we had hoped.
Covid 19 Risk Assessment
In light of this and the number of our members who are having to remain within the workplace during this time we have attempted to negotiate the safest possible workplaces for our members.
PCS negotiators have worked with DWP on a Covid-19 risk assessment, a blank version of this can be found on the intranet as a prompt sheet. Over the last couple of weeks your office reps should have been working with managers locally on this risk assessment, maintaining social distance or remotely, using the expertise of your branch safety rep to help with the process. As in many offices this needs to be be carried out remotely, union reps have been contacting members directly to check how it is being implemented on the ground. In jobcentres this is now done in conjunction with the JCFRA.
The risk assessment covers all the things you would expect like social distancing, cleaning, hand washing, access and egress, training, emergency procedures and stress and anxiety.
If any of the risk assessments have not been done or if TU disagree with management on issues and have not been able to signed this off, these cases should be escalated to group. The GEC negotiators have agreed with senior departmental management that a sample check will be carried out, to provide assurance, and we aim to do a counter check to ensure this process is working from the trade union point of view.
Review of Risk Assessment
Please remember that like all other risk assessments if there is an incident, or changes are made locally, the risk assessment should be reviewed.
Social distancing rules should be enforced and are an integral part of the Covid-19 Risk Assessment. The manager should have floor space planning, showing which desks are to be used and which ones aren’t, to ensure that there is 2 metre bubble around an individual in all directions.
There should be protocols for tea points, kitchens, canteen and toilets to ensure that a 2 metre distance is maintained.
There might be one way systems in corridors and stairs depending on the layout of the site.
The Department is carrying out a social distancing pilot in Glasgow Northgate, Cannock and Canterbury offices. This is mainly around the signage that estates are procuring to ensure that we are all maintaining social distancing at all times. This will be rolled out shortly and local reps should work with local managers to ensure that these measures are incorporated into the risk assessment and the work is done safely. The providers will have a way of working to ensure that they work safely, but there may be a requirement for staff to move during implementation. If this is the case it is to be done safely.
It’s important that there is a clear audit trail when you have raised issues locally. If there are processes in your office that are not being done or you feel that you or your members are at risk, you should raise your concerns in writing asking for a response also in writing, and if urgent with a short deadline for a response.
The escalation route is from branch to region/nation level, then from there to group. Due to the severity of the situation we have a fast track process for escalating urgent issues at group level. This means that serious matters can be escalated to region and group at the same time.
If this doesn’t work and it should be noted this is not a timely process then the branch can issue a Union Inspection Notice (UIN). This should be done with group support.
Union Inspection Notices
UIN is a formal notice issued to an employer by an accredited trade union safety representative. The UIN registers the view that the employer is not complying with health and safety legislation in respect of an identified workplace hazard; it describes the action which should be taken to comply with the law, and specifies a date by which the actions should be taken. It is not an enforcement notice, but can be used as evidence by the enforcement agencies.
It’s important to raise issues especially where the risk assessment protocols are not being carried out. Encourage members to let you know where this isn’t happening, as it’s important we don’t do anything that increases the risk for our members, including PCS reps unnecessarily travelling to offices.
If there has been a suspected or confirmed case and there has not been a thorough clean of a workstation or area, and all communal areas – toilets, tea points, kitchen, corridors, stairs, lifts and doorways, please escalate immediately to group copying in the regional/national Safety Officer.
If you need to issue a UIN in your offices please let us know immediately. We can help you with the UIN process but we can also advise you of any future actions that could be undertaken or considered.
For health and safety issues contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For other issues contact group office at email@example.com