Clarification on role of PPE needed for return to work

Tunbridge Wells, UK: The FTA is urging government and Public Health England to provide clear, unequivocal guidance about the ongoing use of PPE in the workplace.

Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s policy director, says that a smooth return to working in all sectors of industry can only be made possible if workers across the supply chain are given clear direction on the PPE they need, and where it must be used:

“A robust, fully functional supply chain is at the heart of any business recovery, and our members are totally committed to getting UK PLC back on its feet after the problems caused by COVID-19,” said de Jong. “But production, manufacturing and logistics will only be able to function effectively if there is confidence that this can be done safely. Clear and trusted advice on how to work safely is vital.

“Public debate and uncertainty about PPE, and in particular facemasks, has caused disquiet and unease about whether working in logistics environments is truly safe. There is also concern that this lack of clarity has also led to fewer workers making themselves available to work, and some business closing over staff welfare concerns.

“Government advice may be that business should be able to function safely, but without clear direction from either Public Health England or government to confirm that the use of PPE, particularly facemasks, is required or advantageous in non-healthcare workplaces or in public is creating more confusion and uncertainty,” she said.

The adoption of PPE as part of an ongoing safe working practice must also consider current availability of the necessary equipment, argues de Jong. “It is absolutely right and proper that the NHS is prioritised in the use of PPE, but supply chains also have a vital role to play in economic recovery, and if the scientific evidence points to the use of PPE as a necessity in restarting business, then logistics must be given access to supplies that it needs, so that critical services can start to move again.”

FTA has included its PPE recommendations as part of a wider submission to the Secretary of State for Business and Industry, Alok Sharma MP, which also covers suggestions on how the economy can be boosted by the extension of safe shopping or -purchasing to safe-working. These changes in working practice will need time to bed in before all government financial support is withdrawn, says de Jong.

“We are urging government to exercise caution in withdrawing all financial support including the option of furloughing from the industry – these have been challenging times, and the issues faced by our industry will not vanish overnight. We all want to return to normal, whatever that may now look like, as quickly as possible, but must not undo the good work done while we have faced such unprecedented challenges. For some businesses which have been hardest hit by the pandemic, support may be needed for a few months yet.”

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