The role of your internal prevention advisor during the corona crisis

Perhaps you had to temporarily close as a result of the corona measures, or maybe you have been forced to slow down your activities. You can claim temporary unemployment for employees who have no or insufficient work. But what about your Internal Prevention Advisor? “He or she will play a key role during this emergency,” says Ann Claeys, occupational safety prevention advisor at Mensura.

The law establishes the duties of the Internal Prevention Advisor (IPA), depending on your sector and number of employees. “Now the corona pandemic is taking over everything, and many employees are no longer at work, many organisations are wondering whether the IPA has enough to do,” says Ann Claeys, occupational safety prevention advisor at Mensura.

What does the law say?

In the case of a lockdown, you can consider (partial) temporary unemployment for your IPA. “You must decide this with the Committee for Protection and Prevention at Work at the next meeting, or with your union representative if you do not have a Committee for Protection and Prevention at Work. Placing the prevention advisor on temporary unemployment due to the corona crisis cannot be a one-sided decision by the employer.”

If your organisation falls under Group A, B or C, and there are still employees at work, you may not claim full temporary unemployment for your IPA.

“We strongly advise against reducing the crucial role of the prevention advisor in the current situation. Both when staff are still at work, and in the event of a possible closure. In the latter case, preparation must be carried out for the period after the lockdown so there is no need to improvise when restarting.”

In Practice

“Apart from the theory, there is no question that the IPA can do particularly valuable work for your organisation. The corona crisis has generated many questions: how does your company bridge the partial lockdown? Who draws up the guidelines for employees who are still at work? How will work be organised when economic activity builds back up?”

Ideally, you should set up a task force to deal with these questions in a well-considered manner. Involve various people, such as the IPA, the internal confidential advisor, the occupational physician and your HR and financial manager. They can divide the tasks within the team. Specifically, the IPA must take on the prevention element, which is associated with various tasks.

Specific advice based on a risk analysis

“In every organisation, a risk analysis must be carried out with attention paid to the different functions and work areas. What are the possible risks that may arise due to the coronavirus? And how can the company protect its employees in the best way possible? The IPA formulates clear answers to these questions.”

A few examples:

  • Instead of sharing tools, employees must use personal work equipment only, and not share. This reduces the risk of contamination.
  • The corona crisis, and the extensive reporting about it, can cause stress, anxiety or sleep problems. An (external) team or a telephone helpline can provide employees with a place to go for someone with a listening ear and good advice. Examples are the prevention advisor, internal confidential advisor or the external psycho prevention advisor.

From risk analysis to start-up plan

As well as carrying out a risk analysis for every task type, the IPA should also work on a start-up plan. “How do you restart your company, or build back up to normal occupation? How do you organise production with respect for the rules of social distancing and hygiene? How can employees use the changing rooms safely? How do you ensure everyone is aware of the regulations and working methods to be followed?”

“The IPA should provide answers to these questions in consultation with those responsible in the workplace. The result is a concrete plan with measures and procedures, which will save your organisation valuable time when the corona measures are relaxed.”

How do I restart my organisation safely and healthily?

Perhaps your company has been required to be in lockdown in recent weeks, or your organisation has not been running at full capacity. With sector-specific restart guides, Mensura can show your employees how to carry out the restart in a safe and healthy manner.

Also a coordinating function

The role of the IPA does not have to stop with risk analysis and a start-up plan. “They can, for example monitor government information on a daily basis, estimate the risks on the work floor, and outline clear guidelines. They communicate this advice to the shop floor and make adjustments where necessary.”

In addition, the IPA can act as the central point of contact for all questions employees may have about the corona crisis. “Where necessary, he/she passes it on to the right person, such as the HR officer. The occupational physician and confidential counsellor can also act as point of contact.”

Compromise with support

The person assuming a coordinating role does not perform the tasks alone. “They consult regularly with the various members of the task force and gathers their ideas. For example, the quality manager is focussed on optimal processes and quality assurance, while HR mainly wants to stimulate employee well-being. It is up to everyone who sets out the general guidelines to reconcile health, productivity, quality and well-being.”

The prevention advisor is the right person to seek consensus while respecting legal guidelines. “Their absolute priorities within the organisation are clear to everyone: to guarantee physical and mental health in the workplace. This reassures employees and increases support of the advice and guidelines to ensure they will be followed.”

Mensura supports your organisation in the time of Corona

We collect frequently asked questions and free resources at our website. Our prevention advisors will assist your organisation (and Internal Prevention Adviser) with advice and assistance.