Returning To Work The Safe Way
Whether you’re a business that has not been trading at all during the main lockdown period, or you’ve been trading on a limited basis, or you've been fortunate enough to be fully operational but with all staff working from home, there will be a time where is it necessary to plan and phase a return to work.
It’s important that employers continue to base any plans for returning to the workplace on up-to-date Government and public health guidance in relation to COVID-19.
We’ve listed out some simple actions that can be taken to ensure that the return of employees is carried out safely and effectively.
If you can do your job from home, work from home
Whilst we are still by no means out of the pandemic, steps should be taken by employers to assist their staff to be able to work from home effectively. And for staff and customer meetings that would usually take place in conference rooms or off site; remote meeting facilities and video-conferencing should be encouraged wherever possible to minimise the need for staff to travel and/or use public transport.
That said, many people cannot carry out their job at home, and some business are phasing the return of office staff to improve their operations.
Perform a COVID-19 risk assessment
Employers must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what measures will need to be put in place.
Questions which must be addressed in this assessment are:
- Who might be affected?
- What measures are already in place that will help eliminate the spread?
- What further action do you need to take to control this risk?
- Who needs to carry out the action?
- When the action is needed by?
Social distancing and other control measures
In office spaces, employers should re-design the layout and schedule to maintain a 1+ metre distance between people. This can be done by staggering start times, creating an office/WFH rota, making one way systems on narrow walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing desk plans.
On sites, employers should look into putting up barriers to segregate work areas, creating shifts or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another.
Depending on the working environment and nature of the task, it may be necessary to provide additional PPE, including gloves, masks and sanitizing gel. You can view our COVID-19 related products here. If workers are to wear gloves or masks, then training on their correct usage will need to be considered as both can be almost pointless if used inaccurately.
Which leads us on to the next point…
Communication and education for staff
To ensure safety has priority when managing a safe return to the workplace for staff, it’s crucial to work closely with those responsible for health and safety. Communicate the practical measures you are taking to staff on a regular basis to help reassure them that their health, well-being and safety has been considered and they will be in a safe environment. Make the rules and procedures clear that employees should follow, especially if they begin to experience symptoms.
Workplace cleansing and sanitization
Workplaces absolutely should be cleaned more frequently, especially the high-contact areas and objects like door handles and keyboards. Handwashing facilities and hand sanitising points should be easily accessible and at both entry and exit points.
If your premises have been closed for a period of time, you should consider carrying out a deep-cleanse before reopening.
As well as physical, the mental impact of a pandemic and it's consequent affects on the economy, job security, closure of schools, bereavement and much more, must also be considered. Let staff know who they can talk to if they're struggling and perhaps add in some temporary measures which will help them through the short-term pain.
Further useful information on every aspect of Coronavirus can be found on the Government website, and is kept up-to-date with the latest guidelines and advice.