People across the UK start the gradual return to work today, following the government’s announcement of their measures to ease lockdown and get the economy kickstarted again.
To help businesses become “COVID-19 Secure”, the Government has published guidelines for eight specific sectors.
The Government has also stated that businesses reopening under current lockdown restrictions will be subject to inspections to check they are keeping workers safe.
With businesses only being given two days to implement these measures, are employers leaving their employees and themselves exposed to increased risk by rushing back to the “new normal”?
Here we look at what every employer should do to focus on preventing transmission and ensuring their workforce can carry out their jobs safely.
What can Employers do?
First off, as with any hazard in the workplace, we look to eliminate it. While we cannot eliminate the virus itself, we can eliminate the need to go into the workplace. If your employees can carry out work from home, then they should continue to do so. This also goes for any workers who are classed as vulnerable or who live with a vulnerable person.
Home working will not be possible for many industries. If this is the case, then employers must first carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment to determine how the virus could impact their employees and processes. We are currently undertaking COVID-19 risk assessments on behalf of our Clients who are returning to work while offering guidance on control measures to mitigate the risk of transmission.
One of the key controls for reducing transmission of the virus is social distancing. All employers must put measures in place to allow workers to remain two metres apart where possible.
This can be achieved by redesigning the workplace to ensure workstations are adequately separated with processes also being adapted to accommodate distancing. An employer should consider splitting staff into teams with alternate days working from home or splitting across a day and night shift.
Where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, employers should consider using one-way systems and signage such as floor markings to remind employees and facilitate compliance, particularly in the most crowded areas. This includes entry points to buildings, toilets, and communal areas where queues or gatherings may form. Regular reminders to the workforce will also help maintain distancing.
All employees should be encouraged to bring their own meals (and cutlery) to work with them as canteens and vending machines present further transmission opportunities
Cleaning of workplaces should be carried out more often, paying close attention to high-contact surfaces like door handles, toilet flushers and keyboards. Hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser must also be provided at all entry and exit points.
Personal Protective Equipment such as masks, gloves and eye protection should also be considered, but only as a last resort or to facilitate the more effective controls mentioned above.
Employers must also develop arrangements for any suspected cases of COVID-19 within their workforce, requiring those with symptoms not to enter the workplace. Employees should be encouraged to familiarise themselves with the symptoms and advised to follow the Online NHS guidance if they have any concerns.
So much to do, so little time…
With only a few days to implement these measures, how can employers ensure they get all this right? This is where we at Safety For Design come in. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been providing guidance and support for our clients and will continue to do so.
We offer guidance and support services for complying with these new guidelines. Whether it is assisting with a complete redesign of a workplace, carrying out a risk assessment or a workplace inspection to review the effectiveness of newly implemented COVID-19 measures; our clients and their workers are already benefiting from this advice in their planning for a “new normal” in the workplace.