Getting back to work safely
Employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to. This could include reconfiguring workspaces and common areas to allow appropriate social distancing, possible changes to working hours, and increased workplace cleaning and sanitation measures.
Our key product categories for COVID safety in the workplace
Safe people top tips
Communicate the organisational plan — be open and honest with all workers and ensure clarity. The workers have a right to know what the organisation is doing to help protect its workers, and to help them to return to work safely
Set boundaries for working hours — allow workers to disengage from work when they are required to or introduce reduced working hours to begin with. The emotional stress for some of those returning to work maybe high.
Showing compassion and flexibility will allow workers to feel more secure and safe when returning to work. This will also allow workers to continue a healthier work-life balance when they return home after work.
Encourage good standards of hygiene — educate workers in the importance of good personal hygiene and maintaining good hygiene of working equipment, e.g. wiping keyboards with cleaning products. Ensure workers follow any new cleaning procedures and regimes
Stand regularly — it’s important for workers to take regular rest breaks and to stand up often to experience health benefits. Extra movements, stretching and physical exercise can enhance the health benefits. This can also encourage social interaction whilst socially distancing.
Allow flexibility — to help workers manage their own health and that of others during their return to work. Allow them to take extra rest breaks if required and to address other concerns or issues alongside their working. Ensure that work deadlines and timescales are reasonable. This will help to reduce stress.
Provide varied tasks, if possible — try to offer some variety of work to allow dynamic thinking and working during the return to work transition. This will help to provide fresh cognitive challenges and allow workers to feel stimulated, motivated, and productive.
Social distancing is a public health measure that helps to reduce the spread of infection. Where possible, your organisation should encourage this and workers should observe the social distancing guidance.
Use barriers or screens such as plastic or fabric curtains – office furniture such as plant pots or bins will not suffice.
The workplace should be clean and hygienic, and your organisation must promote regular and thorough hand-washing with soap. You must also provide hand sanitiser in dispensers around the workplace and provide access to anyone entering the building or site.
Provide distance marking on floors, especially where workers or members of the public may need to queue.
Provide appropriate signage of Covid-19 measures still in place within the workplace.
Use markings and one-way flow at entry and exit points and implement one-way systems where possible on walkways around the workplace.
Provide cleaning staff with appropriate PPE/RPE
Disposable nitrile or vinyl gloves can be used to minimise spread of virus by direct contact. Be aware of donning/removing these correctly and be aware of secondary risks such as dermatitis, so provide hand-care such as moisturisers and aftercare cream.
RPE such as half or quarter face masks or respirators may need face-fit testing
A note on cleaning
It is important to realise how long the coronavirus can survive and remain infective on surfaces. A study published in The Lancet (2 April 2020) found that the virus lasted longest, up to seven days, on stainless steel, plastic and surgical masks. The researchers behind the study tested the virus’ life span in a room at 71°F and 65% relative humidity. On printing and tissue paper, no infectious virus could be detected after three hours. On wood and cloth, the time was two days and on banknotes and glass, four days.
The study therefore suggests that if you are opening a business for the first time since a lockdown scenario of over seven days, that it is unlikely that any coronavirus on surfaces are still active.
Source: The Lancet
See our Clinell section – kills COVID-19 in 30 seconds used in 94% of UK Hospitals
Managing supplies post Covid-19
Covid-19 has caused a significant rise in the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE). Respiratory protection(RPE), face protection and gloves have all been used to protect people during the pandemic and this shouldn’t be expected to stop once the pandemic calms.
Organisations may see a rise in the number of respiratory masks and gloves requested by workers. Workers may feel safer by continuing to use the safety controls put in place during the pandemic, in the case there is another outbreak.
In-house checks can be completed daily, weekly, monthly or annually depending on the type of equipment in question. Covid-19 has forced many organisations to close and therefore miss scheduled in house checks.
Before re-starting business or any type of production, missed checks on equipment need to be conducted to determine that the equipment is safe to use.
Third party / external inspections
Organisations should endeavour to fulfil all external/statutory inspections despite the current circumstances. It’s advisable to give access to external inspection bodies in order to fulfil any statutory checks. Inspections should only be cancelled if all options to make the inspections safely have been exhausted and there is no way to inspect in a safe way.
Lateral Flow testing
With an increasing number of employees returning to work during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to ensure they feel protected and safeguarded from Covid-19 exposure in the workplace.
These tests are easy to use and provide fast and accurate results. This service is suitable for employers looking to test employees and/ or anyone who is in regular contact with your organisation, with minimal training required.
Business direction – what has been the impact of the virus on the strategic direction, financial stability and/or the resources available for on-going viability of the strategy, vision and goals?
Consider / Review
- Policy statement of Intent
- Improvement Planning; targets and milestones
- Leadership commitments and focus
- Worker expectations and degree of engagement
Legislative and guidance requirements for safeguarding individuals in the workplace need to be adhered to (disease detection, prevention and control)
Consider / Review
- Horizon scanning – adherence to new/evolving legislation, standards and guidance
- Identify & implement controls (including spec Government guidance)
- Procedures for enhanced hygiene regime and facilities
- Policy and procedure for PPE/RPE;
- Risk based – Task driven v worker confidence/virus control
- Arrangements for ensuring distancing measures – physical and/or temporal
Leaders may be under pressure to “perform” in uncertain, complex and ambiguous circumstances. Standards for good leadership practices should not be eroded.
Consider / Review
- Occupational health resource, including mental health and well being
- Training Resources and planning
- OSH professional team/skill set
- Leadership structure & behaviours
- Maintaining good leadership practices
- Maintaining trust and integrity
Communication strategy – frequency & style
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We recommend keeping up to date with the latest governement advice
The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are:
a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normalIf you have any of these symptoms, get a test to check if you have coronavirus and stay at home until you get your result.