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Returning to the Workplace Safely

Governments all over the world, including the UK, are now slowly moving towards easing lockdowns that have been in place since March 2020 due to COVID-19. As businesses open up, a welcome move by all, employers and employees face a new set of challenges ahead. Without proper planning and SOPs in place, the transition could result in more difficulties then benefits.

The government of UK has laid out its plan for businesses to restart operations. This plan includes eight sets of sector specific guidance for businesses to follow as they deliberate on what steps to taken to ensure safety of all stakeholders involved in their reopening .

Although you may have to alter your plans as the circumstances evolve, here are a few steps that you must consider:

  1. Risk Assessment and Compliance

As an employer you are bound by law to ensure protection of your employees, and others, from harm. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 holds organizations accountable for taking all reasonable steps to ensure protection, welfare and safety of their employees. Moreover, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires organizations to carry out risk assessment to ascertain procedures are in place, to safeguard employees. At the minimum, businesses must:

  • Identify elements or procedures that can be a cause of harm.
  • Restructure work to reduce exposure to harmful situations or elements.
  • Categorize and implement practical measures for safe working as well as provide personal protective equipment if need be and ensure it is used.

 

  1. Managing employee flow

The threat of COVID-19 is far from over and the risk of a second wave is imminent if a large number of employees return to work in shared workspaces without maintaining standard guidelines of social distancing. Therefore, organizations must allow employees the option to work from home, among finding other workable solutions such as creating teams across functional ranks, developing rotation charts for groups so they come in to the office every few days or weekly as per their need. Such plans will mitigate risk and allow for better management of protocols. One thing to keep in mind is that this arrangement may be a concern for cyber-security and organizations may need to revamp their online safety protocols.

 

  1. Employee Training

To make trasition smooth, hold training sessions before opening up operations for your employees. In these sessions, outline key points, emphasize on safety measures and define protocols like when and how to report if an employee ha symptoms or needs to self-isolate. Remember to set up periodic reminders and provide information with health data (including symptoms of COVID-19).  Lastly, clearly define the new procedures for deliveries, visitors and other related events and inform the relevant staff.

 

  1. Workspace Management
  • Book a deep clean for your business space.
  • Inform electricity and water supply companies that you are resuming your operations, so they can continue providing their services.
  • Put up COVID-19 related signage.
  • Install sanitisation gel machines and ensure provision of alcohol wipes.
  • Ensure correct sanitisation, social distancing protocols and cleaning procedures are implemented in shared spaces such as washrooms, conference/meeting rooms.
  • Increase ventilation in your workspace.
  • Instill a clear desk policy to facilitate cleanliness.

For more detailed guidelines, check out Public Health England (PHE) & Health and Safety Executive (HSE). If you’re self- employed, you may want to see what safety and health laws apply to you. If you’re a large organization with higher risks, click here for more information.