There are four parts to the thought process of returning to work safely. As the situation evolves, you’ll most likely need to revisit each stage: 1. Thinking about returning to work 2. Preparing to return to work 3. Executing the return to work 4. Monitoring the work situation
Returning to work: four key stages 1. Thinking about returning to work Is a return to work permitted? -Checked the latest government guidelines to be sure a return to work is feasible. -Is there an alternative way? -Do my business activities require specific actions? -How is the mental well-being of the team
2. Preparing to return to work You will need to complete a specific risk assessment. We cannot Eliminate or Substitute Covid at the moment therefore controls need to be through engineering or administrative mitigation with the provision of PPE being a last resort.
Every business is different. The risk assessment needs to be completed as part of their Covid-19 return to work process. Risk assessments have always been viewed as an important way to protect employees and others from harm since the process helps to identify risks and establish the best controls. They should involve workers. Do not forget to consider the heightened risks faced by any vulnerable staff or customers. And other risks such as legionella, fire safety, statutory inspections.
Whilst the risk to health from COVID-19 is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the threat of terrorism nonetheless remains substantial. It is essential that businesses and other organisations remain cognisant of these threats as they look to adjust their operations, ensuring that security measures are proactively adapted to support and complement other changes.
Communication is everything!! to staff, customers, contractors, suppliers… Communicate your Covid-19 return to work plans in a careful and comprehensive way. Factor this in from day one – having the best plan and controls in place won’t matter if employees do not understand what they are doing. The HSE have issued a guide on talking to employees about Covid-19. Communication about what the new normal will look like. Retraining on Fire Life Safety, Covid Code of Conduct, Customer interaction.
3. Executing the return to work Have return to work interviews been completed? A large part of your execution will be around how to factor in social distancing? Remember the guidance is still 2m. In England it can be 1m with risk mitigation (where 2m is not viable) are acceptable. You should consider and set out the mitigation measures you will introduce in your risk assessment.
Infection control. Select disinfecting products approved by health authorities. Carry out a mapping of the building for hand contact surfaces. Remove extraneous items (magazines). Implement enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures. Ensuring adequate soap and hand sanitisers. Procedures must be in place to deal with a case of a sick staff member or guest, in accordance with Government advice. You should find ways to hold details of all person who have been in your premises for up to 21 days. What P.P.E. maybe required? Is there anything I should consider about face masks? If your business risk assessment identifies a need for face masks, be sure they fit properly. And they must be donned and doffed correctly!!
Rebuild trust & confidence – clear consistent and enhanced communication with staff and guests on new H&S protocols
4. Monitoring the work situation Regular review of risk assessments. The necessary frequency of Covid-19 risk assessments will vary depending on your business type and the evolving government guidelines. You should be particularly mindful if one of your employees has shown any symptoms during the preceding 14 days.
Has my message been absorbed by employees? Check in with employees regularly to be sure they understand what they should be doing to prevent the risks posed by Covid-19.
Is there anything else I should be aware of? You should also be aware of the updated RIDDOR requirements, which set out how instances of Covid-19 should be reported in the workplace.
Preparing to navigate this new era will be no simple feat. As the world continues to suffer at the hands of the pandemic, organisations which adopt new processes in order to minimise health and safety risks may fare better than others.
The process of thinking, preparing, executing and monitoring is by no means linear. Remaining agile enough to react to local developments – and return to stage one when required – will help to give your business the best chance of staying compliant and profitable well into the future.
This list is not exhaustive – since the Covid-19 pandemic is a new threat, different processes may be advised as the situation develops. Work collaboratively with industry and government.
By conducting all the relevant reviews, you’ll have the best chance of maintaining the trust of staff, customers and wider society.
Nina is keen for everyone to Be Safe and Keep Well and shares tips on how to best do so.