Health & Safety: Considerations For Returning To Work After COVID-19
As the country begins to anticipate and prepare for a return to work following the lockdown, employers need to start thinking about how to ensure their workers and others effected by their business activities are adequately protected from contracting COVID-19.
The duty of care has not changed, and additional considerations are now needed to ensure reasonable control measures have been implemented before a safe return to the workplace begins.
It is also important to note that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has suggested it will prosecute employers who fail to provide adequate control measures, and that it may issue fines or a prohibition notice (closing of the business) to those who are found to be in breach of the legislation.
To ensure you give reasonable consideration to controlling potential contact with COVID-19, risk assessments should be reviewed or put in place that consider what further control measures are required to minimise this risk.
When the risk assessment review has been completed, it needs to be communicated effectively to all staff or others and a receipt retained for the communication.
Considerations of control in general terms may be:
- Provide suitable supervision to ensure the identified control measures are in place and are being adhered to which a periodic review undertaken to identify any shortfalls.
- Provide equipment for staff to work effectively and safely from home where possible and undertake a home working risk assessment.
- Monitor the wellbeing of colleagues working from home and offer support to identify any health, mental health, or stress related issues, consider the need for a lone working risk assessment.
- Consideration should be given to remote workers in terms of video communications to minimise the effects of isolation.
- Employees should be encouraged to report to line management any symptoms that may be related to having contracted COVID-19
- Ensure that were PPE is identified on the risk assessment, supplies are always readily available, this may be hand sanitizers, masks, disposable clothing, gloves, screens etc.
- Arrange workplace seating/desks so the employees face away from each other or work side-to-side where possible, so they are not face-to-face
- To minimise contact with others, stagger shifts and break times
- If a canteen provides meals, consider providing packaged meals
- Provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entrances and exits, displaying suitable signage for good hand washing techniques
- Consider how people travel around the building, by regulating the use of corridors, lifts, and staircases, providing hand sanitisers for the operation of lifts and encourage the use of stairs
- Use floor tape or paint to mark out two-metre distances
- Discourage non-essential trips within buildings and sites
- Have separate entry and exit points to the building, and introduce one-way flow routes
- Reduce congestion by having more entry points were possible
- Use screens to create physical barriers between people where possible
- Provide protective screening for staff in receptions or similar areas
- Provide alternatives to touch-based security devices such as keypads, possibly with a fob type sign in system, mark clocking in gathering areas with a suitable floor marking system to maintain the 2-metre rule
- Encourage staff to clean up after eating etc, ensuring suitable bins are provided and that they are emptied on a regular basis to stop waste build up
At the moment, we don’t know how long additional control measures will be required for and may be in place until a suitable vaccine has been developed, or various controls may be carried on as a business improvement.
As part of the risk assessment review process, consideration should be given to new information being provided by the government or your health and safety provider, which should be acted upon, with risk assessments updated as required and re-communicated to your staff.
For more information on how Howarths can support you with health and safety and risk assessments for returning to work after lockdown, please contact us.