Health & Safety Post-Covid – Be Complacent at Your Peril
As all Covid government rules and restrictions are removed, the phrase we hear so often from small and medium-sized business owners and managers is – ‘returning to normal’.
However, what is ‘normal’ in a post COVID world? It is no exaggeration to say that the pandemic has permanently changed how we work with the rise of home and hybrid working.
From the start of the first Covid restrictions, the main focus of most SME’s was continuing to operate during a pandemic and keeping up to date with ever changing government guidance.
As a result of key staff with health and safety responsibilities being furloughed, working from home, and some service providers not being able to provide a face-to-face service (for example first aid training, fire detection installation service and maintenance), it is clear from our experience that some health and safety responsibilities have now lapsed, and are in desperate need of being readdressed.
It is important to remember – a major health and safety breach can prove devastating not only for the victim, but also your business. As well as potential HSE prosecution fines, there may be a civil claim for compensation. Health and safety should therefore not be seen as a burden but a way for you to protect your employees and your business. In a post-COVID world, this is as important as ever.
So, what can you do?
Here are 5 actions a small to medium business can take right now to make sure they are compliant:
- Review your health and safety documentation including your policy, management system and risk assessments. All risk assessments should be reviewed on an annual basis as best practice or following any significant changes. Consider how to manage new risks such as stress in homeworkers.
- As the demand for workspace decreases with increase in homeworking, some businesses have relocated to smaller premises. Do not forget you now need to carry out new premise-based risk assessments including but not limited to fire, asbestos and legionella where applicable.
- Review your employee training matrix or training records, consider any changes in working patterns. Do you still have an adequate number of first aiders and fire marshals? Has any health and safety training provision lapsed during the pandemic such as forklift truck? Consider if you need to provide health and safety re-inductions for employees that are returning to working in the office, in some cases after many months of absence.
- Check your plant and equipment maintenance schedules to ensure inspections are now up to date – specifically where any statutory responsibilities lie such as with lifting equipment and compressed air systems.
- Provide your employees with good support for mental health. It may take time readjusting, especially for those that were shielding. Provide an open door for employees to discuss any concerns they may have confidentially.
Health & Safety awareness and compliance is as important as ever and has huge consequences if it goes wrong. Whilst it was top of most businesses’ agenda during COVID, be careful of letting that lapse now we’re coming out the other side. Complacency is where the risks reside.