With April 12th fast approaching and most daring to dream that we might be venturing back into the workplace for the first time in a while, we asked Michelle Hay of Michelle Hay Health & Safety to give us a checklist of what to consider.
She talked about her own PPE ABC – People, Places, Experience – and the importance of taking a fresh look at risk. Consider the HSE’s risk assessment on Michelle’s home page. Michelle (pictured) can also carry out a Covid-19 safety audit to double check that business owners have done all that can be done.
Who is able to return to work?
Business owners need to consider who is able to return to work – who is willing, able and happy to be there. While most might be really keen to get back in, others might be looking for a flexible arrangement, while others might be looking for a permanent home-based solution. These may be vulnerable employees, people with underlying health conditions or those shielding others. Bespoke planning for all individuals is key. We would recommend giving everyone a pre-return health questionnaire, followed by some one on one discussions. It will be important to monitor mental and physical health whatever working road is agreed.
How will they get to work safely?
Discuss commuter arrangements. How is public transport looking, are people comfortable to be travelling with others, how available and reliable are services, what are work start and end times looking like, do we need to wear PPE? With more people cycling than ever before what provisions can you make for someone cycling in to work, can showers be made available, where can they store their bike safely?
How will people feel safe at work?
What assurances can you give that this is a safe environment. This is about involvement and commitment from management to do all that is reasonably practicable to make work safe. This will include control of toilets and communal areas – one in one out is great, but who polices it? Revisit your Covid-19 policy from the first lockdown. Does it need tightening or adapting? In big organisations pre and daily briefings, training and supervision might be in order, especially in the early days and a work-based testing programme might launch. Everyone needs to understand what is expected of us to take care of each other. Never have the three Cs – communication, co-ordination and cooperation been more important. Monitoring and regularly reviewing policies is a must do.
Know the hazards and risks – protect people
Using the HSE’s Covid-19 risk assessment form you can identify the hazards and control the risks. Look at developing cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures, maintaining 2m social distancing, where possible and where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.
People cannot be trusted to do the right things all of the time so make it easy by factoring in how people move around an office or workplace and how they behave. How do people normally interact with each other to do their jobs? Rules for likely scenarios must be agreed in advance and in collaboration so there are no grey areas. What are the processes around an individual job spec, what environmental factors should be taken into consideration? How much space is there to work from and move to, what is ventilation like. Management teams will be asked to lead on responses. Do so with confidence, having taken collective and individual soundings on what is reasonably practicable. Everyone then has a duty of care to keep to the rule once in place.
Where am I going back to?
Check out water systems in advance of anyone coming back in to your office space. You don’t want to risk people catching legionella disease from a contaminated water system after 12 months of it sat idle. Air conditioning units should be reviewed as well, make sure there is plenty of ventilation and air quality is good. Same with fire alarms and other systems check, cleaning and disinfecting rotas and don’t forget about the usual slips, trips and falls. Is anything more likely to happen as you set up Covid-safe practices. Is there a lot of manual handling in your organisation – who does what and when, what can be picked up and passed on, what cleaning and disinfecting of product and common areas will be needed? Where are busy contact points on surface and stock? What must not be shared?
Let’s get physical
Most businesses have some sort of keypad mechanism to get into a building. Those with keypads need to consider overriding the systems and investing in automatic doors instead. Look at how you can isolate, enclose or separate people to keep them safer. Many companies have invested in screens and other barriers.
Safe systems of work
Many hospitality businesses came up with new ways of working and serving customers after the first lockdown, limiting movement of people, one in, one out, keeping 2m apart, behind a barrier, back to back, side by side and the washing or sanitising hands and equipment regularly. This needs to be revisited to ensure safe systems of work.
Information, instruction, training and supervision
Make sure everyone knows about your new Safe Systems – staff and customers. This can be done verbally or with signs and posters. Be big, bold, bright and obvious. Remember to refresh posters regularly – after three days people don’t see them anymore.
Personal protective equipment
Make masks compulsory for everyone when moving around your business.
A final thought
It’s imperative to record what you have done to reduce the risks. Have I done everything that is reasonably practicable to keep my staff and customers safe? Three key steps. Demonstrate your intent, evidence your plans, record and review. Inspire everyone in a duty of care to each other. We all need to take responsibility for safe working now and in the future.