With the majority of UK adults expected to have their first dose of Covid vaccine by the end of May, you could be forgiven for thinking that the need to provide a Covid-secure workplace is less of a priority.
But this is not the case. The government has made it clear that employers are under strict obligations to do everything they can to make the workplace as safe as possible for staff, customers, tradespeople – anyone who may visit their premises.
Because businesses vary so widely and operate from such diverse premises and sites, there’s no one way to make a workplace Covid-secure. Instead, each company must consider the official government rules and guidance and consider what specific measures it should implement to protect its workers, visitors and other people.
Here are our 5 top tips for creating a Covid-secure workplace:
The first thing to do is to assess the risk of coronavirus entering and spreading in your workplace. This will help you to understand what you should do to work safely and protect people. It’s essential to identify the types of work activity or situations that could cause transmission of the virus. You should also think about who could be at risk and decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has produced a detailed guide to help you complete your Covid-19 risk assessment.
Where possible, you should keep people 2 metres apart. If this is not viable, keeping 1 metre apart with risk mitigation is acceptable. Some of the measures you could take to help people stick to the guidance include using floor tape or stickers to remind people to remain 2 metres apart. You should also provide signage and rearrange work stations so that people are working side-by-side instead of face-to-face. The HSE has issued a detailed guide about maintaining social distancing in the workplace, which is well worth checking out.
Cleaning and hygiene
As an employer, you are obligated by law to do everything possible to protect people from harm. With the coronavirus here to stay, you must maintain a strict regime of deep cleaning and hand hygiene. We have learned that Covid-19 passes from person to person via airborne bacteria, but the virus can also survive for many hours on surfaces. This means a person could become infected by touching any form of shared surface where the virus is lurking. Ensure that any equipment or tools are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised between shifts and when different people need to swap workstations.
Additionally, employers are required to provide adequate washroom facilities, with soap and hand drying facilities. In situations where this is impossible, employers should provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing between 60 and 80 per cent alcohol. This may require the provision of hand sanitising stations, placing large hand sanitiser pumps at strategic entry and exit points. Wearable hand sanitiser devices are the gold standard solution. These devices, such as the British designed Orbel hand sanitiser, easily clip on to a person’s clothing, pocket or belt, ensuring that hand sanitisation is never more than an arm’s length away. The HSE has put together some guidance to help you.
It is a legal requirement for employers to ensure an adequate supply of fresh air in the workplace. Adequate ventilation reduces how much virus is in the air, thereby reducing the chances of aerosol transmission, when someone breathes in small particles (aerosols) in the air after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area. You can take some simple measures, such as opening windows or using mechanical ventilation, such as fans or ducts, to bring in fresh air from outside. Further advice is available on the HSE website.
You can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test your employees twice a week in the workplace. Unfortunately, you needed to register by 12 April 2021 and must go through an approved provider after this date. If your business is closed or you cannot provide tests now, you should still have registered so you can order tests in the future. This is a great way to keep tabs on your workforce’s health and assessing the likelihood of contamination among staff.
The government’s roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions states that people should continue to work from home where possible. However, there are many businesses such as food manufacturing and the healthcare sector where people have no choice but to work from the company’s premises.
From 12 April, many non-essential businesses were able to reopen, such as hairdressers, a wide variety of retailers and those in leisure and hospitality. No business or industry sector with people working in its premises is exempt from the Covid-secure rules, so if you haven’t already, now’s the time to make sure you have everything in place to protect your employees and visitors.
Be sure to communicate with your staff about the steps you are taking. This will boost their confidence about returning to the workplace and ensure that you are viewed positively by internal and external stakeholders. You should also offer comprehensive training so that everyone understands what they need to do and how to do it.
These are the steps you need to take to ensure a safe return to work and maintain the confidence of workers who already need to come into the workplace.
Further information is available on the government’s coronavirus page.
To find out how you can comply with COVID-secure guidelines and keep your staff safe in the workplace, get in touch with us today.