There is the threat of new variants, some of which may evade immunity. This would require the development, production and rollout of a new generation of vaccines. Then there are those choosing not to have the jab, sometimes over fears of its safety.
However, the anti-vaccine movement could seriously undermine global efforts to end the pandemic, and at the very least bring it under control.
These potential threats to worldwide efforts to end Covid-19 mean that whatever line of business you are in, you must assess the risks of Covid entering your premises, spreading through your workforce and potentially being passed on to clients and visitors.
Indeed, the UK government has issued guidance to help you ensure that your premises are covid-secure.
Also, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 businesses are by law to protect employees and others from harm, including the potential harm that Covid-19 can cause.
This is the minimum you should do:
- Identify any hazard in your business that could cause injury or illness.
- Assess the likelihood that someone could be harmed and calculate the level of risk.
- Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
In this blog, we will outline the steps you need to assess the risks in your business premises so that you can take the steps needed to make them covid-secure.
Carry out a risk assessment
Whether your business premises is a factory, warehouse or office, or you are a taxi driver, driving instructor or delivery driver, or you run a hospitality or leisure business, you MUST ensure that your working environment is covid-secure.
So, whatever constitutes your place of work, the first thing you must do is carry out a risk assessment.
The HSE has mapped out exactly what you need to do in an easy-to-read document that is worth downloading and following.
Here are a few things to take into consideration:
Think about your employees who may be more at risk. The World Economic Forum has published some helpful information that will help you identify people who may be at greater risk. These include bus drivers, front-line health workers and anyone who has to work close to others.
If you employ people who live in multi-generational households, you should check with them about the precautions they are taking so that you can support them.
Check you have adequate washroom facilities
Because coronavirus and other germs can pass from surfaces to people, you must ensure that you provide sufficient handwashing facilities and hand sanitising stations to protect your employees.
The HSE is also very clear about the importance of providing hand sanitiser as part of an overall strategy to instil a culture of hand hygiene in your workplace.
The wearable Orbel hand sanitiser is available for the first time in the UK and could revolutionise the ease of providing a medical-grade hand cleanser. Its clever ergonomic design means that it has habit-forming qualities that will help reinforce its use.
Where toilets and handwashing facilities are concerned, the HSE is very clear. This is what it says employers must do:
- Provide enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them.
- Where possible, you should provide separate facilities for men and women.
- The facilities must be clean and hygienic.
- There must be a supply of toilet paper.
- All washing facilities must be well lit and fully ventilated.
- You will need to provide hot and cold running water.
- Ensure that there is always enough soap or other washing agents.
- Basins should be large enough to wash hands and forearms if necessary.
- There must be an effective way of drying hands – paper towels or a hot-air dryer.
- Showers should be provided where people are involved in dirty work.
For all the above, you must always consider the needs of those with disabilities.
- Social distancing
The government advice remains that, where possible, you should keep people two meters apart in your workplace. To assess the risks in your premises, a starting point is to map out where people sit or are positioned to do their work.
If people sit face to face, it’s worth considering if you can change the layout so that they sit side by side to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of the virus.
You will also need to carry out a detailed study of how people move around your premises during the course of a working day. Look out for bottlenecks in restrooms, canteens and reception areas. There may be other pinch points to consider, such as changing facilities and showers, lifts, narrow corridors and storage spaces.
Once you have completed the assessment, you will be able to formulate a plan to manage the movement of people, perhaps by introducing staggered breaks, placing floor markings to help people maintain social distancing or limiting the number of people that can use congested areas at any one time.
Cleaning and hygiene
In addition to ensuring that you have ample washroom facilities and hand sanitising stations, it is critical to establish a regime of deep cleaning across every part of your premises.
To assess the risk, you will need to have an up-to-date equipment inventory and detailed information about who uses what and when.
You must then ensure that tools and machinery are cleaned and sanitised between users.
You may need to increase how often and how thoroughly you clean your workplace, as well as cleaning surfaces that you do not usually clean. You must also identify frequently touched surfaces so that these can be cleaned more regularly than other areas.
When assessing frequently touched surfaces, there are many to bear in mind:
- Work surfaces like desks and workstations.
- Handles on doors, windows, rails, dispensers and water coolers.
- Bannister rails.
- Vehicle handles, steering wheels, seat belts and internal vehicle surfaces.
- Control panels for machinery, control pads and switches.
- Computer keyboards, printers, touch screens, monitors and phones.
- Taps, kettles, water heaters, fridges, microwaves and cupboards.
- Shared equipment like tools, machines, vehicles, pallet trucks and delivery boxes.
- Post and goods coming in or being shipped out.
If you are cleaning because of a known or suspected case of COVID-19 in your workplace you should follow the GOV.UK guidance.
You must ensure that all spaces within your premises, where people work or visit have plenty of ventilation. This is a critical component to keeping people safe.
To assess the quality of ventilation in your workplace you’ll need to walk around every part of your premises, including offices, warehouses, storage rooms, washrooms, corridors and reception areas – in fact absolutely everywhere – and make a note of how each space is ventilated.
In rooms with windows, you can increase the circulation of fresh air by simply opening them more often. It will also be worth looking at the number of vents you have and whether you need to install mechanical systems such as extractor fans or air conditioning, or a combination of both.
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