Many businesses have had a difficult time adjusting to the changes that have occurred during the pandemic. With so many adjustments to the guidance issued by the government, it can be difficult to understand where things stand.At the time of writing, the current guidance for England is that people should work in the office if they can in order to gradually facilitate the return back to offices over time. But what measures should employers consider to keep their workforce safe in line with health and safety standards?
This involves an identification of Covid-19 transmission risks, who might be affected, and what can be done to control any risks. Risk assessments are not a ‘tick box’ exercise, and that is something which the pandemic has highlighted. Therefore, employers should actively consult with their workers or trade union health and safety representatives about these matters.
Starting with any poorly ventilated places as a priority, employers must ensure that any enclosed areas have a sufficient supply of fresh air. CO2 monitors can help to locate any areas of risk. The HSE has provided guidance on this.Proper ventilation can be achieved by keeping windows, air vents or doors open and ensuring that any automated ventilation systems are adjusted to maximise the amount of fresh air being circulated.
Most people will have heard of the 20-second handwashing rule and the various songs or rhymes that can be hummed to time themselves. Employers should emphasise the importance of such hygiene standards with signage and regular communication. Hand-washing and drying facilities must be provided, as well as hand sanitising stations at certain contact points.Other measures include more frequent cleaning, especially for toilet facilities, break rooms and other surfaces that are used the most throughout the day, and providing additional waste disposal facilities for face masks or PPE.
Face coverings and social distancing
Although the rules on social distancing and the use of face coverings have been relaxed, employers should still aim to reduce the risk of transmission. Screens or barriers can be used where people are in close contact. Also, teams can be split up to minimise contact with each other.Employers should encourage their workers and any visitors to wear face coverings, but be aware of the fact that not everyone is able to wear one for health reasons.Any employers not complying with the law or guidance may have action taken against them by the HSE or local authority.