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A Safe and Healthy Return to Work

01 May 2020

As we are all aware, unprecedented measures are being implemented across the globe to prevent further outbreaks and spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). 

As business owners and directors, we have a duty of care for our employees (and others who may be affected by our activities) whether they are working from home or in the workplace in these challenging times. I wanted to share some of the measures that can keep your business on the right side of the law and, more importantly, protect people.

The UK Government are still saying that “You may travel for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home”.

If you have people working at home here are some things you can do to help them:

  • Help staff adjust to new ways of working. Offer them e-learning courses such as Display Screen Equipment Awareness (DSE), Stress Awareness, Time Management, Mindfulness and Wellbeing to ensure they are not just working, but working well.
  • More courses are now available as distance learning due to the outbreak which allows staff to develop their skillset and feel a sense of productivity during any downtime. You may want to consider Mental Health First Aid and Contractor HSE Management – make sure they are accredited.
  • Maintain regular contact – short video calls where the focus is around wellbeing rather than work-related issues.
  • Weekly quizzes via video calls.

If you have people in the workplace, or plan a return to work, you will need to look closely at your control measures. Social distancing is a new term and you need to consider some of the following:

  • Always maintain 2m separation from other persons.
  • If 2m separation cannot be maintained because of the task, other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) e.g. masks may need to be worn and these need to be worn/fitted properly
  • Welfare/breakout areas need to be carefully managed to maintain the 2m rule
  • Desks should be 2m from designated walkways
  • Start and finish times may need to be staggered to avoid multiple people in communal areas

You will also have to consider enhanced cleaning regimes, workplace equipment and ensure that you still maintain an adequate number of first aid personnel and fire wardens.

If you have people travelling to work, you will need to have a conversation with them around some of the following points:

  • Avoid using public transport
  • If travel by public transport is unavoidable – maintain 2m separation from other travellers, avoid touching surfaces, wearing gloves and avoid rush hours.

It is important to mention that every workplace is different and a risk assessment will be required. In the first instance, you should speak to your health and safety manager for further advice. The key things to remember are:

Compliance – make sure you and your staff are abiding by the Law

Communication – be clear on the new safe systems of work, you should brief staff regularly and update on any changes

Comforting – many people will be apprehensive at the moment and even more so if they have to return to their workplaces. Reassure them by putting in place measures that will protect their own and their family’s health.

We can all do our little bit to help and hopefully we will emerge stronger on the other side of this pandemic.

Iain Hyslop is the Managing Director of Project Health & Safety Services Limited

Please note, this content is not produced by the IoD and therefore does not necessarily represent the views or thoughts of the organisation.

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