22 June 2020

Keeping employees safe when they return to work

Keeping employees safe when they return to work

While businesses may be keen to return to their workplaces as soon as possible, their workforce may have serious concerns about doing so. Therefore, reassurance for workers is crucial if companies are to effectively attract them back to work and get the company up and running again.

Maintaining Social Distancing (useful tips)
Many organizations may not have sufficient space in an office environment to seat people two meters apart. It may be necessary to rearrange furniture or to install partition walls. It may also be possible to maintain a distance between desks by alternating the days or times that different groups occupy the workplace, minimizing the number of people present at any one time. Other restrictions may be needed, such as how many people are allowed to use a lift, share a lunch area or be in a meeting room. You can need to restrict the number of workers in the workplace at any one time to comply with the appropriate social distancing regulations.

Useful tips

  • Have one way routes around the office
  • Staggering work times / altering shift patterns
  • Arranging continued / home or flexible working arrangements
  • Restricting access to work areas / departments / buildings on site, other than their own
    Signposting routes and exclusion areas

Or, in you have sufficient space in your workplace rearranging desks so individuals are keep the required distance apart

Work Stations (useful tips

  • If available you could offer staff protective face masks / gloves etc. (but leave to their choice to wear or not).
  • If practical, you may consider that removing desks or changing work station arrangements, to enable staff to maintain the required distance from their colleagues.
  • Alternatively, you could turn desks around so that people face each other and/or install partitions between desks, such as Perspex or glass screens.
  • Provide hand sanitiser for each desk and encourage staff to use it frequently, at minimum every time they occupy or leave their workstation.
  • Staff should use their own equipment , for example. PC, stapler, etc., not a loan to colleagues. If any equipment is shared, such as a photocopier, only one person should be allowed to use the office protocol at a time (no waiting).
  • Sanitiser wipes should be provided so that any part of the kit that is touched can be wiped away – both before and after use.
  • Phones should never be shared with anyone. If a change of personnel is required on the phone, e.g. at reception, the mouthpiece should be thoroughly disinfected before (and after) further use.

Welfare Facilities (useful tips)
This includes toilets, laundry facilities , water fountains and vending machines, resting areas and canteens – in fact, wherever staff or others would normally congregate.

  • Discourage people from waiting or, if they do, allowing the floor markings to keep them at a safe distance. Wipes should be made available to clean any touch screens, handles, etc. Canteens should only provide pre-wrapped food.
  • Furniture in any food or rest area should be minimized to allow for social distancing. Special attention should be paid to the regular and thorough cleaning of these and the wash / toilet facilities to ensure that a high level of hygiene is maintained at all times.
  • If businesses receive visitors, such as customers or delivery drivers, they will need businesses to make toilet / washing facilities available. Also, they may want to offer them face masks and gloves to wear when on the premises.

Air Conditioning / Water systems (useful tips)

  • Water systems that have remained unused for weeks of lockdown may be susceptible to bacterial contamination such as Legionella. It is therefore essential that the necessary checks be carried out before the premises for occupation are opened
  • Businesses should consult their air-con provider as to what provision has been made or can be made to ensure that air can not be contaminated if any member of the COVID-19 staff is present.
  • Adjust timings so that the system is installed at least an hour before, and an hour after, the work place is occupied.
  • When a business has windows that can be opened, encourage staff to do so – and let fresh air blow through.

Making Alterations (useful tips)
If the business premises plan includes making changes to their premises, such as removing partition walls or adding an extension, they need to ensure that they have completed the necessary checks / asked the relevant permissions where necessary, such as

  • If premises were constructed before the year 2000, the Asbestos record shall ensure that damage is avoided in any area where it is present.
  • Responsibility of undertakings as holders of duties with regard to the CDM Regulations
  • Planning permission

Making premises visitor ready (useful tips)
If an essential part of a business involves people other than staff coming to their premises, such as attending appointments or making deliveries / collections, consideration will have to be given to how they can achieve the social distance required for these visitors. This may include contractors, suppliers and customers, and may include the accommodation of vehicles they drive.

Measures to take
Precautionary measures to be taken in common areas such as entrances / exit areas, reception areas, lobby areas, lifts, stairs, delivery bays, etc. shall include the following;

  • Plan essential office meetings carefully – through a central point – so that there aren’t too many visitor on the premises at the same time.  Leave enough time to wipe down meeting room tables, chairs etc.
  • Remove reception furniture to reduce public touchpoints
  • Provide clear instruction signage throughout your premises
  • Reduce the number of entrances i.e.  restrict “in” & “out” to particular doorways / routes throughout the premises, if at all possible
  • Mark floors in waiting areas to separate people at required distances and clearly signpost queuing areas
  • Provide glass screens between visitors and reception staff, safe interaction training to all staff receiving visitors. Consider providing PPE to visitors
  • Lifts can be a specific challenge when it comes to social distances. Safer use of protocols may include encouraging the use of stairs as an alternative / restricting the number of users at any one time.
  • Block off alternate car-parking spaces. Designate clear time-slots for deliveries to avoid vehicles queueing
  • Review alternative ways of signing for deliveries other than signing a touch pad

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