Following the UK Government’s announcement on Sunday (10th May) the message is still very much work from home if you can. For those who can’t work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, they have been encouraged to return to work this week. However, the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still very much sticking to the ‘Stay at Home’, message and not encouraging a return to work.
That said, over the coming months, each country will begin to roll out their plan to ease us out of lockdown – however slowly. It is therefore prudent for businesses to begin to develop plans for their workplace in a post-lockdown world.
The process will no doubt be in stages with strict guidelines for businesses and industries to follow. Each workplace, employer and industry will have very different requirements and challenges so each situation should be looked at individually.
The UK Government have released new guidance for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and the links are below – It is important to note this guidance is for businesses in England. The Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are sure to issue their own so please ensure you are following the correct guidance applicable for your business.
Gov.uk – New guidance launched to help get Brits safely back to work
Gov.uk – Working Safely During Covid-19
CCRS have pulled together some guidance for businesses to help them in their post-lockdown planning.
AXA Insurance has also produced a series of Risk Guides to help get businesses up and running that you may find useful. You can find these here
Above all, continue to refer to Government advice and guidelines. The end of lockdown will not mean the end of Covid-19 so it is vital we all work within the constraints set out by the Government. The guidance is continually changing so always make sure you are keeping up to date with the latest advice.
Determine when to reopen – review the guidelines provided by Government to understand when it is safe for your business to re-open. This will be different depending on the nature of your business and industry, so ensure you are following the correct guidance. Some employers will continue to work on a remote working basis.
Consult professionals where required – to avoid any pitfalls when re-opening your business, you may want to consult with relevant professionals. For example, you may want to consult a legal professional to ensure your new policies and procedures comply with your legal obligations as an employer. If you need help in restoring power and utilities to your building, contact a qualified engineer to assist you. Zurich have produced a detailed guide to help safely re-open a building which you may want to refer to. Make sure you are always complying with any insurance warranties or conditions – contact your broker or insurer for guidance if required.
Develop an initial plan – this plan should cover how you plan to operate in the short, medium- and longer-term. Define your key operations required to run your business. Consider a phased return of employees. Consider how you will manage social distancing, hygiene and cleaning and the other items detailed below.
Conduct Risk Assessments – a risk assessment should be completed before the re-opening of your business. Every step in the process should be considered and documented. Once you have new policies and procedures in place, you should review all your risk assessments to ensure they reflect the new way of working.
Establish a dedicated team – Appoint a team responsible for managing the business’ Covid-19 response and to help manage the potential spread of Coronavirus within your workplace. They should be responsible for maintaining good hygiene and sanitation, ensuring new procedures on social distancing, handwashing and disinfecting etc are communicated to employees and upheld.
Phased Return – a phased return should be considered to help limit the number of employees on site. This will help with compliance of social distancing regulations. Can employees work on a shift system or staggered working? Where remote working is feasible, this should be encouraged where possible.
Modify and disinfect the workplace – Deep cleanse all areas and facilities, including heating, air conditioning, etc. should be undertaken. Consider separating workstations or adjusting floor plans to keep employees distanced.
Cleaning and Hygiene – following the initial deep clean, a regular cleaning procedure will be required. At a minimum, cleaning of desks and equipment at the start and end of the day will be required. Consider if any further cleaning throughout the day is necessary, such as shift changes. Will hot desking and sharing of equipment and stationery be appropriate? Consider regular breaks for handwashing and access to hand sanitisers. Communal areas such as the kitchen, staff canteens, coffee machines – special consideration is required for the cleaning of these areas. Should they be shut down? Should staff be encouraged to bring all food and drinks from home?
Social Distancing – workplaces should make every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government. Review your site layout and consider the changes required to accommodate these rules. Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to an activity, consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff. Restrict face-to-face meetings and continue remote working where possible.
Shared Premises – if your business is in shared premises, you will need to consult and coordinate with other occupants or the landlord. Access will need to be carefully considered such as social distancing at entrances, foyers, stairs and lifts and how cleaning and hygiene will be maintained in these areas.
Suppliers – ensure you speak to all your suppliers prior to opening to ascertain their position in the short, medium and long term. Suppliers include materials, maintenance, cleaning and inspection etc.
Testing – Ensure that tests (such as legionella testing) have been completed. Ensure that fire safety and security equipment have been tested and are in working order. Confirm that investigations of the presence of pests have been completed.
Plant and Machinery – ensure all plant and machinery is in correct working order. Ensure that it has been tested and maintained and that all statutory inspections have been completed.
Signage – display posters with information regarding coronavirus and the importance to stay at home if someone is showing symptoms. Consider floor markings to aid in the compliance of the 2m rule. This is of importance at entrances, toilets, communal break areas where queues are most likely to form.
Travel to work – this will possibly be one of the top concerns for those employees returning to work on your business premises. Consider the advice on social distancing when using public transport and try to anticipate employee concerns. Many staff may prefer to travel to work in their own car where possible. Do you have the parking facilities to cater to any increases in this mode of transport? Business Travel is likely to be discouraged for a while yet. Ensure you update your travel policies and procedures
Wearing of PPE/masks – The current government guidance does not require those out with clinical and care settings to wear facemasks or PPE. It is also, at time of writing, not a requirement of employers to provide any PPE as a matter of course. This will be a matter of policy for each employer. However, the guidance on this could change at any time so always refer to the latest official guidance. Whether you decide to mandate the wearing of PPE or decide not to, ensure it is clearly documented in your risk assessment.
Establish employee screening policies and protocols – consider putting in place a system for screening potentially ill employees before they enter the workplace. For example, employees could be required to self-report any virus symptoms or exposure to the virus. Government guidance may be provided in this area. You may wish to consider temperature testing, although without government sanction, employee consent would be required.
Provide safety resources and training for employees – Staff will require support and training on all the new policies and procedures you have implemented on their return to work. Provide safety materials to all employees on social distancing, hand washing, surface disinfecting and other related topics.
Mental health – you may already have put in place additional mental health support during lockdown. Many employees will have been affected in some way by the lockdown and you should have appropriate policies in place. Staff will also need to be reassured that measures have been implemented to protect them as they return to work.
The information contained in this bulletin is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general risk management and insurance information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such