Returning to work appears to have a mixed response from the public. Some people see it as a small step towards normality, but others feel that easing lockdown will be a daunting task.
Regardless of everyone’s feelings on returning to work, it is something that will inevitably happen over the coming months, and whilst organisations are still asked to encourage working from home, most organisations are already preparing to get employees back to work as safely as possible.
Whilst it may not be part of an OSH professional's job role to manage COVID-19 risk, it is clear that they are best placed to help their organisation initiate a safe return to work.
With that said, here are ten essential tips for OSH professionals and employers alike on creating a safe post-COVID-19 workplace…
Although this list is in no particular order, it seems fitting to identify risk assessments as the first key topic to consider before returning to work. This is because all organisations need to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment as a basis for determining their control measures.
Once it is complete, organisations must review existing risk assessments to ensure they are not adversely impacted by any new processes or procedures you propose.
Follow official guidance
On the 11th of May, the government published eight sector-specific guidelines designed to help businesses become 'COVID-19 secure'. Additionally, they released industry guidelines before this that provide some more detail and context.
Be careful when sourcing your information from elsewhere. We only advise that you use WHO, the NHS, and Gov.uk for advice.
In our blog on Protecting your mental health in uncertain times, we talk more about the dangers of fake news amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remind yourself of who works for your organisation
Whether you employ somebody who is a parent, pregnant, has mental health issues, or other underlying conditions, you must recognise that risk management cannot be 'one size fits all' upon returning to work.
Consider who has been seriously impacted by the virus and ensure that your organisation protects the higher risk and maintains equality in the workplace in your COVID-19 secure guidelines.
Keep employees engaged
Everybody has been affected by COVID-19 to some degree. Reassuring workers that they will be safe when they emerge from their personal safe havens will be vital. Make sure they are involved in the process.
You can do this by consulting with them and listening to their views as to how they think they can work safely. When you reach your conclusion, publish these clearly so they know you have them very much in mind as operations recommence.
Communicate with your employees
The COVID-19 secure guidelines expect businesses with more than 50 workers to publish their risk assessments online. But you can do more than this to ensure that your employees understand your strategy.
Share your conclusions with your workforce before they return to work so that they have time to take in the information provided. Additionally, make sure they are aware of any changes to procedures or requirements of them.
Think about training needs and consider equipping managers with FAQs to support your approach.
Remember your homeworkers
Whilst we know that we should be encouraging homeworking where possible, we do not know when it will be safe to get everyone back to work (if it ever is).
For this reason, organisations should consider:
- If a further assessment is needed
- If communication paths are working well
- If staff are feeling involved
- If their mental health and wellbeing need close monitoring
Testing, tracking, and isolation
Although this can be easier said than done, your organisation needs to set a clear plan for identifying symptomatic workers, isolating them, obtaining testing and tracing those they work with.
You should also do what you can to reinforce public health messaging to all employees. This can be done through the use of internal newsletters, emails, and other online platforms.
Keeping track of third-party participation
By this, we mean any individuals that may need to enter your place of work for a particular reason. This could include cleaners, technicians, maintenance workers, and many more. Usually, this will be done through a third-party organisation, but this applies to anybody not working for your organisation.
It’s your responsibility to be aware of their strategies for minimising transmission risk. This is particularly so where you may rely on them more than normal, for example cleaning contractors.
In the coming weeks and months, sector-by-sector guidance will emerge while the prime minister has been clear that rules can be changed at short notice depending on the scientific evidence.
Ensure that at least one person in your organisation has the task to keep the organisation updated so that you can quickly adapt if you are required to.
Where there is a COVID-19 diagnosis and there is reasonable evidence the virus was contracted at work, a report will be needed legally.
Unfortunately, the guidance for COVID-19 RIDDOR reports is rather vague and quite healthcare-centric, but it is still required across all industry sectors.
How iHASCO can help
Here at iHASCO, our goal is to make training simple. Additionally, one of our core values is to make a genuine difference, which we understand means a lot to our clients, particularly when it comes to helping them during this current time.
So, what can iHASCO do to help your organisation get back to work safely and smoothly? We’ve written a blog on exactly that! You can check out the blog here.
If you’re interested in seeing the quality of our training, you can claim a free trial to any course in our library of over 100 accredited training courses.