As the pandemic endures, and the situation continues to evolve, many companies are now returning to full business activities with staff resuming work in offices and other places of work, or, making temporary home working now a permanent solution.
A recent survey by Envoy showed that 66% of people were concerned about returning to work fearing it may “compromise their health and safety”. Consulting with employees, discussing how the risks of coronavirus are being reduced in the workplace and informing them of the control measures that are in place to protect them is vital. These discussions also give employees the chance to tell the employer if they are worried about any workplace risk, influence decisions about health and safety and discuss additional support they may need if they are in a higher-risk group. It is also very important to keep track of updates issued by local governmental authorities regarding all issues related to the pandemic.
As a reminder, the basics of being Covid-19 secure include:
- Risk assessment – Reviewing your Covid-19 risk assessment regularly to ensure it is in line with current guidance and communicating it to your employees
- Maintaining social distancing in the workplace – Either by ensuring 2 metres distancing or via other measures if 2 metres cannot be maintained, such as via the use of face masks, screens etc
- Cleaning, hygiene, and handwashing – Maintaining a clean work environment with regular cleaning regimes especially of high touch points such as door handles, photocopiers, kettles, fridges, work tools etc. Encouraging regular hand washing with soap and water and the frequent use of hand sanitisers
- Ventilation – Ensuring good natural ventilation throughout the workplace and especially if you are having meetings, ensuring the room is well ventilated. Use air conditioning units to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculation
- Communication – Ensure sure your employees know what measures you are implementing to keep them safe and encourage 2-way communication
- Working from home – If this is a viable option for your business then encourage it
- Vulnerable workers – Ensuring you have considered those who are vulnerable, especially those who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable
Your risk assessment should be reviewed and updated if any of the following occur:
- One of the staff gets infected in the workplace
- New control or precautionary measures are introduced by authorities
- Change in work routine or pattern due to changing pandemic circumstances
- Change in requirements by any stakeholders, such as suppliers or customers
- The pandemic situation changes positively or negatively
If you haven’t used the last year to undertake a review of your companies health and safety, now is the time. You may also want to consider utilising established management systems, such as ISO 45001 Management of Health and Safety, or ISO22301 Business Continuity, to facilitate the change and uphold standards as you face the future, whatever environment your staff will be working from.
Safeguarding employees who continue to work from home
Although the employee working from home will probably encounter fewer hazards than working in their normal environment, it is still important they know what the risks are and what to do about them. It is also important that employers do not become blasé about health and safety in the home environment.
In addition to employees concerns over returning to the workplace, employees who continue to work from home can encounter work-related stress that affects their mental health. Being away from managers and colleagues could make it difficult for them to get proper support.
The employer should put procedures in place ensuring they keep in direct contact with homeworkers to recognise the signs of stress. If contact is poor, employees may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. It is also important to have an emergency point of contact and share this with employees, so people know how to get help if they need it.
An employer has the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as they do for any other employee. When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, an employer should consider:
- How to keep in touch with the employee
- What work activity will they be doing and for how long
- Can the work be done safely
- Do control measures need to be put in place to protect the employee
- What safety information is needed to be given to the employee and is training required ?
If you need assistance with your company’s health and safety, Corporate OHS offers a range of HSE consultancy services including; risk assessments and hazard identification, HSE management system development, implementation and review including OSHAD compliant systems and accredited systems such as ISO 45001, COVID-19 response and management, HSE legal compliance review, accident investigations, crisis management and business continuity.
In addition to project work, Corporate OHS also offers the option of a flexible contract and a monthly retainer, meaning that companies have access to HSE services without the burden of a permanent cost. For enquiries or to find out more about our services, please visit our website or send an email to email@example.com