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The article below has been written as a guide to help you explore some of the things that employers are required to consider about making their premises ready and helping employees back to work
Preparing your workplace
All employers should carry out a risk assessment of the workplace prior to letting employees come back. If you can involve others from your Management Team and employees in the process. Make sure your Risk Assessment also covers any visitors that will be coming into your premises or who will be in contact with your employees.
For many people, going back to work is a positive and exciting time – a step towards regaining a sense of normality, but for others, it can be daunting. There’s no right or wrong way to feel, and it’s how the return is handled that can make all the difference, look at it from your employees point of view involve your employees wherever you can, this can help with any fears they may have.
Have you thought about a deep clean before your workplace opens? Also, depending on the nature of your business, you might be required to do this regularly, as well as some other health and safety measures.
Communicating with your employees
Once your workplace is ready for the employee’s return, you should contact your employees about the new systems you have in place before they return to the building. Consider a briefing before they enter the building or is there something that you can send to them via email to read a t home? i.e. a power point prestation of what you’ve done and what measure you have in place to protect your employees along with what you expect from them.
A plan to determine which employees will return to work and when is recommended. Do you want them to all return at once? Do they all need to return at once? Identify which employees are considered higher risk and if employees are living with someone who is considered a high-risk individual. Can they still work from home? Or are they still part of the Furlough scheme? Is there other work that they can do for you now that you have the rest of the business running?
This will involve reducing contact with people as much as is possible in your day to day tasks. If your employees are not able to work from home and return to the workplace in line with government guidance. Employers need to make sure any employee returning to the workplace is aware of these measures which may include: –
- Keeping a 2-metre distance from people Avoiding gatherings of people, for example, using online meetings instead of physical ones
- Altering seating arrangements for employees to ensure the working distances are adhered to Using cashless payment methods, e.g. using contactless card payments or prepaying online (the minimum spend has now been increased on contactless payments
- Try to transfer paperwork electronically to reduce the need for multiple people handling it.
- Staggering the work hours/patterns/breaks to ensure there are no mass gatherings of employees
- Restricting the number of employees & customers into your workplace, or implementing a one-way system in the workplace to reduce crossovers if you cannot restrict numbers or be fully confident that social distancing could be breached then the Government advice states – ‘people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet’.
Limiting visitors/contractors’ access to your premises
Until we are told otherwise from the Government, you should be limiting the number of visitors/contractors to your workplace. You might want to consider only allowing visitors that are critical to the business into your workplace. These critical visitors/contractors may include;
- Delivery or collection services
- Contractors that may be carrying out statutory repairs and services e.g. fire systems
- Contractors that may be carrying out emergency works
- Members of the public purchasing goods
Where allowing visitors/contractors into your workplace is unavoidable you might want to consider:
For those working in public-facing industries: –
- Drop off and collection points
- Different types of entry and exit points for employees (to prevent cross-contamination)
- You may want to install plastic shields where employees are regularly interacting with the public (these should be cleaned regularly)
COVID-19 and hygiene
In order to help minimise the spread of COVID-19, employers must ensure they have a full understanding of infection prevention and control methods. This might include regular deep cleans of your premises, regular cleaning and making sure that all employees are up to date on good hygiene measures – it is useful to provide them with a resource with all of this on, such as a laminated print out of the standards that you expect.
Good hygiene measures may include: –
- Putting disinfectant sprays and wipes near entrances and exits, kitchens, offices, anywhere where you may interact with customers and colleagues
- Installing hand sanitiser (must be 60% alcohol) dispensers in the business
- Installing no-touch or low touch doors or switches
- Provide staff with personal tools so nothing is shared
- Conduct meetings online to reduce the need for personal interaction
- Providing employees with PPE
- Instruct employees to wipe down their own workspaces
Employee personal hygiene
Remind employees that they are responsible for taking care of their health and safety at work, as well as taking due care for other people’s health and safety. They can reduce the risk of spreading infection by maintaining a high standard of personal health and hygiene. In relation to COVID-19, personal hygiene can be broken down into 2 main factors – hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene.
- Use clean, hot, running water and soap – preferably antibacterial liquid soap from a dispenser – as soap bars can harbour germs.
- Wet your hands thoroughly.
- Rub soap into your palms to form a lather.
- Clean your hands for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Go between your right and left hand for each of these areas – the backs, between your fingers, your thumbs and your wrists. Remember to check and clean your fingernails too
- Then rinse the soap off with clean, hot, running water
- Turn the tap off with a disposable hand towel to avoid re-contaminating your hands
- Dry your hands thoroughly using a second disposable hand towel or a hand dryer
- Make sure you DRY your hands properly – it’s easier for harmful bacteria to spread if your hands are wet or damp
- Cover your mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or blow your nose
- Dispose of the tissue immediately
- Then wash your hands, using the above handwashing instructions
- If you are unable to wash your hands immediately, use a hand sanitiser which contains 60% alcohol
The link below takes you to a Government poster for employers to use in their premises to help control the virus