This advice is summarised from the Government document, ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, the HSE and the Society of Occupational Medicine Health Professionals’ Guides.  The aim has been to provide a simple check list for HR and management to enable safe working conditions for employees on their return to the workplace.

Covid-19 infection should be treated just like any other hazard in the workplace using a stepwise programme of eliminate, substitute, minimise exposure and maximise good hygiene.

  • Make a risk assessment considering the nature of work, the workplace environment, risk of virus exposure. This should then be shared with all employees and their representatives.
  • Home working is still the preferred option. However, if this is not possible then consider reducing risk by mechanising processes.
  • Consider access to work; avoid public transport if possible.
  • Compliance checks.

Minimise exposure by separating employees

  • Staggered entry and exit times
  • Restructuring the workplace, eating back to back, using tape to define 2 metre rule, use of Perspex screens
  • Using fixed zones for fixed teams and minimising shared workspaces
  • Social distancing by 2 metres preferably
  • Attention to timing of lunch breaks and seating in canteens. Traffic lights for use of toilet facilities
  • Increased use of Covid 19 safety precaution signage.
  • Clear guidance on self-isolation policy if employee or household member symptomatic

Maximise personal hygiene and temperature checks prior to entering workplace

  • Regular hand washing and use of hand sanitiser
  • Regular cleaning of work equipment and frequently touched surfaces with appropriate disinfectant solutions
  • Deep clean of the workplace on regular basis
  • Good infection control. Catch it, kill it, bin it for the use of tissues for coughs and sneezes

Personal protective equipment is not a substitute for the above and should only be considered if there is a specific need defined in the risk assessment. When used the manufacturer’s guidance should be followed.

Involve employees and their representatives in all discussions about workplace changes and encourage them to share their concerns and anxieties about the return to work process.  These measures may be in force for many months.

If any employees have any underlying health conditions, fall into the shielded or increased vulnerability groups, or live with a shielded person, then a further individual clinical assessment by occupational health is recommended.

The employer has a duty of care for each employee’s mental and physical wellbeing in any workplace. If you have any concerns, then occupational health can give further guidance.

For further detailed advice, please contact Workplace Wellness at info@workplacewellness.health.

Risk assessment template: https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/general-workplace-safety-risk-assessment-example_tcm18-77498.pdf

Author: Fiona Tees – Workplace Wellness

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