Billy Muir from LBJ Consultants gives 11 tips for a safe return to work after Coronavirus lockdown.
Health and safety of the employees
Employers should prioritise the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. They must also identify which steps to make in order to protect their employees, especially now that the impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented as the research on how to limit the spread and the treatment for those infected is still developing.
In line with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for all the work activities carried out by their employees (including homeworkers) to identify hazards and assess the degree of risk. Once identified, the employer must carry out the assessment and take precautionary measures before the return of the employees.
Employers should also do the following:
- Provide specific information about the health and safety risks and precautionary measures to their employees (note that the employers are legally required to do this).
- Reassure and communicate with their employees (eg, by setting up employee-led committees or forums to discuss measures to be taken).
- Provide a point of contact for employees to discuss any concerns.
- Create a safe system of work for their staff and/or representatives (including trade unions) that will provide significant assistance to the returning staff.
Generally, managing ongoing health and safety risks includes the following:
- Ensure that desks and workstations are not facing each other and at least two metres apart.
- End hot desk arrangements to avoid staff-sharing equipment.
- Limit the number of people who are in the office. For example, splitting a team in two and requiring each team to attend the office on alternate weeks or swap mid-week.
- Provide face masks for the employees, follow the Government guidance about the proper wearing of face masks.
- Use floor markings to mark two metres in areas that employees can use.
- Allow employees who travel in on public transport to have a more flexible schedule to avoid rush hour.
- Restrict employees from attending non-essential meetings or work social events.
- Provide an area for employees if they are presenting with coronavirus symptoms at work.
- Provide access to handwash and hand sanitiser. Remind employees of the recommended hygiene measures.
- Close any common areas temporarily where social distancing will be difficult to achieve.
- Increase deep cleaning of the office specifically to the surfaces that are regularly touched (eg door handles, taps, doors, and light switches).
Employees’ mental health should also be protected. This means that managers should know how to assist and when to escalate employee or work-related concerns. During this time, it is important to highlight the company’s Employee Assistance Programme (if available) and to keep in touch with employees, especially those who need to remain at home.