COVID19 and the UK Workplace

COVID19 and the UK Workplace
May 11, 2020 Adelaide

The latest news suggests workplaces can reopen, but as an employer what should you be considering prior to following this advice?

It is your responsibility to provide a healthy and safe workplace

Employers have a duty under through the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to protect the health and safety of their workers.

To meet your obligations to provide a safe workplace you should update your health and safety policies and at the same time consider developing practices in the workplace to address the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article comprises common threads which could help you decide whether and when to reopen your workplace.

First, an employer must determine whether they can legally reopen their physical workplaces (many retail, leisure and hospitality establishments are unlikely to open until July at the earliest).

If you believe you are legally able to reopen your physical workplaces, you will need to consider whether their workplaces can be opened safely:

  • implement controls to address COVID-19
  • assess the COVID-19 as a hazard in the workplace

Assessing the Risk of COVID-19

  • Conduct a risk assessment for COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.
  • Consult with the health and safety committees and/or employee representatives.
  • Seek input from employees on where potential transmission may occur and how they think COVID-19 transmission can be controlled.
  • Conduct a walk-through of the workplace to identify specific conditions or tasks that may increase the risk of exposure of employees to COVID-19.
  • Document your findings

Specific considerations for ensuring a safe and healthy workplace

By eliminating or reducing physical contact between employees, COVID-19 becomes less of a risk, but how can you accomplish this?

  • allow employees to continue to work from home (see my next blog on work from home arrangements)
  • Working from home is not possible for everyone, and is unlikely to offer a permanent solution which both employers and employees will yearn for

Therefore, employers should consider:

  • a staggered physical return to work,
  • flexible working hours to reduce rush hour challenges,
  • reassessment of workplace risk and the supporting policy.

As more and more employees physically return to the workplace, how can you as an employer introduce measures to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in your workplace?

  • Barriers through implementing physical distancing and screens
  • Policy and Procedure adjustments to reduce risk
  • Using Personal Protective Equipment
  • Bear in mind it is not just your employees you need to consider, but you have a duty of care to customers, suppliers, patients, visitors and members of the public.

Employers could consider these measures for reducing COVID-19 related risks in the workplace:

Measures to be introduced Factors to take into account
Limit the number of people in the workplace Work from home if it is plausible.

Minimise the number of employees returning to the workplace.

Introduce rotas to stagger the returning employees by varying start times/ days of the week worked – a flexible approach to being at work.

Controlling the exits/ entrances to ensure the 2 metre gap is kept.

Encourage physical distancing at work Limit the entrance and exit points.

Reconsider the floor plan, rearrange the space to increase separation between desks, kitchen and dining areas, breakout areas, meeting rooms and restrooms.

Limiting the number of people who can ride in a lift.

Introduce one-way systems around the workplace.

Taping off areas around key equipment (printers/ kitchen) to show the 2 metre gap.

Discourage in person meetings.

Decrease social contact and limit physical interaction Install barriers – such as transparent plastic glass found in supermarkets and chemists.

Remove communal items which can’t be easily cleaned, eg fruit bowls/ magazines etc..

Ensure equipment is not shared, ie keyboards, stationery equipment etc..

Ensure cleaning materials are accessible to all communal equipment- printers/ kettles/ fridges.

Share documents electronically.

Personal and workplace hygiene Instil the message of handwashing and good hygiene by ensuring there is access to hand sanitizer (which is regularly replenished) e.g. one on every desk; posters displaying ‘stay alert’, ‘hygiene’, ‘keep distance’; regular cleaning and sanitisation; sanitising AC units and having adequate ventilation in the workspace.
Preventing Sick Employees from being at work Develop policies and procedures to offer employees guidelines of what to do if they are sick or suspect they have had contact with a COVID19 carrier. For example, ensure employees complete a fit for work assessment every day they intend to come to the workplace, perhaps taking their own temperature.
Developing new policies Consider implementing procedures:

Travel only when necessary

Train employees on COVID19 etiquette and the latest findings

Keep records of all individuals who attend to workplace to allow trace if necessary (providing GDPR compliant)

Review policies to ensure social distancing continues

Consider employees concerns carefully, these may include refusal to attend work. Increase employee engagement and make use of Health and Safety/ Employee Representative Committees.

Develop a wellbeing policy, recognising the impact of COVID19.

Take a step back Review the above regularly, to ensure they are in line with latest government advice, and working for your team.

HRsource will assist you in introducing these policies and offer regular correspondence to share with your team.

Contact us today by email: info@hrsource.co.uk or by calling Adelaide on 07711199732.

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