This guidance provides you with information and links to help you and provides a COVID-19 Return to Work Toolkit as you work through the key stages of your assessment, deciding controls and monitoring your safety measures.
The relaxing of distancing to 1 metre (if using risk mitigation) is good news, provided that sensible and proportionate safety measures are put into place to support the reduction. There are many simple measures that are easier to introduce than screening off work areas with Perspex and other materials, and which are quick, easier and cheaper to implement. This COVID-19 Return to Work Toolkit provides you with key information and links to sensible and proportionate controls you can consider.
Do you want / need all your staff to return to work immediately, or can you do this more leisurely, perhaps reintroducing people back in phases / teams or those who want or need to return? This is a key question as it will make a big difference on the measures you need to implement and the associated costs, time and trouble involved. When we complete assessments for our clients we need to know approximately how many people will be returning, whether people will return in phases or particular teams and the timeframe. This then helps to identify measures to meet your objectives that are proportionate and minimises costs. If you do require everyone to return immediately, then additional (and more expensive measures) may be needed.
You should consult with your employees to get their buy-in and support, and consider their feedback whilst making your strategic plans.
Plan Your Assessment
It’s not just the distance that people work from each other that you need to consider. There are many other considerations to take into account. Use this guide to plan your assessment Download – COV-19 Assessment Planning Questionnaire. If you work in shared premises with other tenants you will also need to liaise with the landlord to ascertain their measures for access control and safety in the common areas.
Completing Your Assessment
The law requires that a risk assessment is completed prior to your staff returning to work. The key findings from this assessment should be displayed on your website – this is not a legal requirement in itself but is good practice and provides all your customers/suppliers/ visitors and employees that you have taken their health, safety and welfare seriously.
It is important that any controls you put into place are practical, simple to understand and easy to do. Complex systems may give managers reassurance but are often not followed – remember – unless a rule is quick and easy to follow it is likely to be broken.
One- way systems are effective for getting into and out of a building, but often less so when circulating around the workplace.
Your risk assessment is essential in reassuring everyone that it is safe to return to work and to do business with you again so it is important it is done properly and thoroughly.
PHSC can complete these for you, or we can visit and validate/provide feedback on your own assessment. Our consultants are Chartered Safety Practitioners and are on the HSE’s Occupational Health and Safety Consultants Register. Having an assessment completed by someone of this level of competence helps to provide validation to the risk assessment and reassures your workers, suppliers and customers that you have taken this seriously. To download a COVID-19 risk assessment template click here. This is an essential part of a COVID-19 Return to Work Toolkit, as is training of your staff in the measures you have taken.
We are also running a series of virtual classroom training on how to complete a Coronavirus Risk Assessment, during which you will have the opportunity to speak directly with an expert to clarify and ask questions. https://www.phsc.co.uk/training/virtual-courses/
Training and Information
When your staff return, they will need information (and maybe some training) in the measures you have put into place and why they are relevant. You will also need to constantly monitor whether your measures are being followed and to deal with those who are not cooperating – remember that much of what we do is done on automatic pilot so it might take a little while for your people to get into new ways of working.
We are providing briefings / training sessions remotely via Zoom and Teams so your employees can hear from the Experts, ask questions and build reassurance and effectively “rubber stamp” your measures. Click here to request further information or call 01622 717700. We will also visit to provide classroom training provided there is sufficient space to enable safe distancing.
Your Employees’ Health
If you have employees who have been self-isolating or have previously tested positive/suffered from COVID-19 you should complete a Fit to Work assessment prior to allowing them to return.
This is to ensure their own health as well as the health of others who will be working with them. Use this questionnaire at a guide: Download – Fit to work questionnaire
A number of organisations are arranging for people coming into their workplace to have their temperature checked upon arrival.
If an individual records 37.8°C or higher then they will be deemed to have a temperature and should be sent home to self-isolate and maybe seek a Coronavirus test.
Whilst this is not a preventive measure in itself and does not prove that someone is COVID-19 free, it does confirm that they are not displaying symptoms at the time they come into your workplace and helps to reassure everyone else. It is likely that several employees will be anxious about returning to work, and using temperature checking as part of your Covid-19 Return to Work Toolkit will help reassure them that you are proactively monitoring everyone’s continuing health.
This approach is being used in several workplaces, including in the healthcare profession, to monitor daily the health and wellbeing of their staff and visitors and to constantly monitor that those coming into the premises are not symptomatic.
Cleanliness, Hygiene and Infection Control
We have spent much time advising clients on cleaning and sanitisation requirements to ensure that risk is reduced. This includes not only general cleaning but ongoing sanitisation of common touch-points such as handles, bannisters, control buttons etc.
One way to monitor the effectiveness of your cleaning regime is to undertake bioluminescence testing, also commonly referred to as bio-scanning.
This is a very quick, easy and visual way to assess and monitor:
- Effectiveness of cleaning regimes
- Whether cleaning contractors are being sufficiently thorough
- Providing reassurance to your teams, when results show good levels of cleanliness
- Using bio-scanning in training / toolbox sessions to those undertaking cleaning
The testing gives immediate results which can be shared with those who have witnessed the scanning. We know from experience how much reassurance this can give your teams as you are not relying on contractors to do a good job, but you are testing and checking their work is thorough. For further information on bio-scanning please click here
Finally, you need to monitor the effectiveness of your controls. This can be achieved in a number of ways including:
- Observation (eg are people following one-way systems)
- During meetings (asking direct questions)
- General conversations with individuals
- Inspections and audits of your processes.
Whatever measures you are considering to protect your staff, remember that one size does not fit all and what works for one organisation may not be suitable for another. This is why you need your own assessment, and to consider the specific needs of the people you work with.
Signs are likely to be needed once you have completed your assessment to guide your workers on areas and workstations that are open or closed for work, one way systems, maximum numbers allowed in an area and reminders on distancing. There are many organisations offering a variety of signs and posters. One such company is one we have worked with who offers a quality service that matches PHSC; they have a range of standard signs as well as being able to brand/design your own. Click here for further information on this company (LtdLtd).