The government recently announced that employees in England are no longer being asked to work from home and should speak to their employers about arrangements for returning to the office. People across the rest of the UK are still advised to work remotely wherever possible.
What do employers have to do to keep their workers safe?
Our colleagues at PIB Risk Management have prepared some simple risk management measures which all organisations can consider to help mitigate risks or even remove them completely.
Risk Management has often been simply viewed as a provision to help an organisation reduce its exposure to risk, however it can also help an organisation to increase efficiency, reduce costs and present themselves as a better business to customers, prospects and suppliers.
Successful risk management is about leadership, culture and process. Good intentions fall short if they are not backed up by effective processes. Embedding a positive culture throughout your business will create peace of mind that allows you to focus on growing your business.
The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic has presented many challenges for business and other organisations, this is a perfect example of when organisations with a clear risk management process can continue to run effectively ensuring the safety of their employees and customers.
As businesses slowly return to work there are some simple risk management measures which all organisations can take which will help reduce those risks or even remove them completely.
Know your business
Businesses will need to build on the government guidance with a response that is tailored to their sector, size, business need, environment and people.
Plan and Communicate
Naturally, many of your colleagues may feel nervous about returning to work. By ensuring that you have thoroughly planned for their return and by effectively communicating these plans with your team members you can help reduce anxieties and give confidence that people are returning to a safe place of work. Some simple considerations:
- Understand and be clear about the Government guidance for your sector
- Carry out a risk assessment and keep a record of this if you have more than 5 employees, for more 50 employees you should publish your risk assessment on your website
- Do not rush, continue to encourage remote working where possible
Once you have completed and communicated your return to work plan it is important that your premises are prepared for the return of your colleagues, customers and visitors. You should consider a deep clean of your building/site with the appropriate products and increase cleaning routines to match the increase of employees into the premises.
Social Distancing and Face Coverings
These measures may continue to remain a key part of official guidance. All workplaces are different and practices on social distancing and the wearing of face coverings will need to be adapted to suit your circumstances. Where possible reduce the workplace density through homeworking and split shifts.
Controlling access to your premises is key to ensuring the safety of your colleagues and visitors. Again, this will vary from business to business and settings that see a regular flow of customers and visitors will need to consider how to encourage social distancing.
Hygiene and Cleaning
Good hygiene and cleaning practices are two of the most important tools to prevent spread of COVID-19. Whilst messaging around these areas has been prominent throughout this pandemic it is still important to continue to reinforce good practice.
Ensuring good ventilation of the workplace, including the use of air conditioning, can also help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Managing health risks
Everyone needs to remain alert to potential symptoms of COVID-19 and to take appropriate action if they suffer potential symptoms or are exposed to people with symptoms. Test kits remain freely available, and their use should be encouraged when appropriate.
As an employer it is your duty of care to protect people’s mental health. Some employees may suffer from fear and anxiety about infection, continued social isolation, and even illness or bereavement. Businesses should be alert to these factors and put measures in place to support their employees. The earlier a problem can be tackled, the less impact it is likely to have. Learn more about wellbeing in the workplace (https://www.pib-insurance.com/news/workplace-mental-wellbeing).
PIB Risk Management can help you safely navigate your organisation return to work and provide you with ongoing tailored advice and support to ensure you have the correct measures in place to continue to operate safely.
The HSE have published guidance on their website to help employers protect people in the workplace. This can be found at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm
Sector specific guidance for businesses in England can be found on the Gov.Uk website at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
For businesses in Wales see: https://gov.wales/business-and-employers-coronavirus
For businesses in Scotland see: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/