Latest NewsWednesday 07 July 2021
Staying safe in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic
As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are gradually eased, many businesses are beginning to look at what a return to work may look like for their employees and to consider what measures they may have to implement to ensure the safety of their staff.
New COVID-19 secure guidelines are available to UK employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible. This follows the Prime Minister setting out steps to beat the virus and restart the economy.
5 Steps to work safely
The government have set out practical steps for businesses focused on 5 key points, to be implemented as soon as it is practical.
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
- Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
- Help people to work from home
- Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
- Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk
Practical tips for returning to the workplace
Whilst your organisation will be working hard to ensure the safety of its staff, you may be feeling anxious about what a return to the workplace might mean for you. It’s important to recognise that whilst we can’t know all the facts right now, we can anticipate that things may not necessarily go back to exactly how they were before. Below are some practical things you may wish to consider when returning to work; it should be highlighted that these points are tips and not necessarily rules.
- Avoid using public transport to commute to work – walk/cycle where possible.
- Keep 2 metres apart from colleagues, customers and clients –apply this in all circumstances where possible.
- Keep desks, work stations and work areas clear – your organisation may be implementing deeper or more frequent cleaning regimes, so it is important for these areas to be clear to allow for this.
- Avoid in person meetings where possible – you may have been holding virtual meetings using video/conference calls whilst remote working which should be continued.
- Lunch breaks. You may find upon your return to work that communal areas may not be as accessible in the way they were before. Consider taking lunch with you to avoid unnecessary travel on your break. You may choose to eat at your desk or in a nearby outside space where you can safely social distance.
- Ventilation. If you have a window in your workspace keep it open frequently to encourage ventilation where possible.
- Take your own hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap to work with you. Whilst most organisations may be required to provide this for their staff, you may wish to keep your own bottles with you to avoid mixed use and to allow you to use them when travelling to and from work.
- Keep some anti-bacterial wipes nearby –these may be useful if you are passed anything by another colleague or if you would like to wipe down your equipment/stationary after use.
- Use your own stationary. Keep stationary at your workspace and ensure not to share stationary with colleagues.
- Use your own water bottles, mugs and cutlery. If communal items are usually provided, you may wish to consider taking your own in to work to avoid any possible cross contamination and wash these in hot soapy water immediately after use or when you get home.
- Wash work clothes after use. You may want to consider putting your work clothes for the day straight in the washing machine when you get home from work to avoid any cross contamination from fabrics, particularly if you are unable to socially distance in your line of work.
- Shower when you get home. You may also want to consider showering when you get home from work each day, particularly if there has been an instance where you haven’t been able to socially distance at work successfully.
The government guidelines advise that where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so. When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE. The exception is clinical settings, like a hospital, or a small handful of other roles for which Public Health England advises use of PPE.
The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It just needs to cover your mouth and nose. Please note that face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk as outlined, these other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace.
For the general public, CDC (Centres for disease control and prevention) recommends wearing gloves when you are cleaning or caring for someone who is sick. In most other situations, like running errands, using a shopping trolley or using an ATM, wearing gloves is not necessary. Gloves will not necessarily protect you from getting COVID-19 and may still lead to the spread of germs.
It is important to highlight that industries and organisations will differ in their risk assessments and health and safety requirements outlined by the government. If you have any questions or worries regarding safety at work, or a return to the workplace following COVID-19, these should be communicated with your line manager or HR department.
If you have suffered an accident at work because of the negligence of your employer, please contact Swindon Accident Solicitors on 01793 425595 for a FREE, no obligation consultation on how to make a claim for compensation.