Warning: coronavirus can be difficult to talk about and we understand that not everyone will want to read an article about it. If you’re feeling anxious about things right now, please consider reading the advice pages the NHS have published on how to manage the stress of the lockdown.
The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the UK has been huge. We’ve all had to make sweeping changes to our daily lives; what was considered normal behaviour in June last year could be looked upon as irresponsible and risky today.
With all the signs pointing to a staggered reopening of businesses and workplaces across the UK, it’s crucial that we make sure our staff and customers are safe. The good news is, by taking some simple precautions, we can minimise the risk while the country moves back to normality.
So, how can you help to limit the spread of coronavirus in the workplace?
Check whether your business is allowed to reopen
The UK Government has drawn up a list of businesses and venues which must remain closed to members of the public, so check your business can reopen before making any adjustments to your workplace.
If your type of workplace is on this list, don’t worry. You can still start to make changes without opening your doors to your staff and the public.
Follow these five steps
These five steps apply regardless of the type of workplace you run, so start here:
Keep your distance
By now, we’re all used to keeping 2m apart from one another. And the workplace should be no exception.
You can help by changing your ways of working: make sure employees aren’t sharing workstations, arrange one-way traffic where appropriate and, if you meet customers in person, put an appointments system in place so you can adequately prepare.
You can also remind people of social distancing guidelines by putting up signs and using floor tape to demarcate 2m distance.
If you can’t keep your distance, minimise the risk of transmission
If your workspace can’t function without staff working closer than 2m, then minimise the risk by changing your ways of working, or by installing barriers and providing PPE equipment.
Some methods to avoid transmission are:
- Using back to back or side by side working
- Staggering the times your staff or customers arrive and leave
- Keeping the length of time where 2m is breached to a minimum
Carry out a coronavirus risk assessment
You’ll want to make sure your workplace is as safe as it can be in anticipation of your staff and customers returning. A coronavirus risk assessment is a legal requirement to reopen and helps to provide a framework to examine what actions you, your employees and your customers, should be taking to stay safe.
This can sound daunting, particularly if you run a small business which may not have a depth of health and safety knowledge. Luckily the Government has made a step-by-step guide, found here.
It can also help to speak to both your workers and representatives from their trade unions. Your workers understand what they do on a day-to-day basis better than anyone else, and their unions will usually have advice tailored to the industry in which their members work.
Make sure you communicate these changes with your employees before reopening, so they have enough time to digest how they should behave when returning to work.
Help people to work from home
Though not always possible, consider whether some or all of your staff could do the same job from home. If you do decide to do this, make sure you discuss it with them and that they have the right equipment.
Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
To prevent surface and airborne transmission you’ll need to make sure your workplace is clean.
Clean hands are a must and, if you consider that the average person touches their face 16 times an hour, you can see why. So make sure your employees and guests know to wash their hands properly. You can help by putting up reminders and guides.
Make sure you provide hand sanitiser, room sanitiser and hand drying facilities, such as hand driers or towels, to reduce the risk of transmission. You can also help by increasing cleaning in frequently used areas and by cleaning and disinfecting commonly handled objects.
Think about the type of workplace you have
The adaptations you make to your workplace will depend on the nature of your work. The Government has divided work into 8 categories, with detailed guidance. We’d recommend you read through this thoroughly:
Construction and other outdoor work
Factories, plants and warehouses
Labs and research facilities
Offices and contact centres
Other people’s homes
Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
Shops and branches
Working from vehicles (like taxis or couriers)
You may have noticed we reference the Government’s guidance a lot when writing this article. And while we’ve written this blog to provide a condensed, digestible guide to staying safe, guidance can change and the best place to keep up to date will always be GOV.UK, the Government’s website. The NHS website is also a great source of information.
If you need help with keeping your employees and customers safe, Eltham Workwear are happy to help. We provide personal protection equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves, visors and screens, which can reduce the risk of transmission.