Five risk assessment steps for the workplace after lockdown
Whilst the UK implements strategies to gradually return to life as normal, the question on everyone’s mind is how we plan to do this safely and effectively. With the process of working from home potentially coming to an end in the foreseeable future, regardless of what sector individuals work in, new safety precautions are essential to put in place to ensure the health and safety of employees and customers remain strong.
Speculation surrounding this is becoming a popular discussion topic and some businesses have already created a risk assessment document to help bring reassurance to their employees that when returning to work, they can do so safely. Companies such as Cliverton, who provide insurance for dog walkers, and Lycetts are amongst the many that have done this.
The importance of training and briefing staff on what to do to prevent the risk of the virus spreading cannot be stressed enough. With this said, discussion on key safety precautions that should be included in any risk assessment are as follows.
Handwashing and Cleaning
For busy office workers or supermarket assistants, where regular contact amongst fellow employees or customers can’t be avoided, the importance of regular hand washing, and cleaning of all surfaces is vital.
Making sure these measures are achieved successfully may be easier than you think. By placing hand washing facilities such as hand sanitiser bottles and giving individuals access to soap and running water, are vital resources that are needed ensure sufficient hand washing is taken place. Buffer stocking of disposable paper towels to use is also an essential item that needs to be invested in. When it comes to washing your hands, it isn’t exactly considered to be a strenuous activity. However, to ensure individuals are doing this effectively, stringent hand washing processes have been outlined by government guidelines that your staff and other acquaintances are advised to take on board. Going the extra milestone and encouraging workers to regularly apply emollient cream direct to their hands to protect the skin is also another way to help prevent contracting the virus.
For the cleaning of facilities and workspaces, ensuring the regular disinfectant of surfaces such as desks, door handles, light switches, taps, and any other surfaces that individuals are in regular contact with, stays hygienic is a necessity.
As social distancing measures are by now regular procedures we are all used to abiding to, putting these in place at work are a must. As persistently reiterated to us, maintaining a 1-metre gap between each person is a measure the government insist you oblige to. A common question asked however, is how would this be possible to do in busy workspaces? Well, reviewing the work schedules of employees and implementing varied start and finish times would ensure an entire workforce is not in the building at the same time. In terms of keeping the 1-metre spacing between those who are at work, would mean having a slight rearrangement of desks and other workspaces to ensure this gap is maintained throughout the day.
A lot of businesses value the likes of big meetings and conferences where employees are all encouraged to pitch their ideas and opinions on a particular business venture. Thanks to technology developments, this process can still continue - and now safely too. Arranging conference calls or Zoom video chat meeting is a much safer and just as effective way to communicate with staff without having to risk everyone being in the same place at the same time.
Deliveries and Distancing
Those who have ordered an item online recently, will be aware of the safety precautions delivery drivers are going to ensure your parcel is given to you with no direct contact from themselves. After ringing the doorbell and carefully placing all packages on the floor, the driver steps back and maintains the required 1-metre gap or more. Upholding these basic procedures when having packages delivered to workplaces, or if businesses are the ones delivering packages, is critical.
Remember, it is possible for bacteria to live on surfaces, so the disposing of outer packaging that comes with packages should be dealt with immediately. Some even recommend leaving the parcel for a day or two before opening it – just to be on the safe side.
When it comes to the delivery vehicles themselves, if you’re a business that users shared vehicles amongst employees, conducting regular cleaning between handovers is essential.
Canteens, and Cleanliness
The shared highlight for anyone’s day despite what industry we’re operating in, is lunch time. Having time away from work and communicating with fellow employees is something that can still be enjoyed even under the current circumstances.
To start, staggering break times when necessary to limit the number of people in kitchens and canteen halls is a strongly advised step to take. The likes of tables and chairs should be regularly cleaned by employees and staff members to get rid of any bacteria that may be living on surfaces, as well as placing hand sanitiser at the doors of dining spaces that everyone must use before entering and exiting the area. When put into perspective, these measures aren’t big-asks for employees to do and after all, it is all for the safety of themselves and others.
As for cash-in-hand payments that may be used to buy additional snacks or treats, although many sources say the risk of contracting the virus through giving cash is a minimal threat, it is still recommend using contactless card payments where possible.
A common aspect to forget about workspaces are the buildings themselves. Although it may have been several months since they were in use, the British Engineering Services association have outlined the steps needed to ensure the likes of water systems and air handling units are effectively taken care of and assessed to ensure they are no threat to spreading the virus.
For the water systems in buildings that have not been used regularly, should be flushed through for 2 minutes before buildings become occupied again. As for air handling units, ensuring all filters are cleaned or if need be are replaced with new ones by professional engineers is advised.
Although for both employees and customers these measures may place a slight burden on their everyday tasks, they are undoubtedly worth the while. Even adding gentle reminders such as posters and signposts around work buildings reminding individuals of the precautions put in place will help reiterate the importance of abiding to such measures.