How can you create a safe working environment during the Covid-19 pandemic?
It is difficult to know where to turn to see the latest recommendations on returning to the office. We have been sharing what our ACCA family has been putting into place over the past two months. As you will know, being an employer, you will always endeavour to keep your employees safe and informed during their transition back to work. Also, you want those clients you physically see to feel safe and informed and they will also be looking for support. For your business you need to draw a plan around moving back to the office and what to consider from a digital and human perspective.
The British Standards Institute has laid down very comprehensive guidance for creating a safe working environment for home working and workplaces. As the guidance is evolving and changing regularly, these are reviewed by an expert advisory group. Build into your plan a regular visit to the site to ensure that the procedures followed comply with the issued guidance.
As you and your clients will appreciate if Covid-19 is spread by the practice/business, then any liability that may exist could be reduced if you can show that you adhered to guidance such as the BSI guidance. The BSI guidance can be downloaded here.
Many businesses have started with regular surveys of their team and in some cases their clients. You may wish to use the following as a start, from one of our SMPs, and adapt it for your business.
Using the guidance available it is advisable to have a practical checklist that you keep under review. This can include:
survey of your team and clients
deliver updates to the right people
easily manage a staggered return
be sure your employees and clients stay safe
help managers lead through change
notify teams in one place and feedback
understand the impact and respond accordingly.
Guidance on gov.uk recommends when, as an employer of more than four employees, you are reopening your business during coronavirus, you need to carry out a risk assessment to make sure that you keep employees and other people safe on site.
The government advises you should also consider the security implications of any decisions and control measures you intend to put in place, as any revisions could present new or altered security risks that may require mitigation. The procedure to meet your obligation should include consideration around:
Record your risk assessment
You need to write down the findings of your risk assessment on a risk assessment template and the information on how to do a risk assessment can be found here.
Decide who should be on site
Only essential employees and people who cannot work from home should be on site. To keep employees safe the government advises that a business should:
minimise the number of people on site
make sure on-site employees can spot symptoms
tell workers with symptoms to quarantine immediately
explain new procedures and provide training where necessary
consider the protected characteristics of your employees when making decisions, and to prevent discrimination.
NHS Test and Trace
To manage this risk certain sectors should collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors for NHS Test and Trace. These include hospitality (including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés), tourism and leisure (including hotels, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks), close contact services (including hairdressers, barbershops and tailors), facilities provided by local authorities (including town halls and civic centres for events, community centres, libraries and children’s centres), places of worship, including use for events and other community activities. This guidance applies to any establishment that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises.
How to ensure social distancing on site
The government advises you should always stay two metres apart (or one metre with risk mitigation if not viable) by putting up signs and floor tape to remind people to keep social distancing. Where you cannot stay two metres apart (or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable) you should:
only work together up to 15 minutes at a time
use screens and barriers to separate people where possible
work side by side or back-to-back rather than face-to-face
have fixed teams to minimise exposure
you need to make sure that your entrances and exits to the premises are safe and secured for a one-way flow where possible.
you should review layouts and processes to allow employees to work further apart from each other and avoid hot-desking.
You should clean the site including work areas before you reopen. You should clean busy areas more often and more thoroughly.
You should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser and remind employees regularly to wash their hands.
Before you reopen your offices, you should:
check if you need to service or adjust ventilation systems, for example they shouldn’t automatically reduce ventilation when there are fewer people on site
get advice from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineer if your systems serve several buildings and you’re not sure if they need adjusting
open windows and doors to get as much ventilation as possible
Once you’re open you should:
frequently clean objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
limit or restrict the use of ‘high-touch’ items such as printers or whiteboards
restrict non-business deliveries, for example personal deliveries to workers
Protecting customers and visitors on site
You should work out the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines.
Keeping safe in meetings
only have meetings in person if you cannot meet remotely
stay two metres apart (or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable)
use signs on the floor to help people maintain social distancing
have meetings outdoors or in ventilated rooms
not share objects like pens
have hand sanitiser in meeting rooms.
Keeping employees safe when they travel for work
only travel for essential work
have fixed groups of people travelling so that any contact happens between the same people
clean company vehicles between shifts
make sure accommodation meets social distancing guidelines
keep a log of who is staying where.
Receiving and sending goods safely
You should minimise contact at drop-off and collection. You should minimise contact when people pay for or exchange things, for example by using contactless and electronically signed documents.