As many of us prepare to return to work during the pandemic, it is important to remember that effective social distancing does not require people to totally avoid interaction with others.
The goal is to reduce interaction in the general population to such a point that COVID-19 no longer has enough hosts to survive. If everyone who contracts COVID-19 transmits it to – on average – less than one person, its spread will eventually peter out to manageable levels.
This goal can be achieved while we return to work as long as employers and employees follow guidance from the HSE and the World Health Organisation. Most importantly, we must all have an attitude of cooperation and selflessness during this time.
Below are the steps that all businesses must take if they are to keep their employees, customers and clients safe while getting back to work.
Please note that the employees referenced in the advice below are assumed to not be in a high risk category. Those who are at high risk from COVID-19 must continue to isolate as much as possible and their employers must not put them in danger.
From the nature of the work and number of employees to the physical properties of the workplace, every business will face unique challenges in running safely during the pandemic.
The first step is to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. This assesses the entirety of your business’s operations in order to identify what changes need to be made for social distancing and good hygiene to be upheld throughout.
It is expected for businesses with more than 50 employees to publish the results of this risk assessment online.
Making it through the pandemic is very much a group effort.
Involve staff from every level of the business and any unions that represent them in your risk assessment so that all potential risks can be identified and mitigated.
Employers are urged to help their employees work from home wherever possible. Many roles can be fulfilled remotely and if employers are capable, they should provide equipment for their employees to do so.
For those who need to commute, cycling should be encouraged amongst able bodied employees as a means of travelling safely – with the additional and significant benefit of improved physical and mental health.
If it is not possible for a role to be carried out remotely, businesses must make the workplace and/or working practices as safe as possible for their employees through the following:
Desks should be reorganised so that people are always sat at least two metres apart. Where this is not possible, erect barriers and have employees facing opposite directions to minimise airborne transmission.
Markers on the floor can control the flow of people to avoid accidental contact, which is especially valuable in public-facing businesses such as shops, where total foot traffic should also be controlled.
Are you preparing to reopen shops during the pandemic? Read our dedicated advice for retailers here.
Where social distancing cannot be enforced for practical reasons, shift patterns and teams should be split and staggered so that physical interactions are separated into as small groups as possible.
For example, splitting a group of ten into two set groups of five potentially halves the transmission of the virus should one employee contract COVID-19.
Whatever team and shift configurations are put in place should be consistent throughout the pandemic. If people regularly move from one team to another, it defeats the purpose of separating them in the first place.
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been clear that hand washing is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus. Provide hand washing/sanitising facilities at key points such as entrances and exits and display reminders for good hygiene practices.
Cleaning should be regular and thorough with special attention paid to high contact surfaces such as keyboards, door handles and touch screen interfaces. Remember it is not just touch but coughing and even just breathing that can distribute infected fluids.
Anyone who is symptomatic must isolate themselves for at least seven days from the onset of symptoms and immediately inform everyone who they have recently been in contact with, while those who have been in contact with someone who is symptomatic should isolate for two weeks.
If you need any assistance preparing your business for reopening safely, Magenta Security offer a COVID-19 risk assessment service which is an adapted form of our security risk assessments.
These COVID-19 risk assessments are carried out by one of our licensed security managers, who have been trained in HSE and WHO guidance to guarantee your business’s compliance upon reopening.
Contact Magenta Security now on 0800 772 3786 to book your COVID-19 risk assessment.
For more information on working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here for guidance from the HSE.
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