COVID-19: getting back to business safely

Gavin Scarr Hall - Director of Health and Safety

March 02 2021

It’s time to think about a COVID-secure return to work. As the UK aims to loosen lockdown restrictions, you could reopen your doors within the next couple of months.

And the sooner you start looking ahead, the faster you can hit the ground running when you reopen. Our practical tips will help you get back to work as safely as possible – whenever the time is right.

Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

Before you welcome your staff back, you’ll need to work out what measures you need to put in place. A COVID-19 risk assessment will flag up any potential hazards – which should help you plan your next steps.

According to HSE, you should:

  • Think about who could be at risk
  • Decide how likely it is someone could be exposed to the virus
  • Identify what activities or situations might cause the virus to spread
  • Act to remove risky activities or situations, or limit the risk if that’s not possible

In your risk assessment, include all the measures you’ve taken to control the virus. Depending on your business, this could be anything from frequent cleaning to social distancing.

Remember, some employees might be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Whether they have a serious condition or belong to a high-risk demographic, you need to outline your plans to protect them.

Try to involve your employees in the risk assessment process. They could raise potential risks you might not have considered – and it’s always healthy to take your staff’s concerns onboard.

Once you’ve carried out your assessment, it’s time to display your ‘Staying COVID-19 Secure’ sign where people can see it. You can download your sign from the government website.

Employ over 50 staff? Then you’ll need to share your risk assessment on your website, too.

Stick to social distancing

Social distancing will play a huge role in getting back to business. The current guidelines mean we need to stay two metres apart to stop the virus spreading easily.

To keep your staff and visitors (or customers) at a safe distance, you’ll need to make some changes around your workplace. These could include:

  • Introducing a one-way system
  • Avoiding face-to-face meetings
  • Avoiding rooms where you can't maintain social distancing
  • Staggering break, lunch, start, and finish times to avoid crowding
  • Using signs to remind people to stay apart
  • Working side-by-side instead of face-to-face
  • Using tape on the floor to mark out safe work areas and distances

Can’t stay two metres apart? In situations where it’s not possible, you can reduce the distance to one metre. Before you do this, ask yourself:

  • Is the activity essential? If not, you should avoid taking the risk.
  • If the activity is essential, reduce the risk. Measures like wearing a face covering or avoiding face-to-face contact can help.

Keep shared objects and surfaces clean

Coronavirus bacteria can survive on surfaces. That means touching shared objects or areas could spread the virus around your workplace.

Think about ‘high-touch points’ like handrails, door handles, and communal surfaces – these hotspots will have a higher risk of contamination. Antibacterial wipes and sprays are the most effective way to remove traces of the virus.

Keeping hand sanitiser outside entrances can prevent staff from spreading COVID germs onto communal surfaces. And encouraging your staff to frequently – and properly – wash their hands is good practice for reducing risk. 

Of course, you already keep your workplace clean. But when you’re trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to clean more frequently.

Improve ventilation in your workplace

Good ventilation reduces the risk of catching COVID-19. In other words, fresh air can blow unwanted virus particles away.

And since spring is around the corner, opening your windows won’t mean you have to sit in the cold.  By opening doors and windows, you can keep a fresh flow of air circulating around your workplace – but you should never prop open any fire doors.

If opening windows isn’t an option for you, you could consider using a fresh air system to improve ventilation in your workplace. Only use fans and other kinds of forced ventilation when there’s already a good flow of fresh air in your premises. 

Remember, good ventilation won’t stop the virus spreading through contact. So you’ll need to keep up with your social distancing and regular cleaning, too.

Use NHS Test and Trace

For a COVID-secure return to work, you need to get to grips with the NHS Test and Trace scheme.

If you deal with customers or visitors, one member of every group (up to 6 people) will need to provide their name and contact details.

To save time asking for customer or visitor details, you could use an official NHS QR code poster instead. Visitors can simply scan this to check in, and their details will go straight to NHS Test and Trace.

You’ll also need to keep a record of all staff who work on your premises. Note down their shift times on a given day along with their contact details.

Keep staff, visitor, or customer details for 21 days and share the data with NHS Test and Trace if you’re asked. This means they can reach out to anyone who’s been near a positive case.

Make sure COVID-positive staff isolate at home

If an employee tests positive and comes into work, they could expose your staff or customers to the virus. And not only that, but you could face a fine for allowing it to happen.

To avoid this, make it clear you expect staff to stay home and isolate if they test positive. Staff on your payroll qualify for Statutory Sick Pay as soon as they test positive, so they shouldn’t need to worry about gaps in their wages. 

Spot anyone displaying corona-like symptoms? Make sure they isolate at home and take a COVID test as soon as possible.

Get back to business with expert support

Resuming business after lockdown can be tricky enough. But once you factor in all the COVID risks and rules, it might feel like you don’t have the time or support to make it happen.

With the UK’s most-trusted health & safety experts by your side, you can focus on what you do best – without getting caught up in COVID red tape.  

To help you get back to work safely and efficiently, our experts can:

  • Carry out your COVID risk assessment
  • Answer your pressing back-to-work questions
  • Write watertight policies for your new guidelines

Want to take the first step? Speak to one of our health & safety experts today on 0800 028 2420.

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