In September, the government strengthened its ‘COVID-secure’ guidance to combat a surge in cases.
And in a speech to the House of Commons, PM Boris Johnson confirmed that “businesses will be fined, and could be closed, if they break the rules.”
So, with stricter sanctions in force, now’s the time to check your workplace still meets COVID-secure standards.
Here’s how to protect your people and business through the months ahead.
Learn the new rules for workplaces
On 24th September, the following rules hit businesses in England:
- Retail staff have to wear face masks at work.
- Pubs, bars and restaurants must only offer table service only, and need to close by 10pm.
- Office workers should work from home if possible.
The PM has said these measures could last for six months and may get even stricter if people flout the rules.
He also confirmed that business owners who fail to meet COVID-secure standards face fines of up to £10,000.
It’s a hefty amount. So how can you make sure you avoid workplace sanctions?
Review your COVID-19 risk assessment
When you reopened your workplace post-lockdown, you needed to carry out a new risk assessment to find ways to reduce transmissions of COVID-19.
But now we face updated rules, and we also know more about how the virus spreads. So it’s a good idea to relook at your assessment to make sure your workplace is still COVID-secure.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) says you need to:
- Spot which situations at work could cause the virus to spread
- Think about who could be at risk, including staff and customers
- Decide how likely it is that infections will happen
- Take steps to remove or reduce the chances of people catching the virus
The steps you take will depend on your workplace, so you might need to get creative with your ideas. Popular measures that businesses have introduced include staggered shifts, full-time mask wear, cleaner workstations and increased cleaning schedules.
But the most important step you can take is to keep your people separate…
Reaffirm social distancing at work
Where possible, the government still asks that employers keep staff two metres apart from each other.
But as your staff get used to being back at work and return to pre-COVID habits, this rule becomes harder to impose.
Some of the measures you can use to reinforce social distancing include:
- Putting up signs to remind people to keep apart
- Using floor tape to mark safe distances and one-way traffic
- Positioning people side-by-side and not face-to-face
- Limiting meetings & gatherings and using virtual meeting software where possible
- Staggering the times that people enter and exit your workplace
Depending on your workplace, 2m social distancing might not be possible. In that case, you should try to introduce extra measures like plastic screens to create a physical barrier.
And you’ll need to keep these screens as clean as possible—just like the rest of your workplace.
Step up cleaning and hygiene procedures
We now know that coronavirus can be passed between people if they touch the same surfaces.
So, keeping your workplace clean and asking staff to regularly wash their hands are vital parts of a COVID-secure business.
First, identify the objects that lots of people touch, like door handles and taps. Then, put in place measures that help stop the spread of the virus.
For example, you could place antibacterial wipes next to the kettle and printers and ask your staff to wipe them down both before and after use.
You should also use signs and posters to remind your workers to regularly wash their hands, cough/sneeze into their arms, and avoid touching their faces. To encourage high levels of hygiene, make sure you provide:
- Soap and paper towels/hand dryers in the kitchen and toilets
- Hand sanitiser throughout your workplace for staff and visitors
Unfortunately, even if you spend all day cleaning your workplace, there’s no guarantee that coronavirus won’t be present.
So, if you employ anyone with underlying health conditions who risks severe COVID-19 illness, you need to take extra measures to keep them safe at work (and be sure to keep up to date with local restrictions, too).
Protect your vulnerable workers
At the time of writing, people who were previously shielding can come to work.
But as an employer, you still have legal duty to protect your staff from harm. So you need to put in place specific controls to keep your vulnerable workers safe.
Steps you could try include:
- Offering your vulnerable employee a behind-the-scenes role to help them socially distance from others
- Giving them plastic face shields and rubber gloves to reduce their chance of catching the virus
- Setting them up to work from home (if possible for their line of work)
You can learn more about how to protect your vulnerable workers in Peninsula’s free article.
But if you want specific guidance tailored to your business, and your vulnerable workers’ needs, it’s best to…
Get expert health & safety advice
If you’re a Peninsula client, you can call our 24/7 helpline for instant, unlimited advice on how to create a COVID-secure workplace and protect your people through the pandemic.
But if you’re not a client?
No problem. You can still claim a free health & safety advice call with one of our experts today.
To speak to an adviser now and get the latest guidance on workplace safety, call 0800 028 2420