Are you one of the many who have or will soon return to the workplace? Or are you one of those who will still be working from home for a while? Either way it is important to be aware of the special guidelines that apply to the working environment during the Covid-19 situation.
It has always been the employer’s responsibility that their employees have a safe working environment however, since the onset of Covid-19 all employers have experienced an increased, and for many a new type of responsibility. To prevent potential contamination, all employers have had to carry out risk assessments of possible contamination risk. When more and more people choose to return to work, risk assessments are an effective tool for acquiring an overview and thus being better equipped to take measures that can help to protect your staff and ultimately save lives.
New Risk Requires New Assessments
Is your business equipped to assess the risks associated with COVID-19? We have created a simple three-step guide that contains some of the things you should consider, specifically to control the spread of the Coronavirus.
Returning to the office safely
Where many government agencies, as well as some in the private sector, have had to continue operating during the coronavirus outbreak, many offices which have been idle for some time now need to change procedures with the recommendations of social distancing and other such practices.
There are major differences in office workplaces and therefore everyone should consider the conditions that exist specifically with them. Again, a risk assessment is a useful tool for obtaining an overview of potential risk.
The ILO (The International Labour Organisation) has released a guide on how to return to work safely aiming the information to employers. We have delved into the different sections which need to be considered by every employer.
Hygiene measures are extremely important to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Hand washing is know by many however, there are other measures to consider and implement:
- Hand hygiene is extremely important in the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Ensure that workers have facilities to wash their hands properly and regularly with soap and water.
- Respiratory hygiene- Remind workers about the need to cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or elbow and to immediately discard the used tissues.
- Cleaning of workplaces, work equipment and facilities- Establish daily cleaning protocols to ensure workplace, workstations, equipment and facilities are clean and tidy. When cleaning, pay particular attention to high touch / high traffic areas. These can include: canteen facilities, lockers / changing rooms, corridors, smoking areas, shared desks and keyboards, vending machines, door and window handles, handrails, light switches, buttons of elevator doors, toilet doors, washbasin taps, soap dispensers, control panels/buttons of appliances and machines such as printers, frequently used tools etc.
Thoroughly ventilate the workplace using mechanical or natural ventilation (between shifts, regularly during the day).
- Keep toilet ventilation 24/7 in operation. Instruct building occupants to flush toilets with closed lids.
- Secure ventilation with outdoor air. Switch air-handling units with recirculation to 100% outdoor air.
- Ensure regular airing by opening the windows even in mechanically ventilated buildings.
- Inspect heat recovery equipment to be sure that leakages are under control.
- Do not use individual fans that can spread the virus
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment can include surgical facemasks and respirators, disposable gloves, eye splash protection or disposable overalls. Non-medical masks are not considered personal protective equipment, but can help prevent persons with COVID-19 from spreading the infection while talking or coughing.
Actions to consider: from home to the workplace
- Before leaving home- Instruct workers with any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, head cold e.g. runny nose or sneezing, loss of sense of smell) to stay at home, contact a medical centre or call the health services designated by the country’s authorities and follow their guidance
- Transport to and from work- For short distances, encourage workers to come to work on foot or by bicycle. Encourage workers to avoid public transport, especially at peak times. Advise workers who need to travel by public transport to follow the instructions given by transport companies. Consider providing additional parking spaces as increased number of workers may
Actions to consider: before entering the workplace
- Symptom-screening (e.g. temperature checking)- Check laws, regulations and guidance from relevant health authorities concerning symptom-screening policies.
- Registering entries and exits- Minimise the number of entries to company premises – in general, people who are not directly involved with the company’s activities should not enter.
- Avoiding congestion at the entrance/exit- Promote physical distancing and use dispersion measures at entrances and exits. Use aids such as floor markings, ribbons or physical barriers.
- Promoting good hygiene habits- Place posters reminding workers to wash hands upon arrival at the workplace.
Actions to consider: inside the workplace
- Changing rooms- Limit the number of people present at the same time in the changing rooms, to ensure sufficient distance between workers.
- Bathroom facilities- Remind workers to wash hands before and after using the toilet and respect physical distancing as much as possible.
- Canteen and rest areas- Unless on-site canteens / catering facilities cannot be managed in accordance with the measures below, keep them open to avoid workers leaving the site during meal breaks.
- Work equipment- Instruct workers to use their own work tools only or those provided by the company.
- Contacts log- Consider establishing a contacts log.
Actions to consider: leaving the workplace
Instruct the workers to wash their hands before exiting the workplace. As much as possible, spread out the exit times, to avoid congestion.
As the points above show, there is a lot to take into account. Fortunately, there are digital HSE solutions that make it easy to create and share checklists, conduct risk assessments and keep in communication with employees and not least - document that everything is done according to both the law and the best interests of the employees.
To help as many businesses as possible in a difficult time, EcoOnline has made access to its HSE tool, Safety Manager free for four months. Includes, among other things, a customised checklist to facilitate the safeguarding and control of risk during the corona situation. Click the link below and book a meeting with us to learn more!
Duties and requirements with continued working from home
Even though more and more people are choosing to return to their workplaces, many still choose to work from home for various reasons.
In order to ensure that health, the environment and safety in the workplace are complied with, it is important to ensure that good risk assessment procedures are implemented.
Finally some tips to help anyone working from home:
- Get up early and at the usual time, as if you were going to work. Continuing the morning routine can help productivity and promote a kind of normalcy.
- Dress as if you were going to the office, feel presentable in the event of a video conference.
- If you, like many, need to combine both home office and child care, divide the day and create predictability for both your children and colleagues.
- Schedule your work day with breaks in advance. It is important to introduce a clear "opening time" for the home office too!
- Be sure to make your lunch break of today's small highlight - don't eat at your desk!
- Keep your workplace clean and organized
- Make a to-do list for the week and one for each day to make sure you stay focused
Good luck! 🤓