Those who cannot work from home are being ‘actively encouraged’ back into workplaces and expected to manage and control COVID-19 risk. Employers and in house health and safety teams are expected to protect the people and reduce the risk of exposure to in the work place and to anyone else who comes in to contact with the new bio hazard we face!
The team at LCS are learning so much along the way, yet always referring back to our long standing Health and Safety at Work Act. Which we continually reverted back to in supporting clients exciting and new, since Boris announced lockdown measures back on the 23rd March?
Numerous of virtual meetings with Boards across the UK and Europe, working through to late evening and waking at crazy o’clock to have procedures in place and guidance following the ongoing changes and developments. Virtual tours of construction sites, heart breaking conversations and people just wanting assurance and a clear direction.
So as a health and safety consultancy and training company who is unique in our services of leadership and board level, we must stand by our vision, come to the forefront and support employers so they can support their people.
Below we have summarised and humanised 10 points of direction and what is legally required to protect your employees, others, yourself and the companies brand:
1. Back to basics
Your organisation needs a detailed and a well documented COVID-19 risk assessment as a basis for determining control measures in the work place Once that is complete, review existing risk assessments to satisfy yourself they are not adversely impacted by any new processes or procedures you propose.
We have produced complimentary guidance and blogs, that will give you more direction:
2. Find the guidance available and use them
The government published eight sector-specific guidelines following the announcement on the 11th May, designed to help businesses become ‘COVID-19 secure’. There are also pre-existing industry guidelines, which provide more detail and context. LCS has also published risk assessment guidance. Think ‘outside the box’ round the impact on specific job roles, etc.
3. Your staff are humans, treat them with kindness and respect
You may have pregnant workers, or those who have underlying conditions. They may have familial caring responsibilities for those who are shielding or may have lost a loved one. There is also emerging evidence being issued by scientific research as we learn more about the virus, regarding those who are more likely to be seriously impacted by SARS-CoV-2; men appear more vulnerable than women, BAME groups, being overweight, people waiting transplants. It may be that your risk management cannot be ‘one size fits all’. Protecting the higher risk and maintaining equality in the workplace are detailed in the COVID-19 secure guidelines.
4. Engagement will be the key to your success
We have all been affected by COVID-19 and some more than others. We have consumed the news, we have discussed it at length with colleagues and friends in our new virtual world!
Our collective mental health has been adversely impacted, we have kept each other together, built deeper lasting relationships with clients and business acquaintance. We must use all of theses new emotional intelligence skills to reassure workers that they will be safe when they emerge from their personal safe havens, it will be vital; so involve them in the process, they are intelligent and fully armed with COVID knowledge. Consult with them, listen to their them, they may have thoughts you have not thought of on how they can work safely, lets remember they do the job.
When you reach conclusions, publish these clearly so they know you have them very much in mind as operations recommence and we phase returning to work and getting our economy going.
5. Communication is key
The COVID-19 secure guidelines expect businesses with more than 50 workers to publish their risk assessments online. But you should not leave your communications sitting virtually on line. Get your strategy in place before your workplace unlocks. Include clear and consistent messaging around any new requirements or procedures. Think about training needs and consider equipping managers with FAQs to support your approach, we can use all of our new virtual skills and deliver training and engagement on line? There are a number of opportunities that have come from COVID-19, you just have to see them?
6. Don’t forget about the team working from home
The government has been clear on this one: ‘For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home…wherever possible’. Far from the very short-term potential thought likely at the outset of lockdown, we are approaching the third month of home working for many, perhaps with several more months to come and with speculation this will be come a legal requirement. Think, about ergonomics — is a further assessment needed? Is communication lines working well? Are staff feeling involved? Is their mental health and wellbeing ok? Do they need anything? How are they coping with home schooling? Kids and animals invading virtual important meetings? Have they got dressed today?
7. The words: test, track and isolate
How will you do this? As the population begins to circulate more, so will the hazard. Take control in you’re business, set a clear plan for identifying symptomatic workers, isolate them, get testing and talk with those they work with. Reinforcing public health messaging from the government consistently is important. We all need to protect each other.
8. Who else is the business and your people coming in contact with
Where your operations require third party participation, interrogate their strategies for minimising transmission risk. This is particularly so where you may rely on them more than normal, for example cleaning contractors, trades, delivery workers, visitors. Keep an open dialogue so that you manage the risk in a co-ordinated way.
9. Stay in the Know
Sector by sector, day by day, guidance will emerge while Boris has been clear that rules can be changed at short notice depending on the scientific evidence. Identify someone whose task it is to keep the business updated so that you can adapt if required. This could be you health and safety persons, your media team or a person who checks the news and social medial by the second!
10. Don’t forget RIDOOR and Enforcement
Where there is a confirmed diagnosis and there is reasonable evidence the virus was contracted at work, a report will be needed to be completed and reported to the HSE. Failure to report remaining could result in a criminal offence! The guidance is vague and healthcare-centric but the requirement applies across all sectors.
You will also need to demonstrate you have carried out your legal duties? Take a look at our LCSHub blog and COVID-19 Resources pages:
COVID-19 presents a challenge for us all unlike any other bio hazard we have come against. For those who have been away from their workplaces for months, there will be fears and concerns, it has been named #furloughfever. It is likely employees will blow the whistle where a business fails in its management of the risk and obligations to control the virus. This is why having the right health and safety professional team in place, leadership, training and engagement is going to be really, really important.
As experts in risk management, we naively never anticipated being asked to manage and lead COVID-19, yet we are best placed to do it and I wish you all the best and energy as you do!
Director LCS Health & Safety Solutions Ltd