Essential to any future return to work from the COVID-19 pandemic will be the adoption of new working practices that minimise risks for the safety of staff, visitors, and clients. And SOA are here to help you do this.
With a vaccine unlikely to be available for some time if ever, the Government has made it clear that businesses need to operate wherever they can using a variety of safety processes including social distancing protocols and working from home where possible. It is essential therefore, that businesses need to start thinking about how they can be Safe to Open (e.g. in retail, leisure and education) or Safe to Work, i.e. COVID-Secure. This is where SOA can help.
The COVID pandemic has caused businesses to either stop working or to change how they work, with varying levels of success. Some organisations have learned that new ways of working have not had the negative effects they imagined, with productivity maintained and staff kept safe. However, there are still many tasks which can only be completed whilst at the workplace, and we are beginning to see businesses slowly reopening and struggling to find safe working methods whilst getting the job done. This danger is likely to increase as more organisations begin to return to normal ways of working. Therefore, a risk assessment (COVID-19 risk assessment) is needed to identify what systems and changes to the work environment are needed to keep people safe. As specialists in this type of assessment, SOA can help you with this. You can find commonly asked questions and a free risk assessment planning questionnaire here which considers key factors other than social distancing.
We are also offering short Virtual Classroom Training sessions using Zoom / Teams to help businesses understand what they need to do, what to consider when completing their own assessment and common mistakes and misperceptions that we have seen people making; hopefully this will help you to avoid making the same mistakes – see our booking page for details of dates.
Risk Assessment – the key to safe working
To properly identify what are the most effective health and safety controls at your own workplace a Safe to Work Risk Assessment (or Safe to Open Assessment) should be completed. There are some good practices already in existence (such as some supermarkets) and some which have good intention but are not effectively implemented; it is not sufficient to simply having a protocol if it is not applied. This is where we can help.
We can either review and advise you on the measures taken from your own assessment to provide reassurance to staff, or complete your Covid-19 risk assessment to identify the management systems and practical measures needed, using our Coronavirus Safe to Work risk assessment package which includes a range of services – you choose which parts you want and need.
See also one of our case studies which demonstrates how we can add value to your business.
How SOA helps with Safe To Work Risk Assessment
We will discuss your current arrangements and how best to approach a phased return or phased opening of your business, considering issues such as:
- Access and egress
- Circulation around the premises
- Shift start and end times
- Use of shared spaces (in multi-tenant occupations) such as lifts
- Access to welfare facilities and control of numbers
- Emergency evacuation (people can’t gather at an assembly point in most workplaces right now!)
- Cleaning / sanitising workbenches, workstations, keyboards
- Hot desking arrangements
- Provision, access to, storage and disposal of PPE
Our team of qualified health and safety practitioners can use their experience, knowledge and qualifications to complete a comprehensive Covid -19 Risk Assessment in all parts of your workplace, and then work with you to implement and monitor it by using simple, practical measures. In addition to their expertise we will ensure that our advice reflects legal requirements for a safe work place as well as the Governments guidelines. We will also reference the joint statement via the HSE, TUC and CBI to ensure a balanced approach to worker safety and productivity.
For those organisations who have a member of staff who is ready to return to work following self-isolation or suffering from the virus, please see our further advice and support, including a FREE DOWNLOAD of a fit for work (also known as return to work) assessment.
Practical and sensible solutions
Our Coronavirus Safe to work Assessments are proving effective in enabling organisations to continue work operations during the beginning and the peak of the pandemic, this has helped businesses who have been at the forefront of supporting the country in essential services and goods. Our assessments can be completed quickly and are bespoke to your needs, enabling you to further develop your own strategy for a return back to full productivity.
Frequently asked questions
The law requires you to complete risk assessments and to record the significant findings. Therefore, there is an implied legal requirement to do a COVID-19 assessment. The assessment helps you to look ahead to decide where the risks of infection may occur/ could be spread so you can plan to eliminate or mitigate the risk.
To meet good practice and HSE guidance, any risk assessment must involve the end user, i.e. the staff. There is significant benefit in this as you can gain a better understanding of employees’ barriers to returning and then address them during your planning of precautions. This is the most effective way, together with ensuring you have access to specialist and professional advice, to reassure your staff.
Communicating the key measures that have been taken to facilitate a safe return to work is essential if you want to effectively engage your teams and provide the reassurance they need.
The short answer is yes! The reality is that the assessment should be easier to complete as maintaining distancing when there is a small proportion of people in the premises will be easier to achieve and maintain. You still need to ensure your premises are safe though, and for staff to know what procedures apply. You may find our free download Assessment Planning questionnaire below will be helpful in steering you through the initial stages.
If they have been self-isolating and not obtained a GP’s Fit To Work assessment an assessment should still be completed to ensure they are not likely to expose other workers to infection. You should also refer to the Government guidelines for isolation of individuals who have either shown symptoms or are living with a household member who has had symptoms. You may also wish to download our complimentary occupational health assessment to help you verify whether they are safe to return.
All measures should be taken to ensure these employees can continue to work from home or remain on furlough until the pandemic has receded further. They should not be in your initial stages of a return to work planning strategy. This list has been updated since the pandemic started. See here for details.
The HSE defines a competent person as someone (or a group of people) who has a combination of:
· technical health and safety knowledge
· experience and knowledge of the work, processes or type of environment
· knowledge and understanding of the risk assessment process
· communication skills
· ability to recognise their own limitations.
Usually a team approach is the most effective way to do the assessment. Often this is achieved by a specialist (such as a health and safety practitioner within your organisation) liaising with other key managers and senior managers to determine the company’s strategy for opening up the workplace (ie production planning, upscaling, prioritising teams to return first etc) as well as HR personnel to determine those who should remain at home, and premises/estates personnel to provide input on the practicalities of social distancing. If you do not have internal health and safety specialist advice you may wish to obtain the help of an external specialist. Indeed, the input of such a specialist who has already completed these types of assessment can help you save a lot of time and trouble as they will already have dealt with similar situations. And we have completed dozens in all industries, from bus drivers, warehousing, offices, colleges to name a few.
Whilst nothing can beat the detailed inside knowledge of what your business needs to facilitate a safe return to work, seeking the input of a specialist health and safety practitioner will give a significant boost of reassurance to employees that you are taking this seriously. This can be either to complete your assessment or to review and validate it.