Who would have thought that our lives would be so restricted, and so we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic? As we start to ease our way back to the new normality, as business owners, we have to now consider the new world of working, and as far as reasonably practicable, minimise the risk of COVID-19 within the workplace.
COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment
Each and every workplace must undertake a COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment, if you employ 5 or more people, then this needs to be a written assessment. When identifying the risks, the assessment should identify the precautions you’ll take to mitigate exposure to the virus, or keep it to a manageable level.
As with any risk assessment, the starting point begins with whether the risk of exposure to COVID-19 can be avoided, if it cannot be avoided, what measures can be introduced to minimise the risk, and where the risk cannot be brought to a reasonable level, what PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should be provided; resorting to PPE is always a last resort.
Your COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment should be undertaken by a Competent Person and should cover all the Governments COVID-19 guidelines as well as compliance with all other relevant health and safety legislation.
There are two main ways to minimise the potential risk associated with Coronavirus. Firstly, good hygiene, and secondly, social distancing.
Let’s start with social distancing as this potentially has the biggest impact on how your business may operate. Being able to work from Home provides the maximum protection from contracting COVID-19. However, depending upon your business activities, being socially distant from your workplace, your work colleagues and your customers may not be possible and just impractical.
So, if home working isn’t an option, then your starting point is your COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment. Social distancing guidelines state that you must be able to maintain a 2-metre distance wherever possible, including when you arrive at and depart work, while in work and travelling to sites.
There are numerous management options available, which may include staggered start and finish times, shift working, extending the working day or week, reducing your workforce etc. Alternatively, you could look at space planning and management.
Space planning involves evaluating your premises, and maximising the space available to its full potential, whilst ensuring that you are protecting your employees, contractors, customers and the general public from COVID-19. Every workplace is unique and making the best use of your working environment will contribute to the success of your business.
Whilst adapting your workplace, you must also consider the ever-changing Government Guidance on working safely with COVID-19, and the various Health and Safety legislation which still applies.
COVID-19 is thought to spread by droplets transmitted when people cough, sneeze, or even just talk. Those within 2 metres of an infected person may breathe in the droplets and, as can be expected, the longer you spend near to someone who is infected, the higher your risk of catching the illness.
Surfaces can also become contaminated when people cough on their hand and then touch something, for example an office kettle, door handle, or handrail etc. The virus can then spread if someone else touches the same surface and then touches their eyes, nose or face.
Your COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment should include the control measures to be adopted to reduce the risk of transmission of the disease. This includes ensuring that employees, as well as contractors, customers and the general public maintain good personal hygiene and a suitable cleaning regime is implemented to ensure hard surfaces are disinfected.
COVID-19 Containment Policy and Safe Working Arrangements
Putting in place a written COVID-19 Containment Policy will clarify the measures your organisation is taking to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The policy should be made available and communicated to your employees so that they are aware of the safe working arrangements and the procedures that must be followed to combat the disease.
Being able to demonstrate that you have a robust COVID-19 Containment Policy, will also give the comfort and confidence that existing Clients will need to continue to engage with you. The policy document will also act as a useful tool where you may be seeking further work opportunities.
As we focus on making our workplace COVID Compliant, we must also ensure that those organisations that we engage, or collaborate with are also being compliant with Government guidelines and statutory requirements; we should also be asking to see their COVID Risk Assessment and Policy.
Marpal have collaborated with Matthew Montague Architects to offer a service to business owners who are looking to become COVID-19 compliant, in accordance with Government Guidelines and health and safety legislation. The service we offer brings together health and safety risk management and space planning expertise to allow you to return back to work safely and focus on what you do best.
If you require any further information, or have any COVID-19 queries, then please contact one of our Consultants today. Call Marpal on 01332 668877 or email us at [email protected].