Here are the key steps to consider when planning your return to work following lockdown.
A gradual, phased return to work can help to manage the potential risks of Covid-19 and ease employees back into the workplace helping them both mentally, as well as adjusting to a change in working style.
Start by asking your employees to complete a questionnaire (which meets medical confidentiality and GDPR requirements) to help determine any employee anxiety about their return to work. This data will also help you to make plans to accommodate workforce demographics and individual vulnerabilities including age, pregnancy, mental health, relevant illnesses, ethnicity and individual commuting options.
Identify employees who are deemed at high risk using the Government criteria; those who have symptoms or are having to self-isolate due to someone else in their household; employees required to care for others such as vulnerable people and children; and those who need to use public transport as part of their commute.
Your back to work safety plan will need to include what reasonable steps to take to protect people from Covid-19. The first place to start is by completing a risk assessment which will help you manage the risks and identify ways you can protect people.
If you have five or more employees your risk assessment will need to be in writing. The assessment should include what work activities or situations might cause transmission of the virus, who could be at risk, what is the likelihood they could be exposed to the risk and take action to reduce the chances of it happening.
Introduce practical controls including putting into place social distancing, staggering shifts, providing additional hand washing facilities, increase cleaning frequencies and maintain good communication with employees to ensure they stay safe.
The HSE explain that where employees are not complying with the guidelines they will take a range of actions to improve control of workplaces risks including the provision of specific advice to employers, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.
Reporting Cases of COVID-19
The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrence Regulations now includes the legal requirement to report certain cases of Covid-19. These are:
an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.
Thorough Examination and Testing of Equipment
The HSE recognises the potential challenges when carrying out legal requirements for thorough examination and testing (TE&T) of plant and equipment. However, statutory inspections required in the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and Pressure Systems Safety Regulations (PSSR) remain in place. The HSE have issued specific advice to help ensure this testing is completed safely.
It's important to consider all the risks of drivers delivering to and collecting from workplaces. You need to think about how to maintain social distancing as much as possible from visiting drivers. You also need to ensure that drivers have safe access to welfare facilities on site if required. If social distancing cannot be maintained, it may be safer, as a temporary measure for them to remain in their cab during loading or unloading, or at waiting areas which are relocated. If changes are made to current arrangements, assess whether pedestrians and vehicles can still continue to circulate in a safe manner and ensure the risk of drive-away incidents is avoided.
First Aid Cover and Qualifications If first aid cover for your business is reduced because of COVID-19 or you can’t get the first aid training you need, there are some things you can do to ensure that you still comply with the law. You should review your first aid needs and decide if you can still provide the cover needed for the employees on the premises and the activities they do. If there are fewer people coming into your workplace it may still be safe to operate with reduced first aid cover. You could also stop higher risk activities.
If you require support with managing your return to work safely please get in touch.