The coronavirus pandemic has presented many challenges to the business world, one of the most significant being in the area of health and safety.
It’s an unprecedented situation that no one was prepared for or could have predicted. But we now find ourselves in the position where health and safety has to be thoroughly considered every day and in every aspect of business. It is imperative that employers keep their people safe by putting measures in place to manage the risk surrounding the coronavirus.
In normal times, reps from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have a legal right to inspect all workplaces they cover at least once every three months to ensure regulations are being met, but they must give the employer reasonable notice of their visit.
In COVID-times, the situation is quite different. HSE reps are carrying out spot checks and inspections on all types of business throughout the country to ensure they are COVID-secure. These visits provide the ideal opportunity to give advice on how to effectively manage the risks and keep staff, customers and third parties safe. Dealing directly with companies means the measures that have been put in place can be thoroughly checked to ensure they comply with government guidance.
What does COVID-secure mean?
To be COVID-secure, your workplace will need to comply with the government guidelines on how to maintain a COVID-safe environment for staff, customers and anyone entering your site. To achieve this you will need to ensure you:
- Have identified COVID hazards specific to your business
- Have completed a COVID-19 risk assessment
- Are maintaining social distancing at all times
- Keep your workplace clean with increased cleaning procedures being carried out
- Provide hand sanitising stations
Businesses who are not effectively managing the risk of spreading coronavirus will be subject to immediate action from the HSE to resolve the issues. This could involve providing advice and guidance, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe, issuing enforcement notices and even prosecuting where companies fail to make the changes to comply.
As well as undertaking the measures recommended by the HSE, there are further steps you could choose to take as a business and these are particularly valuable for highly customer-facing companies:
- Contact-free customer interactions
- The use of face masks, visors and gloves where appropriate
- Screens and dividers installed where needed and particularly around till points
- Spacing out desks/workstations to ensure social distancing when working as well as when moving around
- Putting one-way and single person use policies in place in confined spaces such as washrooms and kitchens
- Stagger shifts where possible to reduce staff numbers at any one time
COVID-19 risk assessments
Why are they important?
As an employer you have a responsibility to keep your staff, clients and anyone you come into contact with on your premises safe. By carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment you are taking all the reasonable steps you can to protect them and limit the risk of infection. Without one, you are putting others in danger and failing to run your business in a professional and responsible way. It is also a breach of health and safety law and could lead to prosecution.
What does a COVID risk assessment involve?
- Identifying what activities or situations could lead to transmission of the virus in your workplace
- Considering who could be at risk
- Evaluating how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- Removing the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, controlling the risk
All risk assessments should be recorded on paper for your own reference as well as for the purposes of inspections. Although companies with less than five employees are not obliged to record their assessment, it is advised to do so anyway.
COVID attitudes and behaviours
COVID-19 has been a constant topic of conversation this year as it has dominated our lives and impacted on almost everything we usually do. Not everyone shares the same views when it comes to how to best approach the pandemic, but as an employer, it’s important that you are communicating the correct messages to staff and customers to let them know that you support the government guidance and consider health and safety to be essential.
Encourage positive attitudes and behaviour from all your staff and put measures in place to ensure that employees are adhering to the safety procedures. This is especially important for customer-facing roles as lack of cooperation could put valued customers at risk and compromise the reputation of your brand.
Consider investing in support or training for staff members struggling to get to grips with the additional responsibilities and keep mental health and wellbeing at the fore as any number of your employees could be struggling, but may not be willing to come forward and say so.
How we can help
Health and safety training is one of PETA’s areas of expertise. We offer a range of advice and consultancy services that could help you deal with the additional COVID safety requirements quickly and easily. Our packages can be tailored to fit your exact requirements, whether you need help with all your safety processes from scratch, assistance with completing risk assessments or help putting measures in place.
Safety Health Check
A brief, 2-hour snapshot offering a starting point to help you improve your health and safety systems.
A review of current health and safety management systems to identify areas for improvement and compliance.
An audit of operational effectiveness on a plan, do, act, check model, identifying health and safety gaps and highlighting improvement opportunities leading to the development of an action plan.
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