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Last updated: 17.07.20

Five steps to return to work safely

Five steps to return to work safely

As the lockdown period for COVID-19 begins to lift, organisations are planning for the return of their employees. After months at home and the virus still around, there is understandably some reluctance in returning. Therefore, organisations must ensure employees are safe to return and that all measures and precautions have been taken to keep them as such. 

It is important to plan for both physical health and safety, which you can do with our five steps below and the mental health and wellbeing of your staff, which you can implement as part of a wider reboarding plan. 

With many different organisations and industries, it is hard to tailor advice to everyone, which is why the Government guidance on returning to work safely has been vague. The five step process published on the UK GOV website gives overall guidance, however it must be adapted to your organisation’s specific needs. 

Let’s take a look at how the guidance can be adapted for you; 

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment.

The first step for every organisation is to carry out a risk assessment. The Health and Safety Executive has provided detailed guidance on managing the risks of COVID-19 and is a great starting point. Fill out their risk assessment template to identify risks and then tackle them with a detailed plan.

Your plan will form the foundation of getting your employees back to work safely - so make sure you take the time to follow the advice and tailor it specifically to your organisation. If you deal with members of the public be sure to include them in your risk assessment too! 

  1. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures.

To stop the spread of the virus, cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures are imperative. As part of your health and safety policy make it mandatory for employees to wash hands thoroughly before and after shifts and throughout the day. 

It is also advisable to install hand sanitiser stations throughout the building, especially if you’re working in the retail and hospitality sectors. In addition to this provide a good supply of cleaning products for staff to clean their desks and work areas daily. 

For the catering industry handwashing and hygiene procedures must be at the forefront, ensure staff are regularly washing hands and if possible, wearing gloves to protect themselves and any food they touch from contamination. 

We offer a free ‘introduction to infection prevention and control’ course which would be beneficial for all employees to go through before returning to work.

  1. Help people to work from home.

If your employees can carry out their work effectively from home, from a health and safety perspective it is best for them to continue to do so. Although many industries are opening up and returning to work, the risks are still present. 

It is important to note that if your business has been functioning as normal for the past five months with remote-workers you can carry this on for the foreseeable future. Continue to support and motivate remote-workers by engaging and communicating with them regularly. It is difficult as an organisation to not have any clear answers but be transparent with your employees and let them know of key changes or updates as and when you can.

  1. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible.

It is vital that where possible you still maintain a 2m distance. If your employees work closely together, such as in an office environment and in the manufacturing industry, we suggest the use of screens and changing the layout of desks and work areas. 

If your organisation caters to members or the public, using markings and signage around the location will assist in maintaining distance. In retail shops, a 2m distance may be difficult to maintain however you can try to leave a gap between each employee at the till area and only allow a certain number of staff per department. 

You can try and get creative with your social distancing, like this cafe in Paris who seated large teddy bears on every other table and this restaurant in Leeds using celebrity cutouts to separate diners. 

If a 2m distance is not possible in your organisation, please see below. 

  1. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.

For sectors where a 2m distance isn’t feasible, invest in personal protective equipment for all your employees. This will allow staff to carry out their job roles whilst reducing the risk of infection. Ensure that PPE is not shared and is also sanitised before and after each work day.

As of July 24, face coverings will be made mandatory in England in shops and supermarkets. This will help manage any further transmission risk if a 2m distance cannot be sustained within your organisation.

If you would like further information we have designed a range of new courses to help your employees return to work safely. These courses have been designed for the following areas; Manufacturing, Retail, Office, Food Manufacturing, Food Retail, Food Catering and Seated Service