COVID – 19 Next steps; employees returning to work
Based on recent communication from the Government about planning for the next phase of social distancing considering COVID-19, now is the time for businesses to think about what steps will need to be taken to manage a safely employees returning to work. Thinking about this now will mean you can deliver a safe and successful return to work plan that identifies the new or altered risks it may pose and the control methods you have in place to ensure you can meet the Governments requirements.
From an H&S perspective you should take the following into account;
Reduced numbers of staff in work
If you phase in your workforce returning to work there may be some key roles not at their full capacity such as fire wardens and first aiders. You will need to consider how their roles are covered and review your risk assessments to identify the risks this may pose and how you can put in place temporary control measures.
Continue to social distance/protect from virus infection
Having more people back in the workplace will need to be managed in terms of maintaining the requirements the government put in place. Maintaining and ensuring social distancing and hand washing provisions will be critical, communicating these procedures through signage and briefings.
You may have already completed risk assessments at the start of this pandemic, but as things change you need to review these assessments to ensure you continue to demonstrate your legal requirement of protecting the health, safety and well-being of your employees. The risks will evolve as people return to work, with increased travel and contact and this needs to be identified in your assessments. You should also continue to assess the risks of those who remain working from home. Producing this documentation will be crucial in case of any future challenges or investigation.
You should consider both physical and mental risks as part of your assessments. You should revisit strategies you have in place to support employees suffering negatives effects of social distancing on their mental health.