As much of the country eases its way back to work after a gradual relaxation of lockdown, conducting a workplace risk assessment will be crucial. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced an imminent return to ‘proactive’ inspections. We know that ensuring businesses implement the new guidance on working safely during coronavirus will be high on the agenda.
So how do you get back work safely during the coronavirus pandemic? What in particular will the regulator be looking for?
Workplace risk assessment
As is often the case, the first step is to carry out a workplace risk assessment. This involves consulting with employees to identify the hazardous events that have the potential for the virus to spread, including:
- Situations that bring people into close proximity
- High-touch surfaces, potentially through shared-equipment etc.
What are you doing already to control these events and what more could you do to reduce the risk further?
Workplace risk assessments should be shared with employees and where members of the public have access to your facilities, posted on your company website.
As we know, high standards of hygiene are critical in the fight against the virus. So, the regulator will expect to see enhanced cleaning procedures in place, especially of objects and surfaces that are regularly touched.
Mitigating risk & being socially distant
The number of people sharing the workplace is a significant factor influencing the risk. Whilst keeping businesses operating effectively and getting back to work is important, it is still necessary for people to work from home wherever possible.
For those who have to be in work, the regulator will want to see that all reasonable steps are being taken to help employees and others keep to a 2m distance.
Some safety initiatives are:
- Arranging a one-way system for employees and visitors
- Rearranging workplace layouts to create greater distance between work stations
- Partitions where close proximity is unavoidable
- Implementation of signs to keep employees and visitors informed of procedures
- Increased use of radios and tannoy systems to reduce movements around the workplace.
Realistically, it’s not always possible for people to be 2m apart. The government guidance provides useful suggestions for managing the transmission risk. As a result, screens and barriers are increasingly being used to separate people from each other. Plus, introducing ‘fixed partnering’ arrangements to reduce the number of people each person has contact with is also more normal.
There is no one-size-fits-all with risk assessment, every workplace is different, and so the HSE inspector who calls on you will want to see that you’ve considered your site-specific risks rather than taken a generic approach.
For those not used to dealing with the HSE, carrying out risk assessments and implementing safety controls can be a daunting prospect.
At Ampios, we have years of experience across a range of sectors so if you need help, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Michael Emery – Coaching for Safety Specialist