Recent news reports, for example the BBC´s Coronavirus: High Street shops preparing ways to reopen, suggest that in the coming weeks, we will start to see a gradual reduction of the lockdown in the UK. It is anticipated that the process will be in stages as the Government seeks to re-start the economy.
With this in mind, we have collated information and advice to support your business ahead of the economy re-opening. There are guidelines for things you need to be thinking about now, ahead of reopening your business, to get on the front foot.
Government Regulation and Guidance
Working within the constraints of Government guidance will be key. We must remember that the end of lockdown does not mean the end of the COVID-19 crisis and that until there is an effective vaccine, it is likely that some measures to prevent further spread will be in place.
The guidance provided is changing constantly in line with the increasing knowledge of how to deal with the virus. To keep abreast of this, you should maintain a watch on Government advice, WHO, EHO, HSE and other supporting organisations to keep up to date with the latest advice.
Mental Health and The Fear Factor
Employees will have been affected, directly and indirectly, by the enforced isolation and other preventative measures. This could manifest in a number of different ways and as a business you need to have appropriate policies and procedures in place.
When re-opening a business, staff will need to be reassured that measures have been implemented to protect them as they filter back into work. In addition to the possible mental health issues, other employees will have specific reasons for not being able to return to ‘normal’ working, including;
- Fear or apprehension about catching the virus, particularly where there are underlying conditions such as Asthma or other vulnerabilities
- Where an employee has to be shielded or where someone else in the house is being shielded for 12 weeks.
- Childcare or other care issues
An option here might be to implement some form of Code of Conduct (almost a contract between employer and employees) which will set out what the business we will do to protect employees (such as cleaning, hygiene and distancing) and what employees can do to help employers.
You will need to carefully consider the above as part of your re-opening process.
Another factor affecting return to work will be how employees get into work.
Advice on social distancing measures when using public transport will need to be considered and it maybe that staff will find it difficult to get to work other than in cars – do you have appropriate parking facilities nearby to cater for the increase?
There are a range of issues and tasks you will need to consider as part of the process of opening up your business. Every step should be carefully considered and fully documented. A Risk Assessment should be completed.
- Plan how you are intending to operate in the short, medium and longer term
- What are the key operations needed in the initial opening and then operating phase?
- As part of these plans you should consider a phased return. Limiting the number of employees on site will help with implementing the below;
- Can employees work a shift system or staggered working?
- As far as possible, where staff are split into teams, fixing these splits (cohorting), so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same individuals
- How will you manage social distancing?
- How will cleaning – initial and ongoing – be managed?
- How will you manage general and respiratory hygiene in the workplace?
Tasks and Measures
- If a shared or landlord controlled premises you will need to ensure you consult, coordinate and cooperate with the landlord or other occupiers. Multi-tenure operations will need to carefully consider access (e.g. social distancing on stairs or in lifts) and may only be able to open on a limited scale so that this can be controlled.
- To ensure that all plant and machinery is in correct working order, has been inspected, tested and maintained and that any statutory inspections (of lifts, LEV, Pressure Systems, etc) have been completed. View more information on Engineering Inspections to continue during Covid-19 Crisis.
- Speak to your suppliers, including materials, maintenance, inspection, cleaning, etc. to ensure the materials and services are available before the opening to ascertain what their position is – again think short, medium and long term.
- Co-operation and co-ordination with contractors will need to be considered. Discussions on procedures and risk should provide a consensus. Any measures will need to be flexible in the short, medium and long term.
- Deep cleans of all areas and facilities, including heating, air conditioning, etc. should be undertaken.
- Ensure that tests (such as legionella testing) have been completed and that investigations have been completed for the presence of pests (rats for example).
- Ensure the fire safety and security equipment has been tested (sprinklers, alarms, emergency lighting, extinguishers, access control systems, etc) and are in working order. In addition, you should ensure that the service providers have been given notice of any changes to procedures put in place during the lockdown phase.
- Make sure that any extra security measures (such as extra guarding) are advised of the need to reduce their service levels.
- Make sure at all times that you are complying with any insurance warranties or conditions
- Following the initial deep clean, a regular cleaning regime will need to be developed. Cleaning desks, work stations and surfaces before and after work should be a minimum and this may need to be extended to include cleaning throughout the working day, between shifts and the like.
- Ensure that waste management has been reviewed. Measures for managing potentially contaminated waste will need to be considered.
- Review your site and facilities layout, this may need to change due to social distancing rules
- Review your risk assessments to ensure they reflect the new way of operating, this should include your Fire Risk Assessment, General Assessments, Manual Handling, DSE, PPE, COSHH, RIDDOR, etc.
- Revise emergency planning procedures – fire, first aid, etc. to ensure there is appropriate cover in line with your assessments
- In areas such as kitchens, staff canteens, etc. special considerations may be needed in terms of hygiene and cleaning
- Business travel and site visit policies and procedures should be reviewed.
- Consider measures needed in case of a re-occurrence of the virus amongst staff and preparations made for the closure and deep clean of the premises in this instance. This plan should include:
- Identification of a room or area where someone who is feeling unwell or has symptoms can be safely isolated
- Have a plan for how they can be safely transferred from there to a health facility/home
- Agree the plan in advance with your partner health care provider or health department where possible.
- Signage may need to be considered such as floor markings to facilitate compliance with the 2m rule. This includes entry points to buildings, toilets and communal break areas where queues may form.
- Consider the need for health declarations and the like, or taking the temperature of employees when returning to work
- Keep promoting the message that people need to stay at home even if they have only mild symptoms of COVID-1
- Display posters with this message in your workplaces. Combine this with other communication channels commonly used in your organisation or business
As with all major incidents such as this, organisations should take the opportunity to review fully the effectiveness of their response – both positive and negative. Once reviewed, both pro-active and re-active measures should be developed to try to lessen the impact of any future interruption and protect the business, its people and its reputation.
Our partner Ellis Whittam have produced this re-occupation checklist that you may find useful. This, and many other useful templates relating to Health and Safety and Employment Law can be found on their Coronavirus hub. It is free and regularly updated, so please feel free to register and start using today. When registering, for the “Which Ellis Whittam partner or prospective partner are you currently a member of?*” question please choose ‘Towergate Risk Management’.
The information contained in this bulletin is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general risk management and insurance information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such. If you wish to discuss your specific requirements, please do not hesitate to contact your usual Towergate Insurance Brokers advisor.