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Creating COVID-safe and secure workplaces for your employees

By Oliver Morrison, CEO, Filter Digital

Now more than ever, employers are having to reassess their health and safety guidance for staff to ensure a safe and secure workplace for their employees. But how do you check your employees are well and reporting no symptoms of infectious diseases before they arrive for work?

Employers have a responsibility to keep their employees safe whilst at work. Many of us are used to conforming to company policy on wearing appropriate uniform and footwear, keeping walkways and access routes clear and following health and safety guidance whilst working on-site.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, it is now more than ever that employers are having to reassess their health and safety guidance for staff to ensure a safe and secure workplace for their employees.

Employers across all sectors and industries are introducing several new measures to protect their staff and to minimise risk. New office layouts, protective screens, floor graphics, one-way walkways, hand sanitising and the introduction of new Personal Protective Equipment have become commonplace.

Whilst employers can control, to an extent, what safety measures they introduce and how they implement them, empowering employees to follow them correctly and safely is paramount. Clear communication across a business is crucial to ensure everyone on-site is following the health and safety guidelines and rules.

With the spread of infectious diseases at the forefront of the implementation of enhanced measures within the workplace, there is a real need to ensure that employees are symptom-free before they enter a place of work. Whilst employers are doing all they can to ensure staff are safe at work, until now, there has been no mechanism to check staff are safe to come into work.

Safety at the workplace is paramount, and simple additional measures before reaching the workplace, such as regular communication, wellness checks, symptom reporting, records of travel or of interaction with people that have contracted COVID-19, are integral to overall safeguarding.

We’ve also collated some simple questions that can be used to regularly to check-in on employee wellbeing, to support effective and safe working.

Workspace

  • Are you comfortable in your physical workplace?
  • Do you have all of the equipment/supplies that you need to complete your work?
  • Is your working environment causing you any stress?
  • Is working from home negatively affecting your productivity?

Satisfaction

  • Are you receiving the right amount of communication?
  • Are you happy with the amount of recognition you receive for your work?
  • Do you feel recognition is meaningful when you receive it?
  • Are you feeling useful at work?
  • Do you ever feel anxious at work?

Team

  • Do you feel you can share your thoughts with your manager?
  • Do you feel you are positively encouraged to give your opinion?
  • Can you count on your colleagues when you need help?
  • Do you feel your colleagues collaborate well?

Health

  • Are you satisfied with your physical health?
  • Are you following a regular exercise or training regime?
  • Do you try to eat a healthy diet?
  • Do you feel healthy?
  • Would you be interested in having access to mental health resources at work? (such as meditation sessions, mindfulness classes etc.)

About The Author

Oliver Morrison is CEO at Filter Digital, developer of the The Safe For Work app, which provides a quick and easy way to check employees are well and reporting no symptoms of infectious diseases.

Construction industry urged to apply COVID learnings to ‘new normal’

Balfour Beatty, GKR Scaffolding, Kier, Mace, Morgan Sindall and Skanska have published an independent industry research report into COVID-19, that stresses the importance of carrying pandemic learnings in construction beyond the crisis.

The independent report, “COVID-19 and construction: Early lessons for a new normal?”, based on research conducted by Loughborough University experts into six UK major construction schemes, explores the industry’s health and safety response to the COVID-19 pandemic and potential medium to long-term benefits arising from extending and embedding these new working practices.

The report demonstrates how the changes made during the pandemic reflect a phenomenal effort by site staff, frontline workers and occupational health and safety professionals to adapt safely and efficiently to the rapidly evolving situation.

The research identified that, despite overall site productivity being negatively impacted due to social distancing requirements, individual and team effectiveness and productivity had increased for a number of reasons including better and more detailed task planning, reduced waiting time between tasks, increased space and therefore less “overlap” of trades, a boost in the use of technological solutions, more responsibility for individuals and less meetings.

The research also explored the effects of working from home and found that, notwithstanding the cost, flexibility and productivity benefits, making this a permanent solution could have a negative impact on employees with a rise in social isolation and uncertainty of expectations.

Whilst new approaches have been adopted in response to COVID-19, the report presents several recommendations that should be taken before these approaches can become truly embedded into the industry’s ways of working. In doing so, the industry can make substantial, lasting and transformative changes to working practices, productivity and efficiency.

Russell Adfield, The Health and Safety Executive’s Head of Construction Sector and Policy, said: “This industry-led report highlights the significance of having Construction, Design and Management regulations (CDM 2015) – to ensure effective communication, co-operation and co-ordination of workplace practices to both protect workers from risk and allow projects to advance, even in the most difficult of times.

“Involving workers and the supply chain in planning and designing the work is an essential component in developing trust and achieving positive behaviour which will ensure the industry continues to play a critical role in stimulating the economy as we respond to COVID-19.

“With health, safety and wellbeing at the heart of what all companies do, it is clear that the learnings from COVID-19 should extend beyond the lockdown period and shape the whole industry for the better.”

To read the report in full, please click here.

CLC launches tool for COVID-19 cost assessments

The Professional Practice Task Group for the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) Covid-19 Task Force has published a methodology for assessing and reporting the cost implications of disruption due to the pandemic.

Construction clients and contractors rely on accurate cost prediction as the basis of business plans, financial contracts, and commercial control.

The CLC says unprecedented nature of the pandemic is affecting the progress and productivity of existing and future contracts, meaning that the information upon which estimates are usually prepared no longer applies.

The Toolkit acts as a guide to enable better cost forecasting to assist the industry in making informed investment decisions on viability, improving robustness of pipeline and driving long term economic growth.

Simon Rawlinson, Chair of the Professional Practice Task Group said: “The Cost Assessment Toolkit will help the construction industry manage the impact of Covid-19 on existing and future contracts.

“It establishes a standard methodology to incorporate the cost impacts of the virus into estimates, provides clarity on exclusions and through the collection of industry wide data allows clients and supply chains to compare their project costs against an aggregated data set.

“By providing the tools to measure and therefore improve productivity, the toolkit acts as a guide to ascertain and assess project risks and establish viability for the long term.”

To access the tool, click here.

Working together to meet new operational requirements

Genetec is working with its customers in innovative and customisable ways to overcome issues created by COVID-19. Talk to us about how we could address critical requirements you now face in your every day.

COVID-19 means a new way of working for all of us. The team at Genetec has been working tirelessly to help customise solutions and create new functionality to help reflect this change in operations. No matter what your sector, we can help you leverage Genetec solutions to enhance operations.

For more information, visit www.genetec.com.

How to measure occupancy for social distancing

By Irisys

Controlling and restricting occupancy levels has been advised by the Government as a key step in facilitating and enabling social distancing in the workplace.

BUT, what does this mean in practice and how can you implement this in your workplace?

From manual to fully automated solutions, we discuss the pros and cons of different approaches so you are well informed and can pick a solution that best meets your needs and helps ensure the safety of your employees.

Read full article.

Getting retailers ready for opening their doors

Back in April Spectrum Industrial; manufacturer and supplier of safety signage and products, commissioned independent research amongst small independent retailers, who had kept their doors open during the lockdown. The aim was to truly understand how these retailers were implementing and managing social distancing and how they could help.

26% of these retailers said they found it difficult to implement social distancing and signage into the store, and 43% said they would have liked professional help or support.

Spectrum Industrial have spent years helping businesses with site safety signs by carrying out site audits, they took on board this feedback from the research and used their experience to develop a guide on how to implement a social distancing program.

Peter Clayton, Head of Sales, commented: “Following this feedback we thought it was important to help where we could.  We did not see implementing social distancing safety signs as any different to when we work with businesses to guide on site safety signs. However, the difference is that during this time, we can’t physically go along and advise, so we developed a simple how to guide”.

He continued: “We understand it’s not easy, we saw the challenges first-hand ourselves when applying this into our own business during the lockdown, and for those retailers where space is not a premium and a redesign is not an option, it proves very challenging.”

The research also showed that over 45% saw their implementation as being temporary and 50% implementing their own do it yourself signage.

Managing Director, Paul Kantecki, said: “This was no surprise as many at the time did not know how long this would go on for.  However, we are still seeing do it yourself social distancing measures still happening 3 months on, mainly when business / premises are opening their doors for the first time since lockdown. We do understand, as well as many finding it difficult, they are not sure if it is right, and they need to be flexible if they need to change it. Although this showed, and still shows many being proactive to put something in place. Being involved in safety signs we know the hazards these makeshift / do it yourself versions can have, such as slips and trips with unsuitable floor markings and tape through to home printed signs fading quickly and becoming unclear.”

Safety regulation state that all Health & Safety signage always needs to be clear and visible. Although this situation does not come under legislation yet, it is still communicating vitally important messages to keep people as safe as possible, “to us, it is a safety message and the reason we don’t see this as any different to implementing any safety signage onto your premises,” continued Clayton. “The best way to do this is to work with experts in safety signs who are used to designing signs that communicate safety messages in a clear and easy to understand way, as well as providing advice on what you need and where it should be placed.”

Paul also continued: “One of the things I have picked up on during the last 3 months is a term I heard, CCE – Covid Customer Experience. We have to face the reality that this situation is not going away quickly and everything we do today will affect our brand for the future, ask yourself this, how do you want people to talk about how your brand; as a supplier or an employer,  dealt with Covid-19?”

If you are looking to re-open your doors, you can download a FREE copy of Spectrum Industrials guide, which provides useful information and tips at www.spectrum-industrial.co.uk.

For more information about Spectrum Industrial and their product range visit www.spectrum-industrial.co.uk or email sales@spectrum-industrial.co.uk.

Spectrum Industrial extends its range of Social Distancing and Hygiene signs and launches new brochure

Manufacturer of safety signage and products Spectrum Industrial have added even more signs to their range of social distancing and hygiene signs by popular demand.

The extended range includes floor graphics to help the flow of traffic within premises as well as providing instructions to visitors on the route they should take, a range of site safety notices providing your on site rules to visitors in relation to covid -19, temporary signs for those needing to provide instructions to people whilst in their vehicles, new hygiene and PPE signs and finally hygiene / sneeze guards.

“We have worked hard to develop a signage range to suit customers needs so they could react quickly, However, as we now start to talk to those who are preparing their premises for when restrictions are lifted, there are many more factors to consider and different industries face different challenges, so we had to look at where signage could help and extend our range to suit,” said Paul Kantecki, Managing Director.

“As those businesses deemed as essential have or continue to roll out their social distancing and hygiene programs, we are now seeing many businesses start to look at how they can re-open and how they can keep employees, customers and visitors safe when they do re-open.  Its not easy, and although we can help with signage to provide clear instruction and information, there are so many other factors and challenges businesses are having to think about, and as a business owner myself, it’s not an easy task.”

The new signs have been launched in an updated version of Spectrum Industrials Social Distancing and Safety Signage brochure. The brochure showcases over 250 products, providing a comprehensive range.

Paul continued: “It won’t stop there. We are focusing on reviewing our range constantly to be able to support all businesses and facilities with the signage and products they require to help adhere to social distancing and keep staff, customers, and visitors safe. As we talk to customers and identify challenges, we will continue to identify solutions to best help them cost effectively and efficiently.”

Spectrum offer a wide selection of social distancing signs including anti slip floor stickers and strips, wall signs and entrance signs and the full range can be viewed on their website.  However, if customers cannot find what they are looking for or have bespoke requirements, Spectrum Industrial can easily make these designs to order at their manufacturing facility in Doncaster.

For more information about Spectrum Industrial and their product range visit www.spectrum-industrial.co.uk or email sales@spectrum-industrial.co.uk.

Expert advice on deep cleaning before returning to work

By Dale Jones, Head of Technical Development at Alcumus SafeContractor

With a phased return to work underway, organisations will need to consider their health and safety cleaning obligations to make their workplace safe for staff to return to.

As expectation grows that the impending government announcement over the weekend is likely to see more businesses come back online, we are regularly being asked questions about the need to undertake deep cleaning before reopening.

Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations there is legal duty to ensure that all premises and workplaces are kept sufficiently clean. Although there is no real legal definition of what constitutes a deep clean, there is reference within HSE guidance for the need for high standards of cleanliness for controlling exposure to substances hazardous to health.

The type and level of cleaning required prior to re-occupying your premises will depend on your risk assessment for your particular site and/or the activities undertaken.

There are number of things to consider, for some businesses the workplace may have been closed down for a number of weeks, so you will need to consider whether anyone has periodically gained access to the facility i.e. to undertake maintenance or security related tasks, are you aware of any of your workforce coming down with COVID-19 and had access to the facility during the lockdown period or simply when was the last time it was thoroughly cleaned.

Some businesses are seeing it as best practice to deep clean their premises, to ensure everything is as clean and safe as possible prior to bringing back the team. It is also a very visual reminder to the workforce that as a business you are taking safety seriously.

If you are looking to use your own workforce to undertake the cleaning process, ensure you follow the government guidance COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings. The guidance covers topics such as personal protective equipment, surfaces to focus on, what chemicals / substances to use and what to consider before placing used cleaning equipment in the waste.

Alcumus SafeContractor have over a thousand accredited cleaning contractors who have already demonstrated that they have the relevant H&S management systems to undertake cleaning in commercial and industrial environments safely. To find out more about accessing our approved contractor portal with over 33,000 contractors, email our Client Services team.

For organisations currently working in accordance with government guidelines, Alcumus Sypol have created free, downloadable COSHH risk assessments which provide important information about how to effectively control exposure to coronavirus in high risk working environments.

You can also register for the free webinar delivered by COSHH expert Mike Harris, on COVID-19, COSHH and how to clean your workplace safely, taking place at 10am on Tuesday 19th May.

For organisations hoping to return to work soon and eager to learn more about safely reintroducing their people to work, Alcumus PSM have created a free COVID-19 Return to Work Guidance pack and two-part webinar series covering the practical application of how to get your people back to work safely and how to make your business as productive as it can be.

Find out more about how we can help your business survive, then thrive with our full range of Alcumus Group COVID-19 solutions.

Half of UK workers uncomfortable about returning to the workplace

Over half of UK workers are not comfortable returning to work in the wake of the Government announcing its COVID-19 recovery strategy and the publication of guidelines for working safely.

A study by ENGAGE and YouGov shows that 55 per cent of respondents (those employed who usually work from home or are currently working from home or who have been furloughed) state that they are not very or not at all comfortable returning to work, when asked to imagine returning to work once the UK government begins to lift the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

Those more uncomfortable include respondents who are vulnerable (i.e. because of age, health conditions or another reason; 67 per cent) or who live with others who are vulnerable (66 per cent).

Levels of discomfort are also higher in certain sectors such as education (66 per cent), presumably where there will be a greater interaction with large numbers of students, and in professional services such as financial services and accounting (75 per cent), where many may be returning to offices with high volumes of colleagues.

The biggest physical concern, cited by 51 per cent of respondents as one of their top three issues, is how social distancing is likely to be implemented upon their return to the workplace. There are also concerns regarding the practical logistics and safety of returning to the workplace such as moving around (30%), the use of public toilet/washing areas (37%), and the use of shared equipment (27%).

Critically, almost a quarter of respondents (24 per cent) cite their commute or journey to work as a concern, a figure that is twice as high for Londoners (50 per cent).

But concerns among respondents also extend to their wellbeing. Nearly half (42 per cent) of people believe returning to the workplace will see a decline in work-life balance, while only 23 per cent believe it will improve it. One third (33 per cent) anticipate a decline in their mental health, and over a quarter (28 per cent) in their physical health.

Of concern, too, is the anticipated anxiety around job security. 25 per cent said their confidence in their job security would decline by a return to the workplace.

However, when questioned on the impact that returning to the workplace would have on their working lives, the majority of those employed believe it will make no real difference.

61 per cent feel there will be no change in accessing the information they need; 59 per cent believe there will be no change to the communications they get from leaders within their organisation; and 58 per cent feel there will be no change in the communication they have with their manager.

This suggests, says ENGAGE, that in many areas UK companies have been able to help people switch to productive working from home relatively quickly.

And while 42 per cent of respondents believe that collaboration and teamwork will improve by returning to the workplace, and a third of respondents (37 per cent) expect innovation to improve, the new guidelines for safe working practices and social distancing are likely to create barriers here.

Dr Andy Brown, CEO at ENGAGE, said: “The research suggests that some organisations will see a limited number of both internal and external outputs improving as workplace restrictions are lifted. But it’s clear that employees believe there will be a net worsening of other critical aspects by returning to the workplace, which organisations must take into account.

“More than this, though, the results clearly show that any physical return to work needs purpose. COVID-19 secure guidelines mean firms may not be able to provide the collaborative, innovative environments that we had before.  And we now know that remote working isn’t the barrier to communication or collaboration that we once thought. Organisations will need to align their return strategies with the real benefits they will deliver, rather than just returning to the way things have always been done.”

How to get your employees back to work safely and smoothly

iHASCO, a market-leading provider of Health & Safety, HR and Compliance eLearning, are currently adding a number of online programmes to their course library to help organisations get their employees back into the workplace as safely and smoothly as possible.

“Covid-19 has resulted in a hugely challenging time for businesses for a number of reasons, and as steps are taken to exit lockdown the return to work process will provide employers with even further challenges” says Alex Morris, Director at iHASCO. “iHASCO have created a returning to work essentials training bundle which will assist employers with helping their staff return to work with confidence and reassurance that their health and safety is taken seriously, which will play a major role in resuming safe operations.”

Among the titles to be released is ​Returning to Work after COVID-19 Training​, a course that focuses on easing an employee’s transition back to work in light of Coronavirus. It will cover important aspects of the return to work process, such as risk assessments, team communication and handling anxiety in connection to Covid-19. It also provides an insight as to what an employee can expect on their first few days and weeks back at work to help them adjust.

A ​Resilience Training​ course will also be available, which will provide employees with practical techniques to build resilience and deal with challenging situations. This is a crucial skill in times of adversity and empowering the employee to regain focus, control, and perspective will help with a smooth transition back to the workplace.

These two courses will come as part of iHASCO’s ​Returning to Work Essentials Bundle​, along with other important titles such as DSE Training, Fire Awareness Training, Infection Prevention & Control and Mental Health Awareness Training.

Employers are also being encouraged to take advantage of iHASCO’s ​free Risk Assessment Tool​ to conduct a Coronavirus Risk Assessment – which will be crucial upon planning a return to the workplace.

Due to the uncertainty of the weeks and months ahead, a clear and careful plan to reopen a workplace is required to ensure the safety of employees and any visitors to its site. This, together with online training for employees, can provide a solid foundation to get a business focussed and navigate the challenges it faces.

Organisations that feel these new courses could benefit them should ​register their interest​ through the iHASCO website.

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