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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.

Understanding the effect of COVID-19 on contractual obligations

Conexus Law is launching a range of fact sheets on the legal implications of the Covid-19, including practical steps that may be taken by parties who find the impact of Covid-19 affects their ability to meet contractual obligations owed to others (upstream), or who find that their trading partners can no longer meet the obligations owed to them (downstream).

Ed Cooke, Founder at Conexus Law, said: “In the modern commercial world, businesses are often heavily reliant on trading partners and long “just in time” supply chains in order to fulfil their contractual obligations. The impact of Covid-19 could significantly upset those finely balanced arrangements and the relationships between parties may be tested in ways they had not previously contemplated.

“As trading relationships are now often global, a complex interplay of laws from different jurisdictions may also be in play, some of which are potentially in conflict. For example, English law may govern your contract with your customer, but Chinese law may govern the law of your contract with a critical supplier enabling you to perform your customer contract.”

The Conexus Law fact sheet advises that organisations identify whether there are any express provisions written into the contract which might be relevant to the Covid-19 situation. For example, there is a large section on force majeure and whether it is applicable. Other areas include certain insurances and the importance of following all relevant procedures in the policy related to claims notification and submission of claims.

 The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak is already having a significant impact on many individuals and businesses and it is becoming clearer that the impact will likely be more significant and longer lasting than we may have imagined at first. We hope these fact sheets provide helpful guidance during these challenging times,” concluded Cooke.

To download this fact sheet, free of charge, click here: https://7aee0ab1-94f5-4d7e-9556-9f9a01df3265.filesusr.com/ugd/b58c63_71a397aa9f414609913e82fc89d9417a.pdf