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Posted: May 13, 2020
With the prospect of some people returning to their place of work now coming into view, employers need to be considering how they ensure their employees’ health and wellbeing is prioritised.
COVID-19 has changed the way we work and the long-lasting impact means companies will have to operate very differently to how they’ve done before. Here, we outline five key considerations businesses need to consider before welcoming their teams back into the workplace.
1. Identify what reoccupation strategy you need
This depends entirely on what state your company’s premises have been in during the lockdown.
Has your property remained operational throughout, doing business as usual? Or perhaps the building has been partially occupied? If you shut up shop when the country went into lockdown and haven’t worked from there since, your property will be classed as unoccupied.
Whatever state your building is in, it is important to remember the health and safety requirements in law have not been relaxed at any point during the pandemic.
You will need to identify the right maintenance strategy for your property, dependent on its current state, carrying out maintenance and remedial works to make sure the environment you’re bringing your employees back into is fully compliant with all legal requirements.
2. Identify your assets
If you’ve not got an asset register in place, now is the time to create one.
Make sure your asset register is fully complete and all critical areas that will need to be reviewed and reactivated have been identified, such as your property’s water supply, fire security, lighting, power, ventilation systems and lifts.
3. Review your requirements
Firstly, is your statutory testing all up to date? Again, statutory requirements have not stopped because of the lockdown. Buildings still must be compliant, regardless of their state – be it mothballing assets to SGF30 requirements or operating as normal to SFG20.
Make sure all the assets you’ve identified in your asset register are compliant and, if any require additional maintenance and remedial work to be carried out, put in place a schedule for this.
All assets should be fully compliant before employees return to the property.
4. Consider ways to reduce transmission of COVID-19
The world is now a very different place to pre-COVID-19. People are very aware of transmission risks and will be expecting employers to fulfil their duty of care and keep them safe and well in the workplace.
Consider operational changes that could help in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 when your building is in use. For example, in line with REHVA guidance*, if your building does not have mechanical ventilation systems in place, you should use operable windows to keep air flowing.
Equally, simple processes such as asking employees to keep toilet lids closed when they are being flushed can minimise the release of droplets and droplet residues from plumes in the air.
Other points to consider include using paper towels instead of hand dryers, removing spray inserts from taps and, of course, reviewing your cleaning regime – particularly in high contact areas.
It is recommended a deep clean is conducted to sanitise the property before employees return to work and enhanced regimes once the building is reoccupied.
5. Review how you occupy your building
As well as operational procedures, there are also numerous other actions you can take to make sure your employees health and safety is prioritised.
For example, how will people get into your office? Is there a single point of entry or numerous contact points along the route in? Do you share the property with other businesses?
Put in place procedures to minimise contact points and ensure hand washing facilities are regularly restocked – hand santiser should be provided to supplement where hand washing is not available.
The Government advice is clear that COVID-19 needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the precautionary use of extra PPE unless you are in one of the settings where this is deemed necessary.
Can you suspend all non-critical business events and travel? Minimise the number of visitors coming into the property?
Also, if you are the sole occupiers of the property, but usually keep employees to one floor, consider spreading out staff members to enable social distancing across the building.
Finally, remember the situation is changing often. Keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 government guidance, as well as your statutory requirements as a business, and adapt your systems and processes as necessary.
Signum FM can help with your business reoccupation plan, call the team on 01302 340 695 to find out more.