How To Stay Covid Secure When The Workplace Reopens

    You’ve conducted a thorough Covid Risk Assessment and put all the necessary measures in place such as signage, social distanced workspaces, one-way systems, PPE, etc.
    But what happens when the workplace re-opens, your employees head back into the office/premises and you must enforce these new health and safety rules?

    It’s one thing putting all the safety measures in place to make your premises covid secure but trying to maintain these rules as the workplace fills up can be quite challenging and will require ongoing monitoring and adjustments to ensure that your employees are safe at all times.

    Guardian Support can provide complete health & safety support including unlimited telephone advice, bespoke risk assessments and comprehensive policies – all from qualified health and safety consultants.

    Clearly communicate new policies with all employees

    Whenever you update your policies, or introduce new ones, you need to ensure that all employees are made aware of these changes by communicating it to them.

    One of the most effective ways to do so is to send out a company-wide email that outlines all these changes.
    In the case of covid-secure measures that may have been implemented, this might include explaining the new one-way systems around the workplace, any restrictions on the number of people allowed in certain areas (i.e. the kitchen or meeting rooms), and if there will be any staggered lunches or start/finish times to reduce the volume of people in certain areas of the building at one time.

    You could also communicate your updated health and safety policies via a physical document that each of your employees receive or attach a copy of your Covid-19 Risk Assessment to the company-wide email.

    Once this has been done, you must give your staff the opportunity to raise any questions and ask for clarification on anything they are unsure of so that you can make sure everyone is on the same page.
    You can do this during 1-2-1 meetings or by inviting employees to email you in response to your company-wide email to discuss any points further.

    Even once new policies and rules have been established, communicated and understood by all employees, it can be easy to slip back into old habits or forget them as we all try to adjust to this ‘new normal’ in the midst of a global pandemic.

    A great way to reiterate and remind people of these covid-secure measures is in the form of signage placed around the workplace. The most popular ones include two-metre distancing posters, one-way system floor markings and personal hygiene signs.

    Whistle-blowers and Employee Conflict

    Employees should always be made to feel comfortable enough to approach their manager or someone in HR whenever they have a grievance or concern that they want to address, and this should be no different when it comes to health and safety.

    If an employee finds that one, or more, of their colleagues are not following the new covid secure guidelines then they should inform a senior member of staff immediately as this could be putting your entire workforce at risk.

    As with any whistle-blowing scenario, the employee reporting the issue should have their identity protected and should not be treated unfairly as result of their whistle-blowing.

    Once investigated and it has been established that rules have been severely broken and contravened deliberately, the employee breaking the health and safety rules should go through the same procedure that they would if they had broken a HR rule, such as unauthorised absence or lateness.

    Employees may choose to confront the issue themselves instead of, or before, taking it to management by asking their colleague to abide by the rules. In extreme cases, this could lead to conflict amongst workers.

    There could also be some conflict if employees disagree with certain measures where there is no strict rule in place. For example, some may choose to wear face masks even if this is not compulsory, whilst others might not, and this could cause some tension in the workplace.

    Therefore, it will be important to have conflict resolution methods in place to address these issues if they do arise.
    This is something Guardian Support can assist with as part of their Workplace Mediation Service which involves a qualified mediator acting as a third, unbiased party in resolving the conflict between two or more parties in the workplace.

    Alternatively, our HR Consultants can provide advice on how to deal with workplace conflict between employees via our professional HR Advice Line.

    General public or clients not following rules

    Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a huge spike in violence against retail workers as a result of the panic that ensued with the initial outbreak of coronavirus.
    This is something that we expect to continue to see now that new rules are being enforced (such as wearing face masks in most indoor public spaces) and many members of the public are not willing to follow them.

    The risk of violence towards your staff from a member of the public is specific to the retail, charity and care sector and with this potential danger on the rise amidst the pandemic, you need to ensure that your policy around this is clear and that your workers are trained in how to handle this scenario if they are being attacked or if they witness a colleague being attacked.

    Furthermore, clients or site visitors may also refuse to follow certain rules that you have implemented into your workplace and, if this happens, it is your right to refuse them entry as they are posing a health risk to you and your employees.

    Clearly there are a lot of new rules that we are all having to adapt to and it will take some time before they become second nature so it’s important to keep that in mind and just provide gentle reminders to employees if they do break a rule or forget to do something in relation to covid secure measures.

    You may also find the need to make adjustments to some new or updated workplace guidelines as employees start to return so it will be important to closely monitor the success of any new measures that have been put in place so that you can fine tune them over the next few months.

    If you are yet to conduct a Covid Risk Assessment and are preparing to reopen your premises, then our Health and Safety Consultants can complete a bespoke one for your business with a site visit and an in-depth follow-up report.
    Call us today on 0845 2626 260 for further details

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