In the section “Who should go to work” it is recognised that ways of working have shifted through the pandemic, and many employers are looking at future hybrid models which include an element of home working. It suggests that timing should be carefully considered and that particular attention be given to those who are clinically vulnerable, disabled or pregnant.
Whilst social distancing guidance no longer applies it suggests that employers can mitigate the risk of COVID spreading by reducing the amount of contact between colleagues. Practical steps include using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ or ‘cohorting’ (so each person works with only a few others) and reviewing layouts, using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, or using back-to-back or side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face (screens are only likely to be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close proximity with each other).
It also reflects that reasonable adjustments may be needed for disabled workers so they can work safely.
In relation to workplaces and workstations in order to reduce contact these should where possible be assigned to an individual. If they need to be shared, they must be cleaned before the other person uses it.
In respect of cleaning generally, employers should ensure that there are arrangements in place for frequently cleaning objects and surfaces that people touch regularly. This includes door handles and keyboards. There also needs to be adequate disposal arrangements for cleaning products. Employees should clear workspaces and remove waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift.
In relation to some equipment that cannot be washed down, a cleaning process will need to be determined and it will be necessary to design protection around machines and equipment.
On the controversial topic of face coverings, the guidance states that whilst these are no longer required by law the government expects and recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces and that workers may choose to wear a face covering in the workplace. If the worker decides to do so the employer must support them and to advise them of the most hygienic way to use these.
The guidance suggests that employers may consider encouraging the use of face coverings by workers (for example through signage), particularly in indoor areas where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet. This is especially important in enclosed and crowded spaces.
When deciding whether to ask workers to wear a face covering, consideration will need to be given to reasonable adjustments for staff and clients with disabilities.
For workplace management continued communications will be necessary and it highlights the responsibility to:
- implement control measures
- assist with communications to staff
- reinforce prevention messages
Given that these are health and safety measures it will be important that managers are fully aware of the importance of compliance with these actions.