We all recognise the importance of getting people back to work as quickly as possible from furlough and home working, but you need to ensure that when this happens it is done following government guidance and is done as safely as possible.
No, not the dreaded health and safety, we need to get back to work and start making money!
While it is very true that all organisations need to be bringing in revenue again following a period of inactivity or low activity, there is no point doing it in a way which could mean you end up paying the price in fines, loss of reputation or civil claims in damages or to the detriment of the health and wellbeing of your staff.
The following Ten tips are designed to help you get the business back up and running again as quickly and as safely as possible.
1. Be prepared or prepare to fail
It’s not just the scouts, who always need to be prepared, organisations of all sizes need to be prepared too and returning to work is no different. Due to furloughing, restricted transport networks and a lack of daily infrastructure, it will be likely that you will be returning over a period of three weeks.
You need to prepare a plan for coming back to work, we have prepared an Excel spreadsheet to assist clients in doing this, but essentially you need to set a timeline and work to it.
2. Visit the premises
Returning to work is not a theoretical or desktop exercise, it needs to be a proactive, hands-on, physical one. Someone needs to be designated to visit the building and start getting it ready for occupation. While someone may have visited the premises once a week for post and to check all is ok, the chances are this was a quick look around and may not have been everywhere.
Someone needs to visit the premises and undertake a structured walkthrough to establish if there are any problems that need addressing and to establish how you will manage social distancing rules and keep people at least 2 meters apart. This may be an individual or it may be a team of people, in which case you also need to maintain distancing.
Those planning to return to full working from a position of partial lockdown, need to review the premises in the context of the increased headcount and obvious increase in activity particularly when entering and exiting the premises.
3. Statutory Examination and Testing
As part of the site visit, you will need to check on the statutory examination and testing arrangements and see if anything is out of test, if it is, you will need to arrange testing as a matter of urgency and may even need to remove the item of plant or work equipment from use until tested. Although there has been some flexibility on out-of-date tests the latest HSE guidance can be found here.
4. Maintenance and Cleaning
As well as statutory checks, you also need to ensure that items requiring maintenance have been checked over and are safe to use. Where maintenance needs to take place, this will need to be arranged as a matter of urgency, but you can still use equipment if it is safe to do so.
Cleaning arrangements will need to be reviewed too, after all, if you can touch it with contaminated hands, you can infect it, if you infect it, someone else will catch it.
Kitchen work surfaces, kitchen appliances, door handles and push pads on doors, stair handrails and lift controls, will all be prime areas of contamination and depending on occupancy numbers may require cleaning two or three times a day rather than the once-a-day it previously received.
Individual workstations are likely to only need cleaning once a day, but this could be supported by staff cleaning their own workstations throughout the day too.
Hot-desking, however, will require the whole workstation to be thoroughly cleaned between users, something that previously is unlikely to have happened and with that in mind, hot-desking should be thoroughly re-risk assessed.
As for cleaning products, the government have suggested that your normal products should be suitable for the tasks, however, you may wish to supplement them with antibacterial surface wipes and sprays for hard surfaces such as desks and chair arms, as well as alcohol sanitising wipes for keyboards, mice, phones. Headsets should be kept to one per person.
5. Monitoring and testing arrangements
Before the lockdown began, you would have been undertaking and conducting lots of monitoring and testing of plant, work equipment, fire safety controls, Legionella/water systems, Asbestos etc and these will need to be restarted before you come back, to ensure things are safe on your return.
There will be new things to monitor post-return too, hand washing, safe working arrangements, social distancing etc.
6. Health, safety and fire documentation
Things are not returning to normal; things have changed, and things are likely to be different for a considerable time. This means that risk assessments, safe systems of work etc will need reviewing to consider changes to working practices, not just the 2m social/physical distancing rules.
As an example, fire evacuations will need to change, you cannot all congregate in a large group in the corner of a car park!
Do not forget the assessments need to be conducted by a competent person.
7. First aiders and fire wardens
You will need to review the numbers of first aiders and fire wardens to ensure you have enough cover on return to work, especially if you are planning a phased return.
For example, all your first aiders may work in office areas and you are only bringing back production staff.
8. Positive leadership
You need to be setting standards and leading by example but in a good way. As a manager, you are a role model for others, and it is vital that you project a positive message about health and well-being. This needs to begin before everyone returns and carry on afterwards.
9. Check things are progressing
You started out with a plan, therefore you need to review it and check how things are progressing, are things on schedule and meeting your timeline, if not, what can be done to bring things back in line?
10. Welcome back
The day of return and the following days or possibly weeks are vital to ensure that things continue as you planned, and that you continue to follow government advice and best practice.
Undertake 5-minute team talks in the morning to remind people to keep following the new rules and arrangements. Human nature is to relax things after a period of time and it will only need one person to break hygiene rules and the workplace may become infected after all the coronavirus (Covid-19) hasn’t gone anywhere, we have just slowed down the infection rate. Include informing staff what to do and who to talk to if they have concerns about anything relating to your new working policies or how others are behaving, communication is key.