• Kenneth Cook

Health and safety considerations for employers if you are planning to return to the office


From 6 January, a national lockdown applied in all of England and you could only leave home for work purposes where it was unreasonable for you to do your job from home. From 8th March 2021, people in England started to see restrictions begin to lift and the government’s four-step roadmap offer a route back to a more normal life.


Before staff start return to the workplace all risk assessments must be reviewed in relation to coronavirus. Each task will need to be considered and any new control measures implemented.


The employer has a duty of care while the employees are at work, this does not normally extend to the travel to and from the workplace.


However, the risk assessments should now be more holistic and include travel to and from work. This is because if employees are using public transport this could increase the risk of contracting coronavirus and bringing it into the workplace. Staff need to be reassured that the robust control measures are in place for everyone’s safety.


Consider:

  • whether staff are to do a phased return to keep the numbers manageable

  • extra cleaning is in place

  • hand sanitiser is being provided near all high contact areas along with anti-bacterial wipes such as near doors, handrails, lift buttons, and switches.

  • staggered start and finish times can be implemented

  • only allowing selected staff to return so social distancing can be observed

  • clear signage is in place to remind staff of the essential actions to combat the virus and two meter floor markings to assist with the social distancing has been installed


The employer should explain how they are monitoring the latest Government guidance and updating systems and procedures where necessary to comply.


The risk assessments should be reviewed with the staff involved and any suggestions carefully considered, apart from completing a more rounded risk assessment staff are more likely to adhere to the method statement and understand what the risk assessment highlighted if they are involved, this should result in fewer accidents and less sick days. Remember to review all risk assessments adding in the coronavirus to see if further control measures are required.


Think carefully of the potential problem areas that are in the workplace and how the organisation can address them. Potential problem areas could include toilets, washrooms, canteens, main entrances, corridors, and tea or coffee areas. Depending on the number of toilets and rest rooms on the site the employer may need to have a system to observe social distancing. This may be a case of restricting how many staff can attend the washroom at once and possibly closing off every other sink to encourage observing the two meter rule. Canteens may require a staggered break and lunch approach to reduce the number of staff attending at any one time.


It is in everyone’s interest for this to work so employees should be encouraged to notify their employer if they see something which is not right and should be reminded not to leave it for someone else to deal with.


It is important that businesses keep up to date with the latest reliable guidance which can be found in several areas as well as rradar which are:

  • Government daily updates

  • Gov.co.uk

  • The HSE website

  • The NHS

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO)

  • Public Health England (PHE)