[Updated March 2021] The HSE Executive recently published guidelines on how COVID-19 incidents should be reported. RIDDOR reportable incidents include:
✔ An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to Coronavirus - this must be reported as a dangerous occurrence
✔ A worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work - this must be reported as a case of disease
✔ A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to Coronavirus
Businesses and organisations across the globe are currently preparing for the gradual return to work process into what’s being referred to as a ‘new normal’ while we continue to live with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
These guidelines have huge implications for office-based workers once lockdown measures are relaxed. To be able to transition back to work effectively, businesses are developing ‘return to work strategies that they hope will help their remote and/or furloughed employees comfortably transition back to the workplace in the safest way possible.
Businesses can expect their H&S management systems to come under increasing levels of scrutiny as a return to normal life becomes imminent. With the vaccine being rolled out to people from December 2020 and national lockdown measures being put in place to manage the spread, as a business you may feel that you are struggling with how to keep the workplace as safe as possible for your employees.
So how should businesses adapt their health & safety management systems to deal with the continued threat of COVID-19, in a post-lockdown society?
Why Planning the Return to Work is Indispensable
Before making a plan, as a business, you must understand that the safety of your employees is essential. It doesn’t matter whether you have 3 or 33 employees returning to work, keeping their safety at the forefront of everything you do over the coming months will ensure a successful transition back to working life.
Tips for Returning to Work After COVID 19
Risk Assessments - What Does Your Return to Work Plan Consider?
For many office-based businesses, risk assessments have typically been used to quantify fire safety and ergonomic risks. Employees have rarely been exposed to the sort of danger as commonly occurs in sectors such as construction. However the COVID-19 virus can easily spread in an office environment through shared facilities and close contact between employees. If we take a look at the HSE Executive’s guidelines, ‘reasonable evidence’ of exposure at work is enough to warrant a RIDDOR report. It is therefore important that businesses introduce a proactive risk assessment scheme to identify areas of risk, before they become a danger.
The easiest way to manage incidents of exposure is through a mobile safety observation system like Emex. Unlike a risk assessment, which seeks to uncover areas of risk, safety observations are a proactive way to manage unsafe behaviour. If an employee notices symptoms, they can easily report this through a mobile safety observation. Likewise, if they proactively notice a breach of best practice – for example, if office equipment has not been properly sanitised – a safety observation is the fastest way for this issue to be alerted.
Proactive Workflow Management
One of the key issues with a paper-based system is the inherent inefficiency in dealing with outstanding actions. An old fashioned risk assessment requires the user to email the person in charge to negate the risk, then follow up to check that this has been completed – not to mention updating the spreadsheet or filing the form!
Likewise, a RIDDOR report is a time-consuming process. If the HSE Executive’s guidelines are to be followed, many businesses that never needed to file such a report may need to do so frequently. At Emex, we recommend instituting a proactive workflow management system, alerting key users to outstanding issues, enabling them to be sorted quickly, with the administration completed automatically. And if worst comes to worst and a RIDDOR report needs to be sent, we’ve got you covered.
Communicate the Desired Changes with Your Employees
Possibly the most vital part of your plan is going to be communicating the changes to your employees. Before returning to work, you want to ensure employees have had the opportunity to express their concerns about the operational plans set in place. This is also for your management team to effectively communicate any procedures via Zoom, email or online training programmes regarding disinfection, reporting illness, self-isolation periods, hand hygiene and any additional procedures that may affect them.
Designated COVID Management Team
To compliment your COVID-19 risk management solution, it makes sense to set up a senior management team to plan the transition back to work. As the situation is constantly being reviewed by local governments, this team’s responsibilities will include monitoring the advice given and implementing the evolving government guidance. They will also be a designated point of contact for employees or other members of management who wish to express their concerns regarding any measures put in place or the process of transitioning to the new normal.
A New World of Risk
No-one knows how long we will be on lockdown, or what the procedure looks like for easing quarantine restrictions. COVID-19 will forever change the way in which occupational risks and hazards are managed in industries which were previously regarded as low-risk. Working in an office – what is now an extremely high risk environment – will be heavily regulated. It is important that businesses consider the future of health & safety management before the time comes to re-open shop – or they may find themselves unprepared for a post COVID-19 world.
Emex COVID-19 Risk Management Solution
Here at Emex, we understand that preparing for the return to work after COVID-19 is critical for keeping your employees safe and there needs to be a proactive and dedicated risk management solution in place. Staff must feel confident in workplace safety measures for operations to resume effectively.
All workplace risks following COVID-19 must be quantified, reported and analysed to keep your staff safe and we have developed a solution that empowers management with deep insights into workplace risk while enabling staff to engage through intuitive behavioural safety functionality.
We worked alongside our clients considering these issues and developed a fully customisable COVID-19 Risk Management Solution which includes:
✔ Workplace Management
✔ Audit & Inspections
✔ Incident Management
✔ Behavioural Safety
✔ Remote Workers
The situation regarding COVID-19 is still volatile and constantly under review by all governments and is likely to change at short notice, especially in more local areas where cases have spiked drastically in a short time.
Your return to work strategy after COVID-19 will also depend on what sector your business is in, and what measures need to be taken will vary. To conclude, if you are going to put any measures in place to get your employees back to work, they need to be lawful, reasonable, fair and consistent. To find out more about Emex’s COVID-19 solution, get in touch with our dedicated team of experts today.
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