After a gradual loosening of lockdown, businesses can start to reopen, but how do they do this safely?
Government guidance around Covid-19 continually evolves, with non-essential and various parts of the hospitality industry, able to reopen ensuring they have adequate safety measures in place.
Carrying Out a Covid-19 Risk Assessment
The first, crucial step in reopening safely is to carry out a thorough risk assessment.
Things to consider should include:
Enabling and maintaining safe social distancing in your business
Providing hand-washing and hand-sanitation facilities
Installing protective measures where necessary, such as Perspex screens
Putting up safety signage to remind and instruct workers, visitors and customers about following the new rules.
If, as an employer, you are reopening your business, you have a legal responsibility to protect your employees and anyone else who is on site. Therefore, you MUST carry out a risk assessment. If you don’t do this, HSE, or your local council, can issue an enforcement notice.
The Government has issued guidelines for reopening specific to different industries and types of business.
As part of your risk assessment, you should consult with your employees or trade unions.
You should also share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce and via your website.
What Does ‘One Metre Plus’ Mean?
Under new Government guidelines for social distancing, the two metre minimum distance in England has now changed to one metre plus.
Essentially, this means people will not need to stay as far apart from each other while maintaining a safe enough distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Where you can keep two metres apart, this is obviously preferable, but the new ‘one metre plus’ rule will make it easier for many businesses to adapt their premises for reopening.
Will You Be Covid-19 Secure?
If you take the necessary measures to protect people on site at your place of business, you should be able to make your business Covid-19 secure.
There is going to be a badging scheme, so that you can reassure people that you are Covid-19 secure because you have followed the guidance.
This Government guidance covers these broad business sectors and locations:
Construction and outdoor work
Factories, plants and warehouses
Labs and research facilities
Offices and contact centres
Shops and branches
It also includes guidance on being in other people’s homes.
What Are the Essential Steps for Safe Working?
Introduce or strengthen hygiene and hand washing procedures
Encourage people to follow official handwashing guidelines, and provide plenty of hand sanitiser in accessible locations – such as in the entrance using a hand sanitiser station, as well as in washrooms and toilets.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects frequently. Where you have busy areas, enhance your cleaning procedures.
Set and display clear guidance for toilet use and cleaning.
Provide proper hand-drying facilities, such as paper towels or electric dryers.
Maintain social distancing where possible
We’ve talked about the new ‘one metre plus’ guidance. Remind everyone in the workplace that they need to maintain safe social distancing.
Don’t encourage sharing of workstations or hot-desking.
Use floor tape, floor stickers, or paint, to mark out areas that will keep people a safe distance from each other.
Where you have people moving, develop clear directional signs, and consider using one-way systems.
Use back-to-back or side-to-side working wherever possible, rather than face-to-face. If not possible, consider an office partition for extra safety.
Stagger people’s arrival and departure times, and try to reduce the number of people any individual will have contact with in the course of their work.
Encourage and Enable Working from Home
Many employees have been working from home during lockdown. If you can maintain this, then you should take reasonable steps to do so.
If you have employees working from home, make sure they have the equipment they need, include them in all the necessary workplace communications, and look after their physical and mental wellbeing.
Retailers and hospitality sector businesses will need to consider additional measures to keep customers and staff safe, including:
Limiting the number of customers
Reduce or suspend certain face-to-face customer services.
Introduce queue management, including using outdoor areas whenever possible or convenient.
Separate cashiers from customers with barriers.
Have procedures to manage goods that customers have handled but not bought, such as sterilising them, or storing them before restocking shelves to reduce the risk of contamination.
Remember: guidelines may change, and restrictions may be further relaxed, or reinstated, depending on managing the spread of Coronavirus.
Take Steps to Keep Staff and Visitors Safe
The situation with Covid-19 is constantly changing and its important your business stays up-to-date with the latest developments.
Please note that the points above are only issued as recommendations using government information. To double check any of the advice, you should consult official government guidelines before implementing. You can read the Government’s own guidance on reopening your business safely here.
We have also put together a collection of Social Distancing Signage & Displays useful for helping your business reopen safely.
Stay safe and all the best reopening your business!