Whilst it’s unclear how long COVID-19 will continue to affect organisations, some businesses are now able to get ready to re-open and this brings about a whole new set of challenges to ensure the return to work is safe for all concerned.
Echoing the sentiments of health experts, a return to normality won’t be like flipping a switch, but rather a gradual effort. In preparation for reopening your business and asking employees to come back to work, you need a robust return to work action plan.
Even after the government allows businesses to reopen, firms still need to determine whether it makes sense to resume operations. Safely restarting your business won’t be as simple as unlocking the front door.
Here are some key points to consider – and then act upon.
Safety of premises, plant and equipment
In situations where work premises have been closed up and unoccupied for a number of weeks, consideration should be given to the safety checks that are required before the site is reoccupied and prior to plant and equipment being used again for the first time. Inspection regimes should be reviewed so that any formal checks that have not been carried out whilst premises are closed can be completed. For example, electrical safety, refrigeration, water supplies etc.
Compliance with relevant legal requirements
Whilst there may be modifications to normal work activities during the current pandemic, it is important to note that regulatory and legislative requirements continue to apply in the workplace. It should be ensured that there are no changes to arrangements which could potentially lead to a reduction in health and safety standards in the workplace.
Documenting return to work safety measures and policies
As with all workplace hazards, it is recommended that documentation is retained which evidences the control measures that have been put in place to mitigate the risks and captures the thought process behind decision making.
In addition to copies of specific risk assessments and procedures that have been completed in response to COVID-19, it would also be advisable to retain other records which demonstrate the control measures that have been implemented to ensure the safety of the workplace and everyone involved upon reopening, such as photographs or video.
Where government guidance has been used to determine the necessary control measures, this should be referenced in the relevant documents and changes to risk assessments and procedures should be accurately dated, with version numbers updated accordingly. This will help to demonstrate the action that was taken to address specific risks and the guidance you were following at the time.
How FOCUS can help
We have partnered with Xact Group to deliver Health & Safety, Human Resources and Employment Law services, providing you with a complete business solution.
As part of the services provided, templates are now available to assist with all aspects of a return to work, including COVID-19 policies and return to work plans to keep staff safe, PPE guides and industry sector-specific risk assessment tools.
To find out more about the support Xact can provide and access these tools and checklists, do not hesitate to get in touch.