COVID 19: How to protect employees (8 Essential tips)
Operating a business in these uncertain times is very challenging, and you need the best and most up to date information to make an informed decision.
After all, your livelihood could be on the line.
The UK government has also made it clear that they want you to make every possible effort to keep working - to keep the economy running, and to keep people employed.
So what are the recommendations you need to keep everyone safe and your business open?
Below are my top 8 essential tips taken from government sources.
1. Open Your Business
It’s a myth that all businesses should be closed.
Right now, it would be best if you were either looking to reopen your business, or putting in measures to keep it running.
The only exception to the rule is businesses on the non-essential venues listed on the government website. Please click the link for up to date information.
2. Social Distancing at Work
In the middle of May 2020, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) still want you to ensure that employees who feel unwell stay at home. That also applies to employees who have been in contact with someone who has symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Check out the NHS guidance for information on symptoms and what action to take.
But what about social distancing for employees who can come to work?
Well, it comes down to you following Public Health England social distancing guidance of 2 metres. But how you can reduce or prevent people working closely, and how can you let employees leave and enter your offices without contact?
Lets think about the best practice.
For example, I feel that some supermarkets are doing a great job with social distancing. My local supermarket has reduced shopper occupancy numbers and marked out checkout distances so everyone is 2 meters away. They've protected cashiers by putting up screen's and make sure trolleys are cleaned after every use. Even the local managers make eye contact and explain the rules. I honestly feel safer in that shop than I do the bigger supermarkets.
So what about your own business?
The great news is you can find lots of free examples here of sector/ industry guidance on social distancing. That includes sectors like retail, construction, outdoors, manufacturing and much more.
Just dive in and get the ball rolling. If you still struggle, give me a call.
3. Shielding Employees who are Most at Risk
Public Health England wants you to shield at-risk employees. If you're not sure who counts as 'extremely vulnerable,' ask your employees if they have been advised by their doctor (generally via a letter) that they are clinically extremely vulnerable. That means you don’t need to guess who is and who isn’t.
To protect your employees, you’re going to need to ask anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable to avoid any face-to-face contact. That’s doesn’t mean putting people in isolated rooms within an office or facility.
Public Health England states that ‘Shielding’ means:
- Telling vulnerable employees that they must stay at home.
- Advising vulnerable employees not to attend gatherings or meetings.
- Avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
- These symptoms include high temperature and/or a new and continuous cough.
4. Hand Washing and Respiratory Hygiene
The UK government is anxious about the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to front line medical staff. Probably to everyone's surprise, you are not required to buy PPE for everyone.
So, lets talk hygiene.
If you're business doesn't work in a medical setting, you only need employees to follow some basic guidelines, which in my view are more common sense than extreme measures.
But because a lot of people fail the common sense test, I would definitely consider displaying signage and information sheets around the workplace to remind your employees of these basic guidelines.
Here's the governments hygiene guidelines:
- Wash your hands with soap and water more often, and for at least 20 seconds. Do this after you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and before you eat or handle food.
- Use a hand sanitizer where hand-washing facilities are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms of COVID-19.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin.
- Clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects and surfaces in the home and office.
5. Display Health and Safety Signage
COVID 19 health and safety signage are now in high demand, but before you start google searching 'COVID health and safety signs' I want to go over some basic sign tips.
The HSE expects you to have this poster displayed in your workplace to show you have followed the COVID industry guidance.
You'll want to display mandatory hand washing and sanitation signage in and around toilets, washing facilities, and entrances, to remind people to keep cleaning their hands.
Install wall, floor and door signage showing people how and when to maintain the 2 metre distancing guidelines.
Out of bounds Areas:
You'll also want to consider signage to indicate areas that are now out of bounds (e.g., lifts, seating, viewing, galley areas).
Hazard Warning Tape:
Don't forget warning tape, which you can place at the top of stairs and across doors, to help provide a physical barrier.
6. Let Employees Work from Home
The advice is still the same. Try and conduct as much of your business from home.
You can still host meetings, interviews or training days online, and there are plenty of low-cost technology solutions, so people can continue work from home.
Here are my crucial tech recommendations:
- Video calls: Zoom, WebEx, WhatsApp, and Microsoft Teams
- Project Management: Monday.com, Trello
- Collaboration and Messaging: Microsoft Teams, Slack
- Training: Microsoft Teams
- Remote Audits: WhatsApp, Zoom and Microsoft Teams
Don't forget to set guidelines and rules on working hours and breaks, to help guide your employees.
I also encourage you to contact employees every week for a one-to-one about their work-life balance.
Remember, lots of employees don't have the right desk set-up. They are often working on the kitchen table or in a cramped box room. That why you need to relax the rules, and see this as a temporary solution.
7. Cut Travel
You may need employees need to visit the office or meet a customer so you can close a new contact or deliver a service.
Unless that employee is showing COVID-19 symptoms, or self-isolating, then its okay to approve travel.
However, you should still try to use technology and social distancing wherever possible.
Remember, your business should keep operating.
8. Risk Assessment: Communication & Engagement
Often, employees feel that they don't have a voice, and in times of crisis, people feel extra anxious and helpless. This means that your employees may show signs of the stress response: fight, flight or freeze.
With extreme uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, you need to make sure they feel able to speak about their worries. I recommend thinking carefully about how best to communicate with your employees.
Rather than just stating the new rules of working, it's much better to get them involved by asking for volunteers to help develop practical procedures to protect everyone from the spread of the virus.
The good news is, there now sector-specific guidance documents to help you get started.
Here's a list of items you can discuss and develop with your employees:
- Where to display the COVID Health and Safety Poster
- Risk Assessments
- Procedures for COVID-19 controls
- Training packs/ briefings
- Signage and posters
- Internal Communication packs
- Working from home rules
- Cleaning regimes
- Well-being and support
- How to maintain standards.
I wouldn't just email people. Host a video call so they can see how passionate you are about doing the right thing. And don't forget once you have completed your risk assessment, the government now wants you to publish the results on your website.
That's my last tip for now. I hope that focusing on these 7 areas has helped you feel able to reassure all your employees that you want to protect their health, well-being and safety.
Ultimately if you want to get your business back up and running, keep checking the links above.
If you need help with your COVID-19 risk assessment, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.
Do you have any thoughts or ideas that can help keep people safe from COVID-19 at work? Leave a comment so we can help other people in this time of need.