We’ve all being living with COVID-19 for over a year now and no doubt you have had enough!
However, it seems that this virus will not be leaving us any time soon and will have to be managed just like any other hazard that your business exposes its employees/others to. So, it is critically important to:
- Keep following government guidance.
- Keep abreast of the latest guidance.
- Ensure the control measures identified in your Covid-19 Risk Assessment are regularly reviewed and robustly enforced/followed in the workplace.
- Ensure your workplace remains Covid-19 secure.
Some of you may be suffering from Pandemic Burnout. This can be defined as the ongoing worry about self/family/friends and that other very important thing YOUR BUSINESS. All this negatively impacts on our mental health and wellbeing. Concentration fades and it gets harder to pay attention and there are likely to be sleep and memory issues.
This makes for an employee that is at far greater risk of having or causing an accident, so now more than ever vigilance is required to ensure your employees are supported. If not already in place, consider establishing an Employee Assist Programme (EAP) for your employees. An EAP will offer free and confidential guidance, support, independent advice and if required short term counselling to your employees. Check out Valentine EAP.
COVID-19 Secure – Legal requirement
Being Covid-19 secure will mean different things to different businesses and the government has produced several industry specific guidance documents.
As a reminder the basics of being Covid-19 secure include:
- Risk assessment – review your Covid-19 risk assessment regularly to ensure it is in line with current guidance and communicate it out to your employees.
- Maintaining social distancing in the workplace (2 metres) or ensure other measures are in place to mitigate the risk if 2 metres cannot be maintained e.g. face masks, screens etc.
- Cleaning, hygiene, and handwashing – maintaining a clean work environment with regular cleaning regimes especially of high touch points e.g. door handles, photocopiers, kettles, fridges, work tools etc and of course encouraging regular hand washing with soap and water (20 second rule) and frequent use of hand sanitisers.
- Ventilation – Ensure good natural ventilation through the workplace and especially if you are having meetings, ensure the room is well ventilated. If air conditioning units are used set them to maximise fresh air and minimise recirculation.
- Communication – Make sure your employees know what measures you are implementing to keep them safe and encourage 2-way communication.
- Working from home – If this is a viable option for your business encourage it.
- Vulnerable workers – ensure you have considered those who are vulnerable, especially those who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
Will the vaccine save us?
The short answer is no. What we need to remember is that the vaccine will not make us immune to the virus, it lessens the ill health effect and potential for death so all the controls you should have in place must be regularly reviewed to ensure they remain effective and MUST be robustly enforced, by disciplinary sanction if necessary. Any breach of health and safety may be classed as a gross misconduct event whereby summary dismissal could be applied for a single breach.
How you can support your workforce
Collaborate with your teams informing, instructing and educating your employees of the constant hazard this virus poses to us all will be really affective in minimising the risk the virus represents.
Encourage employees to have the vaccine, although beware you cannot force existing employees to have it if they don’t want or are medically barred from receiving it. Be aware that some people may have a slight adverse effect to the vaccine and may feel unwell the day after the vaccine. Make sure you have a programme in place to accommodate any absenteeism as a result of the vaccine.Take care not to discriminate either directly or indirectly for those who have not had the vaccine.
If you are in an industry where having the vaccine would be considered vital to carrying out the job safely e.g. care workers, you may have to consider job redeployment for those who decline to have it, until there is a definite end to this hazard.
Remind people that there is light at the end of the tunnel, scientist around the world are working around the clock to beat this, summer is on the way and with government lockdowns easing we will hopefully all be able to get out and enjoy it.