Is your business workplace-ready?
You may think that as we return to our stations post pandemic, normal service will be resumed, but that is not the case. As well as a checklist of the usual safety precautions required in workplaces, Covid-19 regulations also need adhering to.
What we all need to be mindful of is just how the Covid 19 pandemic has taken its toll on people’s health. Those returning to work may have had the disease and still be recovering, or they may be feeling anxious about returning to a space filled with other people. Making safety a priority is a way of ensuring your workforce feels cared for and valued within your company.
What kinds of safety precautions are required in the workplace?
Post pandemic, employers are having to rethink the physical workspace’s role, adapting it to the needs of the workforce.
For many, this may mean a shift to a hybrid workforce, ie. where people work partly from the office and sometimes from home or on the road, so communicating the importance of safety is the first step.
You should also update your risk assessment to manage the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your business. This will help you to understand what you should do to work safely and protect people.
As an employer you are responsible for ensuring those who work for you receive immediate attention if they become ill or suffer an injury. First aid can save lives and prevent an injury from becoming something more serious but it is also a legal requirement.
Even small low risk workforces must have a first aid box and somebody appointed to take charge of things if an accident should occur.
They don’t need to have been on a course but obviously it helps if they have a basic knowledge of life-saving procedures, ensuring everyone in the workplace has peace of mind.
If the workplace has more significant health and safety risks – and this could mean more people, or working with machinery, then training is essential.
According to the law (the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981), employers must make sure there are adequate and appropriate first aid equipment, facilities, and number of qualified first aiders in the workplace. However, what is adequate and appropriate is quite vague and it can be difficult to know how to ensure you are legally compliant.
Therefore, in order to ensure you do have the adequate number of first aiders in your organisation, you should carry out a risk assessment.
Making an assessment will establish what level of first aid is needed, so you need to look at the following:
- The workplace,
- The workforce, and
- The hazards and risks present.
When doing the risk assessment, think about the following points:
- Do you have a high risk or low risk workplace?
- Do you have any lone workers?
- How big is your workforce?Does your workforce stay onsite or work away?
- Are your workers in full time or part time jobs?
- Is your workplace within easy distance and access for the emergency services?
- Do you have a large number of visitors to the workplace?
These questions will help you decide what level of first aid is needed.
As a minimum, you must have:
- An appropriately stocked first-aid kit.
- An appointed person to take charge of first-aid arrangements.
- Information for all employees giving details of first-aid arrangements.
The HSE recommends that if you work in a company with 5-50 workers, there should be at least one person trained in first aid. Another first-aider should be in place for every 50 workers after that. Accidents can happen, even in low risk organisations with few employees.
If you need a first aider for your business, it is important they receive the appropriate training. When choosing a course, your first aid training providers will need to be able – and should be prepared to demonstrate how they satisfy certain criteria set by HSE.
These criteria include:
- The qualifications expected of trainers and assessors
- Monitoring and quality assurance systems
- Teaching and standards of first-aid practice
- Syllabus content
The QA Level 3 Award in First Aid at Work (RQF) is a regulated and nationally recognised qualification, specifically designed for those who are appointed to act as a first aider in their workplace. It is also ideal for people who have a specific responsibility to provide first aid in voluntary and community activities.
Fire safety in the workplace
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety ) Order 2005 made fire safety a legal requirement. All staff members in a business environment had to receive at least some form of basic fire warden training. All employers have a responsibility to ensure that their organisation appoints a sufficient number of responsible persons. Even when working from home, employees need to be aware of fire hazards too.
Returning to the workplace, it is imperative that you are fire safe and there are several steps that can be taken to minimise risk.
- Storing stock – It’s important to keep the corridors, stairs and exits clear for that if there’s a fire people can leave the building without being obstructed.
- Close doors – Fire doors wedged open is a no-no so ensure employees are aware they should keep doors closed at all times.
- Alarms – Ensure staff know where alarms are so that if they need to they can raise the alarm quickly.
- Safely store flammable materials.
- Ensure everyone knows the workplace fire drill and where to congregate when the alarm sounds.
Making the workplace Covid secure
We should all be pretty aware of the two meter rule by now and if possible it should also be adhered to in the workplace. If this isn’t possible, keeping 1 metre apart with risk mitigation is acceptable.
Cleaning, hygiene and handwashing
Regular hand washing and keeping the workplace clean reduces the possibility of Covid 19 spreading, so both are an essential part of keeping the workplace Covid safe.
Ventilation and air conditioning
Ensuring that the workplace is adequately ventilated can also reduce the risk of the virus spreading.
Information is key
Involving and informing the workforce about what is being done to manage the risk of Coronavirus is important. In this way you can explain the changes that are being made and why they are being implemented. Involving employees and hearing their views is also important if you want to continue to operate your business as safely as possible.