COVID-19: Key hazards to look out for when returning to work
With businesses across the UK beginning to return to work, all workplaces must now play their part in minimising the spread of COVID-19.
In order to do this, each and every staff member must be aware of the hazards presented when returning to work. Whether it be the employer or the employee, the workplace must be a safe environment for individuals to function in, to ensure the safety of staff.
Through both education and implementing new processes, offices throughout the country must now work together to stop the spread of coronavirus. While it may be easy to overlook certain aspects when it comes to returning to the workplace, it’s vital that we all stay aware of the potential risks that could surround us.
Depending on how you get to work, there are multiple things you should look out for during your daily commute. The government guidance is to, where possible, drive, cycle or walk to work. If, however, you have no choice but to use public transport then it’s important to stick to social distancing rules where you can and avoid contact with shared surfaces like handrails or armrests.
When you arrive at your workplace, it’s important to remain conscious of the germs you’re bringing in with you. Employers should be providing hand sanitiser for staff when entering and exiting the building.
Shared Surfaces & Equipment
It’s important to look out for areas in the office that could be particular hotspots for germs. These include door handles, stair railings, toilet doors, sinks and taps. Initially, many organisations will restrict or ban use of non-essential items, such as coffee machines, fridges and printers.
In shared bathroom spaces, look at the current hand-drying methods and consider whether these present a possible COVID-19 risk. If they do, try temporally using disposable paper towels over electronic hand-drying equipment.
In some cases, shared surface hazards might exist because of staff members not being allocated their own personal pieces of work equipment. Therefore, to reduce the associated risk of infection, provide each member of staff with their own labelled chair, telephone, computer and mouse.
As a final precautionary measure, make sure antibacterial gel is freely available around the office so that staff members can wash their hands whenever they require.
One of the biggest concerns for people returning to work is needing to share their workspace with people from different households again. Clear guidelines should be in place for staff, as well as visual and physical barriers to make the workplace visually different to how it was pre-pandemic and prevent people from slipping back into old habits.
It’s likely that flexible working will be more commonplace moving forward and so, if staff unsure about returning to work and are working perfectly well from home currently, allowing them to continue to do so, will make workplaces less crowded in the immediate future.
Generally, it all comes down to being sensible and asking the right questions. For instance, is the office being cleaned regularly? Are the symptomatic staff members being sent home or asked not to come in? Is there a good flow of fresh air throughout the office?
By staying aware of your surroundings at all times, you will avoid putting yourself at risk both now and once the pandemic is finally over.
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