Trackplot’s back to work advice
With the easing of lockdown restrictions across the UK which now allows most outdoor workplaces to resume operation, you may be planning or implementing your back to work approach. As the country continues to remain “safe and alert”, it is important that as an employer you follow the government guidelines and make the appropriate changes to your worksites.
We have put together some key advice to consider when planning your return to work so that everyone can stay safe.
Working to a new normal
Although there continue to be changes to the guidance from the government, there is still no definite timeline on when the restrictions will be fully lifted, and it is expected that working practices will change permanently. It is important to review and update your health & safety policies to comply with the current guidance.
This idea of a ‘new normal’ way of working will mean that you do have to make changes to your employees working behaviours as well as your health & safety policies. For example, introducing shift working, implementing social distancing measures, providing additional hand washing and welfare facilities and working online.
There has been emphasis by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on how such changes may impact on employees’ wellbeing, both physically and mentally, due to the increased amount of time spent working alone and unsupervised. HSE advises employers that continuing to operate in the same way as before the Coronavirus outbreak is not likely to be realistic and adaptions must be made to ensure staff safety.
Assessing different risks
HSE highlights the legal responsibility employers have for assessing, controlling and monitoring risks; meaning employers should review and implement appropriate measures to mitigate against these risks. In relation to COVID-19 the government states the following:
“You need to think about the risks [ your employees] face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising that you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.”
This means that risk assessments need to reflect the new risk of Coronavirus infection. For outdoor workers this will include assessing how employees are travelling to and from work and how best to manage this. Changing how your employees work together due to the COVID19 outbreak is an important factor to consider, you may now be having to deal with the new risk of employees working alone. You may also have higher risk employees on site, they will need their own risk assessment carried out to confirm they are able to return to site as well as perform their tasks safely.
FISA have recently highlighted the increase in mental health risks due to the COVID-19 outbreak, often due to working in isolation and feeling under pressure. They advise employers that mental health cannot be ignored and it is as important to assess mental health as well as physical health.
Social distancing and lone working outdoors
Employees who work outdoors still have to follow social distancing guidelines and stay 2 metres apart from each other. FISA, FCA and Confor have jointly developed a safety guidance protocol for operating a safe worksite, confirming the need to comply with the latest government advice at all times and the importance of social distancing. They state that any non-essential physical work that requires close contact between workers should not be carried out and any meetings should only happen if necessary.
If your employees work using a buddying system or in groups this will have to be reviewed as these practices do not comply with social distancing. Rather than buddies travelling by company vehicle and working together on site, workers should travel to and from home using their own vehicles and individual working needs to be adopted. If the work cannot be undertaken safely by individuals then the work will have to cease for the time being.
If your employees are now working alone, they are now classed as lone workers and employers must follow lone worker guidelines. Lone workers may be exposed to significant risks simply because they work alone. Often lone workers behave differently to workers in a team and they are likely to take higher risks. As stated in section 2, risk assessments must be undertaken for lone workers too. This may be a new risk to your staff, HSE recommend in their lone worker guidelines there should be a monitoring system embedded into your organisation to enable regular contact with each lone worker and ensure they return to base or home safely each day.
A final piece of advice would be to keep talking to your employees. It is important to appreciate that each member of your workforce may have unique concerns and make it clear that you will listen to them. Most employees want to work but in an environment that protects their physical and mental wellbeing.
It is important that all the changes made to your site and working practices are fully explained to all your staff, with adequate signage so everyone can follow the guidelines appropriately. Regular communication and updates are vital.
We appreciate the strain the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on employers and their workforce. At Trackplot we are here to help protect outdoor lone workers. Safety has always been of high importance but in light of the outbreak it is now at the forefront of all our minds. If you think our lone worker solution could help you return to work and operate safely please get in touch to discuss your particular circumstances.
Take care and stay safe.
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