There are certain safety measures businesses of all sizes can take to ease the return of their employees to the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance on how to utilise ventilation in the workplace to keep staff safe.
Most COVID-19 restrictions have been removed in England, but this does not mean that the pandemic is over, or that the virus has been kept at bay. People that congregate in close proximity in indoor spaces still need to take appropriate precautions to limit the spread of this novel coronavirus.
This is especially true for businesses, which are liable for the health and wellbeing of their employees.
In this article, we will outline the latest guidance from the HSE on how to minimise the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace. Here’s what you need to know about workplace safety practices during COVID-19 as employees return to the office.
What does the law say?
The law requires workplaces, and by extension employers, to provide adequate ventilation in enclosed areas in the workplace. The HSE sets out that there are two main ways to do this:
Natural ventilation – opening windows and doors allows fresh air to come into the work environment, increasing the chance of viral particles being blown away.
Mechanical ventilation – fans and air ducts blow fresh air into enclosed spaces.
What are my obligations as an employer?
You must ensure the ventilation in any buildings your employees work in is adequate to minimise the risk of the spread of COVID-19, whether the buildings you own are office spaces, warehouses or storerooms.
Neglecting to do so can risk employee legal action, should your negligence cause employees to become sick, suffer long-term illness or die.
Reducing the risk of aerosol transmission
Fortunately for small business owners, including tradesmen, there are a number of relatively simple ways to reduce aerosol transmission:
- Providing adequate ventilation in enclosed spaces to meet the minimum building standard. A ventilation engineer can advise you, or to avoid doubt, run you your system at full power
- Preventing workers with a positive diagnosis (and anyone reporting symptoms) from entering your premises
Identifying poorly ventilated areas and how to improve them
To identify poorly ventilated areas in the workspace, you will need to carry out a risk assessment. Begin by locating poorly ventilated areas that are in regular use. To minimise risks in these areas, you should prioritise them for improved ventilation which reduces the opportunity for aerosol transmission of viral particles.
Search for areas where you employees regularly work which aren’t provided ventilation, either because they are away from windows and doors, or there is no mechanical ventilation in the vicinity.
It’s also important to ensure that mechanical ventilation provides a source of external air, rather than just recirculating air in the building, which could increase the risk of viral particles spreading.
Using CO2 monitors to identify poor ventilated areas
It’s possible to mechanically detect areas which require ventilation to reduce the potential for exposure to COVID-19. This technology works by measuring the amount of CO2 in the air, because when we breathe out, we expel CO2. When there is a high rate of CO2 in the air it can indicate that an area requires more fresh air to expel viral particles.
Learn more about CO2 monitors and how to use them reduce potential exposures, consult this guide from the HSE.
Risk assessment templates
We offer a variety of risk assessment templates to assist your business in keeping your employees safe. Choose from over 70 task specific risk assessments, including a confined spaces risk assessment, site security and general safety.
We can create professional and compliant risk assessments for use across all sectors. They can be used to ensure safe working practices around a number of different activities. Each risk assessment is pre-written, saving you the time needed to write these documents from scratch. However, the documentation may need to be reviewed, rewritten and amended to ensure risks and hazards are accounted for. This will ensure that the document meets specific health, safety and environmental requirements.
Our risk assessments include:
- Risk Rating Using a 5×5 Analysis Grid
- Considerations For Who Could Be Harmed And How
- Existing Risk Analysis
- Control Measures
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Residual Risk Analysis
- General Statement
Health, Safety and environmental management membership
We provide retained health, safety and environmental management services to businesses looking to protect their business, their staff and their competitive advantage.
Our membership plans are highly flexible, we offer monthly and annual plans at a variety of package levels to suit businesses that just need a little assistance on health and safety matters, to businesses who wish to entirely outsource health and safety.
Get in touch with us today to discuss your requirements, we’re always happy to meet our clients in our offices in Kent, or in another venue such as your business premises. Alternatively, give us a call on 01634 353677, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill in our contact form. We’re looking forward to assisting your business.