New cases of COVID-19 are expected to rise this winter, as the novel coronavirus is seen to thrive during the colder months, just like the common cold and regular winter flu. More time spent huddled indoors with others is often cited as a factor in helping viruses spread quicker than during other times of the year.
Even so, there are many risk mitigation measures that employers can take to minimise risk of infection to their workers and to the general public this winter. In this article, we’ll dive into the latest working safely during the pandemic guidance from the HSE and will reveal how you can protect your business by ensuring you meet your obligations for safeguarding staff and members of the public.
Current HSE guidance
As of November 2021, HSE guidance makes a number of vital recommendations for businesses across the country, to help manage the risk of COVID-19 reaching their place of work. They advise businesses:
- Conduct a risk assessment
- Ensure adequate ventilation and air conditioning
- Brief employees and distribute information clearly
- Work from home where possible
- Protect vulnerable workers
If you are based in England, HSE offers a clear guide to conducting the aforementioned risk assessment. Guidance and regulations may differ, however, if you are based in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. You are obliged to ensure all risk factors are identified, which might increase the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 within your business. Making a list of those who could be affected by said risks must be drawn up, while assessing the likelihood of specific individuals becoming exposed is another factor, especially in the event that members of your staff are vulnerable.
Hawksafe has a set of useful tools at your disposal, including templates for risk assessment, to make it easier for you to know what to look out for when you conduct them.
Maintenance of good hygiene, including access to handwashing facilities, encouraging mask-wearing and ensuring access to ventilation in your workplace are essential. Good ventilation is critical, as viral particles such as those which cause COVID-19 can hang in the air inside airborne droplets (in aerosol form) for up to five minutes indoors or potentially even longer in the absence of fresh air.
Reaching out to workers
Briefing your employees about changes being made to ensure their safety are important, as well as hearing their input to ensure such changes work for everyone. Working from home can serve as an effective mitigation strategy to limit risk of exposure to COVID-19, so if this is a path your business intends to go down, good lines of communication are key. Employees and employers alike must also have the equipment they need to continue working and staying in touch during stints spent working from home.
Identifying the more vulnerable members of your staff is a top priority, as a variety of conditions can mean such people are more adversely affected in the event of exposure to COVID-19. Those with long-term lung conditions including asthma and cystic fibrosis are just a few examples of those who could be vulnerable, as well as those with heart, liver or kidney conditions, plus people diagnosed with diabetes. For a full list of high-risk categories, check out this list of people considered high risk of becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19, compiled by the NHS.
Mental health is another factor to consider when making plans regarding health, safety and environment in your business. Hawksafe offers a course in First Aid on Mental Health to make sure mental health requirements are identified and can be sufficiently met by your business, and how assistance can be provided with this matter.
Help from Hawksafe
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world of work on its head when strains of the novel coronavirus started reaching countries such as the UK in 2020. Employers have had to get with the programme and ensure for not only health and safety considerations in regular working environments, but also those at the height of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Hawksafe knows the stresses and strains businesses have experienced during this difficult time.
That’s because we provide a wide range of Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) services which can be specially-tailored to fit your organisation and its specific needs. We offer online and in-person classroom courses and training, catering to the different requirements you might have. In addition, we offer a variety of memberships for you to consider, with different services depending on the option you pick. These can allow you to gain the necessary accreditations and benefit from the fullness of the services we provide.
As the pandemic has shown us, workplaces are just another battleground for us in the fight against COVID-19. The way your business responds to this modern-day fight to stem the tide of cases depends on having the necessary health and safety provisions in place. If you wish to speak to us about making sure you’re where you should be in keeping your staff healthy and safe, get in touch today.