As the UK government starts to relax restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 many businesses and educational establishments are looking to mitigate the risk of the virus by putting in place workplace and school COVID-19 measures to protect workers, teachers and pupils. In this article we look at some of the measures you should put in place to enable workers, teachers and pupils to return safely.
In the Workplace
To minimise the risk to yourself or someone in your business contracting COVID-19 and spreading it in the workplace the UK government Departments for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport have issued guidelines for England (there is separate guidance for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) on workplace COVID-19 measures and how to reopen your business safely.
It’s important to note that employers that want to reopen their business have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site. You must not reopen if your business is closed under current government rules. You can check if your business can reopen by going to the page regarding Guidance Closing certain businesses and venues in England.
Each step is outlined below:
Step 1. Carry Out a Workplace COVID-19 Measures Required and Risk Assessment
A risk assessment should be one of the first 5 steps you take to work through what your business needs to do to work safely. This can be done by:
- visiting the guidance and support page which will take you through a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance
- answering the questions to help you make the required adjustments to your business premises and for your workforce.
You must carry out this risk assessment before reopening. Failure to do so will mean that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or your local council will issue an enforcement notice.
Once the risk assessment is complete you should consult with your workers or trade unions and share the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website.
Step 2. Develop Cleaning, Hand Washing and Hygiene Procedures
One of the ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19 is to provide facilities and encourage workers to increase their frequency of hand washing and cleaning by:
- making people aware of the guidance on hand washing and hygiene
- in addition to washrooms you should also provide hand sanitiser throughout your workspace and encourage people to regularly use it, especially after touching any hard surfaces
- you should setup a cleaning and disinfecting schedule to ensure surfaces are regularly cleaned and disinfected and this schedule should be more frequent than usual including toilets
- providing facilities to dry hands including paper towels and electrical dryers.
Step 3. Where possible maintain 2m social distancing
Wherever possible you should try to maintain a 2m distance between workers. You will need to assess your office layout and measure and mark out areas 2m distanced from each other. You should also:
- put up signs with information on social distancing and to remind workers and to keep 2m apart
- use floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
- look at having “one-way” systems in place to avoid people passing too closely when using corridors
- change from “hot-desking” to fixed desks to avoid the sharing of workstations
- arrange meetings remotely using online meeting software such as Zoom
- make appointments with visitors online rather than face to face.
Step 4. Help people to work from home
Where possible you should enable staff to work from home by:
- making arrangements for them to have access to the right equipment e.g. a laptop and remote access to work systems
- including them in all communications especially around the workplace COVID-19 measures you are implementing
- looking out for their physical and mental well-being to ensure that working remotely is not affecting their heath.
Step 5. Manage transmission risk where 2m social distancing is not possible
Where it’s not possible to keep 2m you should look to adopt the ‘1m plus’ distancing guidance and mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 by:
- assessing how important a task is for your business to continue to operate
- minimising the amount of time spent on the task or splitting the task into smaller time slots
- staggering arrival and departure times of workers
- reducing the number of staff in work at any one time
- reducing “team” sizes to form smaller working “bubbles” so that teams come in contact with fewer people
- using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
- using barriers or dividers to separate staff from one another.
- looking at space planning solutions incorporating office partitioning including demountable partitions and sliding or folding partitions to divide office areas into individual safe working spaces.
For more guidance for your specific business type you should check out the Working safely during COVID-19 page on gov.uk.
This is split into two main areas:
Planning and Organising
To get ready to welcome pupils back to school in greater numbers it’s vital to have the right planning in place and for that planning to be implemented as safely as possible. In order to do this schools, colleges and universities should:
- where possible, ensure pupils have access to remote learning in addition to face to face learning (where face to face learning is reduced)
- look at carrying out risk assessments and assess what protective measures should be implemented to mitigate against COVID-19
- look at the timetable and decide which lessons or activities will be delivered
- organise smaller class sizes and create class “bubbles” of children who will be with each other
- lay out classrooms so that furniture, workstations, play areas and multi-purpose stations are socially distanced (some schools have also hired additional equipment to enable outdoor teaching e.g. tents or marquees)
- think about creating new learning areas in your school using fixed, folding and temporary screens / partitioning
- make sure each pupil has their own equipment and books
- remove unnecessary items from classrooms
- look at having one way systems in place and stagger breaks so that pupils are not moving around the school at the same time
- consider using a “traffic light kit for social distancing in school corridors” which makes it easier for pre-school and primary school children to grasp the concept of social distancing in school corridors and common areas
- stagger drop off and collection times and have processes in place that are communicated clearly to parents.
Childcare or Early Years Settings should:
- look at ways to keep smaller groups of children together throughout the day and to avoid larger groups of children mixing
- ensure play equipment is cleaned between groups of children using it, and that multiple groups do not use it simultaneously
- remove soft furnishings, soft toys and toys that are hard to clean
Ensure Good Communication to All Stakeholders
It’s important that once plans are in place and have been implemented that all the good work getting ready to welcome back pupils is built upon by ensuring good communication. Think about:
- making sure staff know what plans are in place and what is expected of them including any safety measures, timetable changes, changes to class locations, staggered arrival and departure times etc.
- communicating with any contractors and suppliers that will be needed in preparation of plans for opening e.g. catering, food supplies, hygiene suppliers and cleaning
- discussing the new cleaning measures you have put in place and what is required with cleaning contractors – this may require additional hours – and may require additional cleaning staff
- getting your message out via email lists, social media, newspapers etc. that you hold or call parents, carers etc. and tell them what you are doing and what they should expect when they come back to school
- telling parents, carers, visitors, suppliers, children etc. understand that they should not come to nursery, school or college if they are showing any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (headache, fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain and loss of taste or smell) and should isolate at home
- letting parents and carers know that only one parent should accompany their child to the education or childcare setting
- communicating the allocated drop off and collection places and times and the processes they need to follow to do so e.g. which entrance to use
- making sure parents and carers understand that they should not gather at entrances or exit gates or enter the school unless they have a prearranged appointment and if they are entering the school they must do so in a safe manor.
JBH Refurbishments Your School and Workplace COVID-19 Measures Company
JBH Refurbishments are a professional office and school refurbishment company. Contact us if you need to put in place school and workplace COVID-19 measures to enable workers, teachers and pupils to return safely. You can get in touch via our contact form or calling us on 0333 207 0339.