Where we are in July 2020, the UK Government have eased the Covid-19 lockdown allowing greater freedom to work and socialise. This article looks at our Risk Assessment and mitigation factors that we have put in-place for our company, onePlanet Solutions.
Like many other businesses, our office has been closed during the earlier UK lockdown with homeworking implemented for all our employees.
Now, that the UK Government is signalling a cautious re-opening of businesses with advice that employers are encouraged to re-open their offices and for employees to return to work.
With the new freedoms from the UK Lockdown restrictions come with a responsibility to ensure that employers and employees take their responsibilities seriously to ensure that Covid-19 is not spread during work.
Our environmental and sustainability consultancy, onePlanet Solutions, itself is opening its offices and I wanted to share our experiences in preparing to return to work as an illustration of what can be put in-place to manage the re-opening of our office.
Your situation and needs may vary, so you should consider your own requirements for managing under COVID-19 & seek expert advice.
In preparation, we sourced information from the UK Government, Health and Safety Executive, Public Health England & our local authority here in Chichester. Specifically, we used two documents: Working safely during COVID 19 in offices and contact centres & Working safely during COVID 19 in or from a vehicle.
Our, first step, was to undertake a Covid-19 Risk Assessment covering five areas for the reopening of our office with a focus on the risks within the office and working environment, travel to and from the office, entry and exit of the office & office working practices as well as the possibility of client site based visits.
At present our Risk Assessment does not support any level of on-site client meetings or site visits until at least 1 November 2020 & possibly not until the beginning of 2021.
Our company has been fortunate that we already had a delivery model that did not fully rely on physical meetings, consultancy delivery or auditing with the ability to operate remotely.
The opportunity for client-facing meetings will be reviewed later in the Autumn 2020 and provided that the risk assessment supports on-site visits then appropriate mitigation practices will be put in place.
However, it did highlight that our office should re-open with certain control measures.
The notification of the Risk Assessment will be posted for all employees and the detailed assessment will be available on our internal SharePoint server.
Our current risk assessment highlighted six mitigation measures for the re-opening of the office starting with the opportunity for a deep clean of the office covering vacuuming all work areas including our carpeted areas, where dust build-up could encourage virus transmission, & wet cleaning the carpets and work surfaces, such as desks, computer equipment and less used areas like book shelves.
Our cleaning regime covered our computer equipment, which over prolonged use had accumulated dust build-up in the dust filters protecting the fans to our desktop computers. These filters were cleaned to minimise the spread of Covid-19 through dust transmission and to improve the efficiency of the cooling of the computer equipment.
At the beginning and end of each working day, we will take the temperature of each employee using a ThermoScan, which reads out the temperature from the outer ear within seconds. Any elevated temperature readings will mean that the employee will be required to self-isolate until the temperature reduces, when they can return to work or with continued elevated temperature or other COVID-19 symptoms to continue to self-isolate and seek medical attention.
Our office does not allow for 2 metre distancing except when only two persons are in the office. Accordingly, our risk assessment will have the preferred option of only two employees in the office at any one time at their dedicated work area with other employees offered the option to work from home. Any requirement, such as monthly meetings for all employees with be held via virtual conferencing or with all employees in the office with additional mitigation, such as the outdoor facilities, use of face masks and heightened hygiene practices.
No visitors will be permitted. All deliveries will be received at the point of entry and left for two days before opening by an employee with heightened Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as a face mask and disposable gloves.
The risk assessment further highlighted the need for improved hygiene practices covering six areas. Firstly, we implemented training for our employees to ensure that they had completed an external training course and examination on coronavirus and protection measures as well as emphasising good hygiene awareness and hand washing procedures.
Employees will be given additional time to ensure that they can observe good hand washing practices using liquid soap using the UK Government advice for fully washing their hands prior to starting or re-starting work.
Employees are responsible for cleaning their own work area and equipment with additional time allowed during the working day.
Additionally, we purchased 5 litres of hand sanitiser containing 70% alcohol and hydrogen peroxide rated as a virucide, which we decanted into a office-sized dispenser and small bottles for use outside of the office environment, such as travel to clients and at client sites.
Finally, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is provided in the form of reusable face masks, disposable gloves, face shields & personal sanitiser bottles.
As part of our environmental and sustainability policies, we always strive to take the most sustainable option. Specific Coronavirus (COVID-19): Disposing of Waste Guidance is given by the UK Government, which we have followed.
For our fabric face masks, they can be washed and reused, which is a more sustainable option than disposable face masks.
Any items for disposal, such as disposable gloves and used tissues, will be double bagged. The Government guidance strictly only applies for self-isolating individuals, but we have decided to adopt this practice as it limits the risk for our employees and for the individuals handling our office waste.
I hope that this article has given you an insight into how we re-opened your business under COVID-19 and prompted thoughts about how you can re-start your business following UK Government guidance and sourcing your own expert advice.
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