COVID-19 has had a profound effect on our lives but what will be required to protect people in the industrial workplace as we ease out of lockdown. Jim Roberts, product manager of visual communications specialists Beaverswood offers some insight.
There can be little doubt that COVID-19 is the defining issue of our time. Its social, economic and health legacy will be with us for months, perhaps even years to come. And even when the crisis slips from the front pages, the fall-out will continue to be to be felt across whole swathes of daily life as companies look to rebound, rebuild and re-engage in a post-pandemic landscape.
Indeed, many organisations are already evolving, changing the way they do business, reassessing their strategies and plans to secure customers, market share and, ultimately, long-term survival. And of course, this extends to health and safety in the workplace. But how will employers manage risk effectively and ensure people stay safe and well?
Duty of employers
Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. They must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody's health and safety is protected.
In the context of COVID-19 this means among other things, make reasonable efforts to continue to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (keeping people the correct distance apart wherever possible), use screens or barriers to separate people from each other and provide adequate personal protection equipment.
You will also need to pay particular attention to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 - protect those who might be at higher risk - and remember that social distancing will, in particular, continue to apply to all parts of a business; not just the place where people spend most of their time, but also entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings. These can be among the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing.
Plan ahead for those coming to and from work by using markings and introducing one-way flow at entry and exit points among other initiatives.
Similarly, when it comes to workplaces and workstations, some of the steps that will continue to be required include the use of floor tape or paint to mark areas, reminding workers to keep the appropriate distance. Where it will not be possible to shift workstations further apart, install dividers to separate people from one another while also keep staff and visitors safe with protective screens in receptions and other common areas.
Remember too that you will be expected to continue to provide clear guidance on the social distancing and hygiene measures that are in place to people on arrival, who might include, for example, inbound delivery drivers or safety critical visitors, with good signage and clear visual aids.
As we emerge from lockdown, the Government will require us, more than ever since the current crisis began, to continue to manage the threat of COVID-19 wherever practically possible. So, it will be incumbent on all businesses to think long-term and invest in the appropriate equipment to make sure that people remain properly and fully protected.
This will include the proper use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and face coverings in daily life for at least the foreseeable future. Wearing a transparent anti-fog and scratch-resistant protective face shield, approved to UK National Healthcare Service standards, may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. This type of protection is designed to prevent the spread of virus by protecting the eyes, nose and mouth, while also preventing the user from touching their face, and can be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.
Moving forward, it’s important that employers continue to support their workers in using face coverings safely, if they choose to wear one, providing advice and following official guidance about wearing them in the workplace.
In these difficult days, good signs and effective labelling practices protect, advise and inform, which help to keep people safer and healthier. Consider incorporating them in your plans – after all, they are among the first line of physical defence in the battle to defeat COVID-19 and amplify public health messages in the workplace with clarity and resonance.
In the post COVID-19 landscape, it will be critical to ensure workforces remain effectively protected, stay safe and minimise the possibility of the virus reoccurring. It's also important to recognise that each workplace with its own unique set of virus risks, will be different. However, the adoption of what are essentially common sense measures, together with good quality equipment will continue to be highly effective in the daily fight to mitigate the risks.
A sound strategy can help to minimise the risks, so tailor your decision-making to meet your specific needs - the one-size fits all approach won't always work in an environment where the balance between a return productivity and people's wellbeing will continue to be paramount. Consider your requirements in terms of quality, reliability and performance, and consider also how your supplier can add value in helping you understand the role that signs play in securing a safer tomorrow.