Health and safety in the workplace is always at the forefront of a business owners mind but the current health crisis is placing yet more emphasis on keeping everyone safe in and around work premises. What are the current health and safety concerns and how can small business owners meet these challenges head-on?
The coronavirus, PPE and health and safety in the workplace
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace is nothing new. The pandemic has brought the need for small business owners, re-opening after the enforced lockdown, to take a closer look at health and safety, including the possible provision of PPE.
But it isn’t a simple case of handing out masks, visors and hand gel.
- Understanding and awareness
The look of your small business post-lockdown will be a very different looking landscape. Plastic screens at till points and two-metre social distancing will need to be adhered to by you, your staff, contractors and public where possible.
As a business owner, you will need to take all reasonable steps, as per health and safety regulations, to continue to keep employees safe from physical and emotional harm.
- Update risk assessments – from café risk assessments to analysing the risks in a shop or salon, an updated and current risk assessment should reflect the ‘new normal’ of post-lockdown training.
- Update the health and safety manual – from the use of correct PPE to updating hazards and levels of risks, the health and safety manual needs to be updated to contain all current information.
PPE only forms a protective layer if it is used correctly and even then, it has limitations. Your risk assessment should determine what level of PPE staff need to carry out their roles safely.
- Health and safety training – a refresher across all aspects of health and safety in the workplace will see your team start on the right foot. It will need to include the use of hand sanitiser, as well as regular hand washing and social distancing.
- Specific training – this could address questions such as how often should PPE be replaced and when should hands be washed?
- Correct use of PPE
The correct use of PPE is essential to optimise its effectiveness but, it is not an impenetrable barrier. PPE needs to be used in conjunction with other measures, such as handwashing, sharing of equipment and working closely.
- Training in the use of PPE – training in the use of PPE should cover how to use it correctly, what needs to be used (the type of PPE may change depending on work location, for example, in public-facing roles as opposed to working in a spacious warehouse)
- Supply issues
There are concerns over the supply chain of PPE, a process that has, understandably, been under considerable strain. The higher standards of PPE, such as a specific, hospital-grade type of mask, have been rightly diverted to the NHS.
However, with small business re-opening, supply issues of some kinds and types of PPE may be an issue.
- Risk assess – what style, type and grade of PPE your employees need to be able to carry out their jobs without being at high risk of contracting COVID-19?
Health and safety and the coronavirus – addressing employee concerns
Employees will have concerns about returning to work post-lockdown. The statistics show that deaths and cases of COVID-19 in some areas of the UK are slowing. But they – and you – have a right to be cautious.
Addressing staff concerns is essential but it is also essential that we don’t see PPE as the magic bullet that will stop coronavirus in its tracks. Regular handwashing, social distancing and workplace and workstation risk assessment are needed.