Workplace Safety and COVID-19 in The United Kingdom
After the recent easing down of lockdown restrictions, the Prime Minister has ordered a second lockdown of the United Kingdom due to a surge in COVID 19 cases. As of October 2020, a 3-tier system came into effect in the UK dividing the region into ‘very high’, ‘high’ and ‘medium’ areas.
Employers who were contemplating allowing their staff to the workplace under the “new normal” but are in ‘very high’, and ‘high’ risk areas have to put such plans on hold at least for a while longer. Those in ‘medium’ risk areas can continue operating but must observe the guidelines set forth by the government for a “COVID 19 secure” workplace.
By following the rules laid down by these guidelines, you will be playing a key role in helping keep the COVID 19 cases low.
Your duties as an employer under The United Kingdom’s laws
Every employer in The United Kingdom has a duty of care towards their employees, contractors and visitors when it comes to their health and safety. However, this pandemic calls for advanced monitoring of workplace health and safety conditions. Some of the steps employers should take include:-
- Where possible and practicable, employers should facilitate remote working. This is particularly true for vulnerable groups. As an employer, you need to ensure that your employees have access to all necessary equipment.
As your employees work remotely, you must start nurturing and observing open communication. For starters, recognize the impact loneliness and isolation will have on their mental health and schedule regular check-ins to monitor their mental health.
Remember that while you need your employees to be efficient and productive, they are confronting a new reality: one that can be both overwhelming and nerve-wracking. Always be accessible and empathetic. Lend a listening ear to their fears and address any questions they might have regarding their future at your organisation.
If you can tailor their health plans so that any of their COVID 19 medical bills will not dent their finances. Ensure that they are aware of any emergency contacts should they fall ill.
- For those whose roles cannot be carried out remotely, you need to make the workplace as safe as possible. You can achieve this by:-
- Encouraging physical distancing between employees
- Providing additional handwashing stations
- Providing hand sanitizer, soap, water and tissues
- Limiting the number of people on the premises at a time by adjusting their work patterns
- Every employer needs to implement suitable health and safety measures which including risk assessment at the workplace. The risk assessment needs to be tailored to your specific business operations and should account for specific COVID 19 dangers.
It should be carried out in consultation with any trade union you recognize, with the employees or any health and safety representative your employees elect. Workplace risks can be classified as general, business-specific and unforeseeable.
If possible, have this report in writing especially if you have more than five employees. The UK Government expects you to publish this information on your website if you have more than 50 employees.
You need to set up a system that addresses all the risks identified. You have to ensure that a safe work system is followed. This included monitoring employees’ behaviour and addressing any non-compliance to the set policies quickly and effectively.
- Designate a team or person responsible for implementing any COVID 19 emergency measures
- Keep yourself updated on the latest government measures as the situation evolves
- Communicate regularly and clearly to all your staff
- Review any travelling plans you had for the coming months
Failing to take sufficient steps to safeguard the health and safety of your employees by not following the government’s guidelines predisposes you to personal injury claims should your employees, contractors or visitors to your premises fall ill. Your employees are also justified to refuse to work should they feel concerned about their health and safety.
Induct for Work as a tool to help your employees cope with COVID 19
With the sudden demand for businesses to operate remotely, there is a higher demand for communication. Besides, employees need to be taken through thorough safety training. Conducting face-to-face training only predisposes them to the virus.
Induct for Work makes it possible for you to design, deliver, manage and monitor COVID 19 training in real-time. The platform gives you access to:-
- Customisable courses and templates – you can easily design and upload all your organisation’s COVID 19 response orientation program through the platform. In case you do not have one formulated just yet, you have access to a host of industry-specific templates. As the situation continues to evolve and new government guidelines are set forth, you can edit your course content as often and as much as you want.
- Learner-focused programs – employees, contractors and other stakeholders can access the course from anywhere and at their pace if they have an internet connection. You can make the content as engaging as possible using audios, videos, GIFs, infographics and photos. As the manager, you can access your inductees’ comprehension levels and improve the course content.
- All your data is stored in one place – during this pandemic, compliance with the stipulated health and safety laws is critical. Induct for Work stores data such as safety training completion certificates, insurance papers and medical certificates in a central place. These can be easily checked and verified to prove compliance.