As COVID-19-related restrictions are eased across the country, we are facing the challenge of returning to work while retaining social distancing measures. As business leaders, this is our opportunity to get back on track, resuming key projects that have been on hold. However, it is essential that we do so safely and sensibly. As always, we have a responsibility to protect our employees and contractors, but we also now have a wider responsibility, to protect the general public and reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19. With that in mind, we can’t just revert to the way things were. We need to make the necessary changes to ensure we all work safely in the new environment that is forming around us.
Assessing Your Sites and Identifying Risk
As with general workplace health and safety, the first step is identifying potential hazards and assessing risk. For every site that will see workers and contractors return, you will need to consider the following areas:
- Activity – you’ll need to review what jobs are carried out on-site and how they interact. By breaking down the activities, you’ll be better placed to make a plan of how they can work moving forward.
- Equipment – you’ll need to review what your workers and contractors use to do their jobs. This may be shared surfaces such as door handles and telephones or large pieces of machinery. Once you know what is being used, you can make a plan of how you’ll keep it clean and safe.
- Facilities – you’ll need to review not only the equipment used to complete operational activities, but the areas used for communal meetings, kitchen facilities and toilets. Every place on-site needs to be made safe and used appropriately.
- Volume of workers – you’ll need to review the number of people you have on-site at any one time and where their main areas of work are. Once you know this, you can put measures in place to ensure the site isn’t overcrowded and that social distancing can be realistically achieved.
- Site access – you’ll need to not only know who is on-site and when but how they will enter and exit. You’ll need to ensure that there isn’t a rush at any point that would compromise social distancing.
While it is a lot to consider, assessing your sites and identifying areas of potential risk is the only way that you are going to be able to ensure social distancing can work. It is the first step towards building a new plan for how your business can operate safely.
Creating New Ways of Working
Once you have assessed areas and times when your workers and contractors might be at an increased risk, you can put measures in place to mitigate the risk. Your plan for new ways of working will outline exactly how you expect people to behave on-site and the new processes that they need to follow to ensure workplace health and safety, including:
- Training – while everyone is no doubt aware of social distancing, you will need to create appropriate training to explain how that looks on-site.
- Screening – you may want to implement screening of workers, whether that be temperature tests or advice on when to stay at home.
- Education – as well as implementing training around social distancing on-site, you will need to reinforce the message with constant visual reminders.
- Reporting – as with any health and safety risk, any incidents or concerns should be reported and logged.
- Protective equipment – personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required in instances where an appropriate distance can’t be upheld.
- Working hours – shifts may be required to reduce the amount of people on-site at any one time, this will also be relevant to break times.
- Monitoring – while, hopefully, everyone on-site will do their utmost to stick to new ways of working, you need to ensure it is monitored and action taken if procedures aren’t being followed correctly.
- Cleaning – you will need to implement a new cleaning routine to reduce the risk of shared surfaces and equipment passing on infection.
The best way to ensure social distancing is upheld, is to have an effective plan in place. And, once that plan is developed, including many of the measures above, you will need to ensure it is communicated. Remember that your contractors aren’t always party to the same information and briefings as your employees, you need to ensure communication reaches everyone who may be on-site so they can keep themselves and others safe.
Building a Remote-First Attitude
While we all know that we need to keep our distance, we also need to accept that not every job can be done from afar if we are to keep our businesses running. We may have contractors in to clean, drive, build and more, and if they aren’t on-site, they can’t work. However, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be a level of remote activity between you. This is where having a remote-first attitude comes into play.
Remember that when it comes to social distancing, the more you can achieve remotely the better. Having a plan in place for how you’ll work on-site is great, but communicating that plan and training doesn’t have to take place face-to-face. What’s more, learning online gives people more time to digest information. As part of your social distancing plan, you should work on opening up lines of communication, making sure you’re available by email, telephone and video conferencing and ensuring your employees and contractors can easily stay in touch.
Staying Safe Whatever the Circumstances
By making a plan for social distancing on-site, you can ensure your business keeps running while adhering to workplace health and safety best practice, including the new and evolving regulations surrounding COVID-19. With the right technology, systems and processes in place to support your plan, you should not only be able to resume normal activity on-site, but keep everyone safe at the same time.
For over a decade, Conserve has helped organisations overcome contractor management challenges. We can help you develop a contractor management service that will be not only effective but will make your organisation safer, while minimising your overall risk. Request a demo now or visit the Conserve page for more great content.
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