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Making sure workspaces are safe for when you plan to return to work

Director and Head of Safety, Health and Environment, Richard Dryden:

As a responsible business owner, the safety, health, and environment of where your team carry out work, is something which will undoubtedly be important to you.

As somebody who works in this arena, I have seen significant changes over recent years as many have gone beyond the basics of meeting compliance standards in order to deliver workspaces that genuinely suits the needs of all employees.

While many such buildings have been largely dormant since the end of March when the lockdown period was first announced, businesses are now looking to start reintroducing their workforce to their office sites and considering how best to do so.

One of the first things a business owner should consider in such circumstances is whether there is any aspect of the building and maintenance that may need to be checked by a professional given the recent lack of use.

I would recommend having a designated ‘Workspace Manager’ who is assigned to visit the premises in order to coordinate contractors and test that everything is working correctly –  including the water supply, electrics, heating, air conditioning and alarm / security systems.

When selecting this person consider how far they will need to travel to the office (and how) and their Seniority.

If there are any issues, they can then make all relevant team members aware and if this is a managed space, they can notify your landlord. You will also want to request that they audit and test all electrical equipment and ensure these have all PAT tests are still valid. After testing these should, where possible, be stored away and unplugged from the main electrical supply. This will help prevent fire hazards (and potentially save on electricity bills if somebody has left something on standby for the last two months).

This will mean the general maintenance of the space will be upkept, and as a result will help to mitigate any delays when you do return to work.

Following this, I would familiarise yourself with the latest documentation published by GOV.UK. On the 11 May, the Government published eight guides to help employers, employee’s and self-employed workers understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, like with many things at the minute, this should not be taken as gospel as lots of advice is being updated weekly if not daily to respond to the latest guidelines set out. However, this should be adhered to if you plan to return to work in the coming weeks. For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

A lot of the advice as you may guess ultimately aids staff and customers to social distance whilst at work. You may therefore need you to consider restructuring the layout of your workspace to allow safe working distances of 2 metres.

When doing so, make sure you carry out full risk assessments in response to this. This should make sure things such as fire exists, trailing cables and route obstructions become clear before returning to work ensuring this continues to be a safe place.

Something else which should be considered is the cleanliness, hygiene, and welfare of the space. If you work in hospitality, you may need to consider extra precautionary equipment such as gloves and face masks when serving customers. Whereas in an office environment you may request that staff wipe down their workspaces twice a day in addition to a weekly office deep clean.

We understand during these times, you may have concerns about returning to work and making sure your workspaces are safe. If you have any questions my team are on hand to provide advice and guidance on all aspects relating to Safety, Health and Environment.

For more information please contact me on 07961 231 937 and richarddryden@macconsultingltd.com.

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MAC are staying COVID-19 secure in 2020

We can confirm that we have complied with the Government’s guidance on managing the risk of COVID-19 by following five simple steps.

  • We have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and shared the results with the people who work here
  • We have cleaning, handwashing, and hygiene procedures in line with guidance
  • We have taken all reasonable steps to help people work from home
  • We have taken all reasonable steps to maintain a 2m distance in the workplace
  • Where people cannot be 2m apart, we have done everything practical to manage transmission risk
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COVID-19 office risk assessment update

MAC is continuing to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The safety of our staff is of the upmost importance to us as a business and therefore in preparation for some staff using MAC’s premises, we have set out the following guidance for all employees:

Essential trips

  • All staff should continue to work from home where possible.
  • Staff should only visit the office if essential.

Social distancing

  • 2m social distancing will always be maintained – both inside and outside the workplace.
  • Management checks will be in place to make sure social distancing is adhered to.

Personal hygiene

  • Staff members will be required to wash their hands for 20 seconds with water and soap. Handwashing facilities with soap and water will be available in all offices.
  • When drying hands team members will be required to use disposable towels which will be available beside handwashing facilities.
  • Staff members should catch coughs and sneezes in tissues and keep “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” at the forefront of their minds. Tissues will be made available in the workplace.
  • Staff members should avoid touching their face, eyes, nose, or mouth with unclean hands.
  • If soap and water is not available gel sanitizers should be used.

Cleaning

  • Staff members should clean all touch points after each contact. Facilities to clean objects and surfaces that are touchpoints will be made available in each office.
  • Rigorous checks will be carried out by line managers to ensure that the necessary procedures are being followed.

Mental health

  • Management will promote health & wellbeing awareness to staff and will offer whatever support they can.
  • There will be regular communication of mental health information and an open-door policy is in place for those who need additional support.
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How to counter the negative impact of increased handwashing in the construction industry

While hand washing is not a new concept it has, arguably, never been more of a hot topic as the country works together in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus through human contact and cross contamination.

The evidence suggest that the additional precautionary measures in place – including singing happy birthday twice every time we move from room to room, or from task to task – are working, but the reality is that frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products, particularly soaps and other detergents, is also having a negative impact on those in the construction industry.

For many, the symptoms are relatively mild, and result in little more than dry or cracked skin, but for other it is an important cause of chronic irritant contact dermatitis. A condition typically caused by a depletion of what is known as the lipid barrier – a layer of protection that is responsible for maintaining skin hydration, firmness, and softness.

Here, we have summarised some of the latest advice on how to combat these milder symptoms, but of course we would advise anyone to speak to a health professional if symptoms persist or worsen.

  • Avoid using an alcohol-based product (i.e. Antibacterial gel).

Provided you wash your hands with soap and water an alcohol gel will not make your hands cleaner, but it may aggravate symptoms of irritant contact dermatitis.

  • Dry your hands thoroughly before putting on gloves and avoid wearing them unless necessary.

Wearing gloves, and especially wearing gloves while hands are still wet from either washing or applying alcohol, increases the risk of skin irritation. REMEMBER, please follow all guidance set out and if you are required to wear gloves continue to do so.

  • Use an alternative product if you are experiencing symptoms.

It may be that you have an intolerance to a certain product if you are experiencing symptoms. Speak to your site operative who may be able to offer an alternative.

  • Use moisturising skin care products on the areas affected when at home.

It is worth applying skin care products to affected areas when you are not at work to help alleviate symptoms. However, it is important that you do not apply these products whilst working in a shared area as they can be easily contaminated.