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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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