News, Culture & Society

No 10 releases workplace guidance for staff returning after coronavirus lockdown 

Office staff have been advised not to share pens, turn their backs on co-workers and  take their own packed lunch among measures aimed at workplaces reopening after their coronavirus lockdown.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (Beis) unveiled workplace guidance for eight different sectors of the economy today as Boris Johnson took the first baby steps towards restarting the economy.

They set out in detail the steps companies should take to reintroduce staff at work safely, with the most important being staff should stay at home unless their work cannot be done at home and is deemed ‘critical’.

It came as the Prime Minister admitted ending lockdown will be ‘supremely difficult’ today as he unveiled an ‘exit plan’ that could see family and friends reuniting next month.

The PM played down expectations of a quick end to the misery for the country, saying going ‘too far and too fast’ risked a devastating second peak.

Ministers said they have consulted with around 250 businesses, trade bodies and unions to agree the plans, 

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: ‘This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone. These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.’ 

British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said: ‘This is a significant step forward in terms of the information available for businesses, who will now need to digest the detail. 

‘The guidance signals big changes for the way that many businesses operate, and some firms will now need time to plan and speak to their employees so that they can return to work safely.

‘Alongside this guidance, businesses urgently need clarity on the future of government support schemes, which must be adapted to help those firms who need to remain closed for an extended period or face reduced capacity or demand’.

Among the guidance is to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment, with employers told: ‘You must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers.

‘As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be.’

It adds: ‘If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so. ‘

It comes as trade unions in various sectors including transport and education voice fears about workers being sent back to work too early. 

 The guidance was provided online for people working in eight areas:

  • Labs and research facilities
  • Restaurants offering takeaway and delivery
  • Offices and contact centres
  • Homes 
  • Vehicles
  • Shops
  • Factories and warehouses
  • Construction sites and other outdoor settings 

Much of it was the same for most of the settings.  

It came as the Prime Minister admitted ending lockdown will be ‘supremely difficult’ today as he unveiled an ‘exit plan’ that could see family and friends reuniting next month

As many people as possible should be working from home with those on site limited to those whose jobs are ‘critical for business and operational continuity, safe facility management, or regulatory requirements’ that cannot be done elsewhere.

They are expected to adhere to the same social distancing rules as elsewhere.

Changes to the usual routine start before staff even arrive, with suggestions of staggered working times, extra facilities for cyclists and runners, and limited numbers in any minibuses used.

Workplaces themselves should open more entrances and exists where possible and consider running a one-way system to reduce congestion, with keypad entry systems turned off.

Where desks cannot be two metres apart from each other, screens should be used to separate staff, and desks should be either side-by-side or facing away from each other.

Hot desking – where more than one person uses a desk at various times during a day or week – should be avoided. 

The advice says meetings should be virtual where they can, but with two metres between people if not, adding: ‘Avoiding transmission during meetings, for example avoiding sharing pens and other objects.’

Even breaks should be staggered to allow people to space out, and canteens should remain shut because of the infection risk, with firms urged to think about ‘providing packaged meals or similar’ and ‘encouraging workers to bring their own food’.

And offices should undergo regular deep cleaning.

Here are some of the key points for each setting.

Offices 

‘For people who work in one place, workstations should allow them to maintain social distancing wherever possible.

‘Workstations should be assigned to an individual and not shared. If they need to be shared they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people.

‘If it is not possible to keep workstations 2m apart then businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate and if so take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.’

Restaurants (take away and delivery)

Special advice for restaurant includes  asking staff to change into uniforms at work and wash them there rather than taking them home if they can

As few people should be in a kitchen as possible and minimum staff.

 Workstations shoukld be two metres apart if possible, ‘recognising the difficulty of moving equipment such as sinks, hobs and ovens’.

Cleanable panels could be used and floor signs showing a two metre distance. Minimal access should be allowed to ‘walk-in pantries, fridges and freezers, for example, with only one person being able to access these areas at one point in time’.

There should also be ‘minimal contact at ”handover” points with other staff, such as when presenting food to serving staff and delivery drivers’.

Shops

Shops could be asked to take an authoritarian approach to allowing shopper sinto their stores.

This could include limiting the number of people in a shop at one time, and demanding children are kept under close control.  

Services with contravene social distancing, like carrying a customer’s heavy shopping, may have to be scrapped.

Shoppers should be encouraged to shop alone where possible.  

Factories and warehouses

This includes manufacturing and chemical plants, food and other large processing plants, warehouses, distribution centres and port operations.

Their advice warns they may have to look at ‘reviewing layouts, line set-ups or processes to allow people to work further apart from each other’.

Construction and other outdoor work

Advice here is on reducing unnecessary movement within building sites. This includes ‘restricting access to some areas, encouraging use of telephones where permitted, and cleaning them between use’.

It also calls for ‘reducing job rotation and equipment rotation, for example, single tasks for the day’ and ‘implementing one-way systems where possible on walkways around the workplace’.

Vehicles 

This includes people working as couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit, work vehicles and field forces.

The guidance notes: ‘It will not always be possible to keep a distance of two metres inside vehicles. 

‘Many in-vehicle tasks need more than one person, for example heavy deliveries or refuse collection, and changing vehicle configurations to create more space may not be practical.

‘Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.’

This includes using screens, extra handwashing and limiting the time spend on an assignment.

Homes

People working in homes include: repair services, fitters, meter readers, plumbers, cleaners, cooks and surveyors, plus delivery drivers ‘momentarily at the door’.

It does not apply to nannies working with one family, or their employers.

This group are adviced to travel to work alone if possible, but if they cannot to take steps including: keeping to the same group of people and a limited group, keeping vehicles clean.

Within homes, ‘it will not always be possible to maintain physical distance from customers.

‘If it isn’t possible to maintain social distancing while working in the home then extra attention needs to be paid to equipment, cleaning and hygiene to reduce risk.

‘Working materials, such as tools or domestic appliances, should be assigned to an individual and not shared if possible. If they need to be shared, they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people.’

Labs and research facilities 

The advice notes: ‘It will not always be possible to keep a distance of two metres in labs and R&D facilities that may be designed for close-proximity collaboration.

‘Fixed equipment may mean that changing layouts to create more space may not be practical.

‘Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.