Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of the roadmap to ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, many manufacturers are considering when they will welcome staff back to the workplace. 

Government guidance is not clear but indicates employees who are currently working from home should continue to do so until at least 21 June. If you are planning to bring your team onsite sooner, you will be required to substantiate this decision. This justification should consider whether roles are business critical and can only be undertaken from the workplace. You should also be prepared to provide a rationale for your actions to your local authority and/or a Health and Safety Executive inspector, if challenged.  

In the interim, it’s wise to proactively educate employees on COVID-19 safety and transmission risks before they return to work. This article brings your team up to speed on the following critical points:   

COVID-19 control measures 

Upon returning to work, all employees – even those who have received the COVID-19 vaccination – must continue to follow controls within your coronavirus risk assessment. Key prevention measures include:

  • Every colleague, including those who have received either the first or second COVID-19 vaccination, are required to comply with social distancing rules where reasonably practicable. They should also follow the control measures outlined in your COVID-19 risk assessment, such as remaining within their shift or task-related work ‘bubbles’.
  • Staff must immediately self-isolate if they develop symptoms of COVID-19. Current guidelines also state that individuals must self-isolate for at least 10 days if they test positive for COVID-19, whether or not they have been vaccinated.
  • Face coverings must be worn when on site and when working in communal and public facing areas, wherever reasonably practicable.
  • Staff must regularly wash their hands and use the hand sanitisers provided. 
  • The sanitising of common contact points after use is still vitally important. This includes printers, photocopiers, pump/pallet trucks and vehicle/machinery controls. 
  • The 2-metre social distancing rule remains in place for all colleagues. Close contact work must be avoided wherever possible and measures must be introduced to prevent bottlenecks during clocking in and out and while entering and exiting the workplace.
  • Where social distancing is not possible because of a particular work activity, members of team ‘bubbles’ should be recorded. 
  • Care must be taken when outside to ensure social distancing is practised at all times,  including during lunch, break times and in the event of a fire drill.
  • Employees should not share cars during lunch breaks and should adhere to the 2-metre rule in break rooms and kitchens. These areas should be reorganised in preparation for staff returning to work to ensure social distancing  is upheld throughout every working day. Breaks should also be staggered to avoid crowding in common spaces.  
  • If co-workers car share to get to work, they’re required to let you know. This information should be recorded.
  • When using kitchen facilities, encourage staff to first use hand sanitiser and then clean contact points with sanitising wipes after use. Hot spots for transmission include kettles, microwaves and fridge handles.
  • Advise workers to only prepare drinks for themselves, rather than making ‘rounds’. 
  • Workers must follow meeting room rules and not exceed the occupancy numbers identified on the door of each meeting space. They should also disinfect tables and equipment before leaving.  

Site changes and emergency procedures

Some employees may have been away from site for several months and operations, layouts and production areas may have altered during this time. Equally, you may have implemented updates to emergency procedures. You must inform staff if they are likely to be affected by these changes. 

General health and safety hazards

While COVID-19 remains a priority for all businesses, there has been a spike in accidents and injuries across many sectors over the past year. This uplift has been attributed to workers paying insufficient attention to other hazards. 

All colleagues should be reminded of high-risk activities within your workplace, including vehicle movements and machinery use. You should also consider asking returning staff to review the Health and Safety Handbook, complete the Health and Safety Handbook quiz on Safety Cloud and re-read risk assessments and safe systems of work. This will demonstrate that employees have refreshed their knowledge of the key hazards in your work environment. 

To ensure your workplace stays as safe as possible, it’s also essential to underline the importance of logging near misses. If something looks wrong, encourage your team to report it. 

DSE assessments

If desk workers took equipment home during the pandemic, this will now need to be returned. Their workstation setup will also need to be reviewed once they’re back in the office. Completing a DSE Assessment on Safety Cloud will identify missing equipment and highlight adjustments to head off eye strain, fatigue and poor posture.  

Use of PPE

The use of PPE continues to be a vital control in many parts of your business. If colleagues cannot find or need to replace PPE, ask them to notify you as soon as possible. Please do not allow staff to share PPE, as this could increase COVID-19 exposure risks. 

Mental health awareness

The pandemic has had an adverse impact on all of us, and some colleagues may have been deeply affected by personal circumstances and challenges. Safety Cloud’s mental health awareness e-learning module can pinpoint problem areas, helping you deliver meaningful support where your team needs it most. 

Share with your staff

Prepare your workforce for a safe return with our printable version of the points above, ready to circulate to your staff.