With the recent lockdown easing roadmap announced by the Prime Minster, many businesses are considering when they will be able to return staff who are working at home back to the workplace.

Government guidance is not clear but indicates staff who are currently working from home should continue to do so until at least 21st June. If you are planning on bringing staff back to the workplace sooner then you will be required to justify this decision. This justification should consider whether roles are business-critical and can only be undertaken from the workplace. However, in any case, you should be able to justify your decision to your local authority inspector if challenged. 

In the interim, we have prepared a list of points to reiterate to staff prior to them returning to work, these include: 

COVID-19

When staff are recalled back to the workplace it will be essential all staff continue to follow the controls outlined within your COVID-19 risk assessment. Whilst the vaccinations continue to roll out at pace and the number of staff in workplaces with vaccinations increases, all staff must remain vigilant of the following:

  • Any staff, including those who have received either the first or second COVID-19 vaccination, are required to comply with social distancing rules and follow the control measures contained within your COVID-19 risk assessment.
  • All staff must self-isolate immediately if they develop symptoms of COVID-19. All staff must self-isolate for at least 10 days if they test positive for COVID-19 whether or not they have been vaccinated.
  • The 2-metre social distancing rule remains in place for all staff, close contact work must be avoided at all times and where this does take place it should be recorded. 
  • If staff share cars to get to work they must let you know.
  • Face coverings must be worn when on site and working in all communal and public-facing areas.
  • All staff must continue to regularly wash their hands and use the hand sanitisers provided. 
  • The sanitising of common contact points after use remains critical, this includes door handles, printers, photocopiers, pump/pallet trucks and vehicle/machinery controls. 
  • Care must be taken when outside to ensure social distancing is maintained at all times including during lunch times and in the event of a fire drill.
  • Social distancing must be maintained during welfare breaks, staff should not share cars during lunch breaks and must maintain social distancing in break rooms and kitchens.
  • Use hand sanitiser first when using kitchen facilities, and afterwards, wipe down contact points with sanitising wipes provided e.g. kettles, microwaves and fridge handles.
  • Only make drinks for yourself, do not make drinks for other staff.
  • Follow the meeting room rules and do not exceed the occupancy numbers identified on the door of each meeting room, sanitise desks after use.

Site Changes and Emergency Procedures

Some staff may not have been on site for several months, the operation and layout of some sites may have changed. Equally, you may have implemented changes to the branch’s emergency procedures. You must inform staff if they are likely to be affected by any changes to the layout or emergency arrangements (e.g. fire evacuation and assembly) at their place of work. 

Health and Safety Hazards

Whilst COVID-19 remains a priority for all businesses, over the past year there has been a spike in accidents and injuries across many sectors including the builders’ merchant industry. This spike has been attributed to a combination of factors including changes to work processes during the pandemic, reduced staff numbers resulting in employees taking shortcuts in order to keep up with demand, and employees paying insufficient attention to other hazards. 

All staff should be reminded of high-risk activities at your places of work including vehicle movements and the use of machinery. You should consider asking staff returning to work to review the Health and Safety Handbook and complete the Health and Safety Handbook quiz on Safety Cloud. This will help demonstrate staff have refreshed their knowledge of the key hazards in your workplace. 

Near miss reporting continues to be key to ensure workplaces remain as safe as possible, staff should be reminded of the importance of reporting near misses. If something looks wrong then report it.  

DSE Assessments

Your staff may have taken office equipment home which now needs to be returned to the office. In any case, your workstation setup will need reviewing so you should ask staff returning to work to undertake a DSE Assessment on Safety Cloud. This will help identify any equipment they are missing or any changes which may need to be made to assist them.

Use of PPE

The use of PPE continues to be a critical control in many parts of your business, if staff cannot find their PPE or it no longer fits properly, then they should be asked to report it so that a replacement can be provided. 

Mental Health Awareness

The pandemic has had an adverse impact on all of us, some have been affected more by personal circumstances and the challenges they have faced. All businesses should acknowledge mental health is important and provide their staff with access to the mental health awareness e-learning on Safety Cloud.