Are you preparing to have your employees return to the office after lockdown? Are you aware that your business may need to conduct a return-to-office risk assessment for Covid in the workplace setting? If your workforce is currently preparing to go back to work or has already started letting workers in, you need to complete this process immediately if you are yet to do so.
While it is still a big gamble, some organizations have decided to open their doors and allow a small portion of their workforce to come into the office. Things are not the same anymore so do not stroll into the office expecting to see the close dynamic that your subordinates may have had. The times have changed, and they may remain this way for some time.
Upon the return to the office, a risk assessment for Covid-19 in the workplace must be conducted. Considering the economy and cost of living, some business owners have decided to open for business to continue making money and meeting commitments. Additionally, your employees could benefit from the ability to take care of their families again. With that, you must ensure that you exert caution, establish protocols, and take the necessary steps to ensure employees’ safety, so your doors may remain open.
What is a Return-to-Office Risk Assessment?
An return-to-office risk assessment is a systematic procedure that is performed by managers, business owners, and administrators to make sure the work environment is healthy and it is a safe office space. The procedure entails conducting routine checks of the facility and equipment, obedience to security processes, as well as employees’ knowledge of safety rules and regulations. Return-to-office risk assessments stand as a guide or hint to ensure the office is healthy, they promote employee safety, and they make for a comfortable and efficient work environment.
If you are operating during the Covid-19 pandemic, deciding to re-open entails the protection of your workforce and minimizing the risk of exposure and virus spread. These should be your priorities. Managers and business owners should assess the employees' work and establish precautions to limit the risk of transmission at work.
Control measures must be developed to control, reduce, and eliminate the potential risk of transmitting the virus from one employee to another. To assess, you can follow the steps below:
- Pinpoint the hazards
- Determine the persons who might be harmed and how
- Assess all the risks and decide on the precautions to take
- Document your findings and employ them
- Review the assessment and make updates where necessary
Opt for inclusion by having employees participate in the return-to-office risk assessment procedure and listen to them in making joint solutions regarding the management of Covid-19 risks inside the workplace.
What to Expect from Employees When They Return to Work
The pandemic is still new territory for a lot of persons and so is making changes. The new norm looks a little like a face mask for Covid-19, physical social distancing, washing your hands with soap and water very often, and sanitization/disinfection every few minutes. Many persons still have not gotten the hang of things, and for that, workplaces should act as a reinforcement or a form of guidance.
Most employees are still scared to return to work in a pandemic as they must commute and encounter a few people before making it to the office. This has the potential to make anyone weary or panicky. You may even notice absenteeism. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to demonstrate that with back to work, return-to-office risk assessment is done to ensure employees’ health and safety.
Employees who had established connections and healthy work relationships with their colleagues before the pandemic may find it difficult to maintain their distance and their urge to be in proximity just like the old times.
The graphene antiviral mask that they might decide to wear can be a tad bit uncomfortable, and this may cause them to want to remove it from their faces. While this is not a major problem, it must be done discreetly, such as when taking a break or only when you are by yourself in your cubicle, However, this depends on the rules within your workplace.
How to Assess the Risk of Returning to the Office
While there is no standard way to go about this, there are some general examples and considerations for a risk assessment for Covid in the workplace.
Can the work environment accommodate a particular arrangement? Managers and business owners may need to ask themselves “do I have enough space to safely accommodate workers?” You can put measures of two-meter distance between employees in place. This could come in the form of a floor marker and taped-off workstations.
Which employees are essential workers? Who can hybrid work from home? These are all valid questions if the office is not operating at full functionality. There may be no need to have all the workforce coming in. It would make sense that only essential persons, such as your cashier, nurse, technician, and a few heads of departments are necessary to be on the job.
Though everyone has a part to play in the fight, a business risk assessment for Covid-19 can only go so far. There is no way office managers can monitor everyone’s actions and protocol obedience consistently.
For employees who must commute to work publicly, what can you do to assist? Is there a company bus or arranged transportation method to take to and from work to minimize the exposure? You should conduct a return-to-work testing for employees when they come back to work.
Installing and adding extra hygiene facilities, such as handwashing stations and sanitization sensors can also help.
Try turning off the air conditioning and keeping doors and windows open to reduce recirculation of the air inside, but only when it is safe to do so.
For job roles that require employees interacting closely or being less than two meters apart, personal protective equipment should be provided, to mitigate against transmission and exposure.
To limit gatherings in the offices, managers and back-to-work risk assessment can implement staggering the start time for work, so that everyone is not coming in at the same time. You could even consider alternating days that various staff members work. Think of break and lunch break also, to ensure a bunch of people aren't crowding the lunchroom. A specific lunchtime could be designated.
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