Today’s press conference by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance was a stark reminder that Covid-19 is not going away soon and that we are on the verge of a second wave.

Two of the scariest points made were that only 8% of the country have had the virus and that despite press speculation that the virus has become less deadly, it is still the same virus, and if anything, it’s about to get more deadly as more viruses flourish in colder conditions.

We understand that the Prime Minister will make a statement tomorrow and I think we speak for all our clients when we say that we hope that whatever restrictions are announced, it won’t affect our ability to trade over the coming months.

In the meantime, you’ve a business to try and run!

At the end of July, when restrictions started to ease and we started manoeuvring out of lockdown, every employer was required to complete a Covid-19 risk assessment for their returning workforce.

With the current conditions changing and a rising rate of infection, it is probably a good time to review this risk assessment again and to do so regularly moving forward.

To ensure your business has a risk assessment in place which can flex to the demands placed on it throughout what we are calling ‘pandemic normal’, we’ve put some pointers to help you through the process:

  1. Review the Government guidance regularly
  2. Address each subject the guidance raises as a risk area
  3. Share these risk areas with your senior team and inviting feedback
  4. Share and implement the plan
  5. Set up a line of communication for additional risks to be raised, recorded and safeguards implemented for any changes

Seven-point checklist to working safety

(Updated to 21 September 2020)

The Government guidance is being updated all the time so it’s important you check this regularly.

The guidance varies between types of workplaces, but the guidance for office-based workplaces contains a seven-point checklist which is particularly useful for all situations.

Below we’ve mapped out the seven areas you need to be focusing on and reviewing regularly and our advice.

1. Regularly update your risk assessment

The HSE provide a template that can help you review the risks and complete the risk assessment. But ultimately the risk assessment is completed by identifying the other 6 points below.

This assessment must be kept up-to-date and the guidance states they “expect” employers of more than 50 staff to publish this online. We’d recommend sharing this with your staff too.

A document stored electronically would be the best idea so that everyone with the link will always see the most up to date version. As it is a rolling review that can be updated often you don’t want multiple versions in circulation at one time if you can help it.

2. Increase your cleaning regime

Review your cleaning regime to ensure your workplace is being cleaned to a high standard and more often than usual.

The best way of doing this is to issue cleaning checklists which the cleaners must tick and sign after each visit. This way you can get your staff to spot check the checklist to ensure the cleaning is being done to a high standard.

It is important to put an item in your risk assessment to say that you need to do due diligence on your cleaning staff to make sure that everything is being done effectively.

Another option you might want to review is fogging. We’ve put together a schedule and have started fogging our offices using a fogging machine that spreads antiviral chemicals, which last a number of days, throughout the office to keep the office viral free.

The main reason we’ve gone with this option is due to having an old building with nooks and crannies so ventilating the office isn’t an easy task.

3. Manage the wearing of face coverings

Those visiting your office should wear face coverings. There are a list of exemptions for who doesn’t need to wear a mask, but generally, if someone is visiting your workplace, you should be asking them to wear a mask.

It’s also important you liaise with your staff regarding them wearing face coverings. Different places of work will have different risk levels and requirements.

The list does also include areas where you must wear a face covering (unless exempt), so ensure you keep an eye on this list in case your business falls into one of the categories, for example, we as accountants are required to wear face coverings.

You may decide that masks must be won on communal areas of your workplace or when staff members are around high-risk members for example. The requirements are very specific to your business so ensure this is noted on your risk assessment and communicated with your team.

4. Enforce social distancing 

For most businesses, this will be hardest thing to enforce.

We have had a one-way system of operating in the office for a number of months now, but it can be very difficult to enforce. Ultimately this is where face coverings come in again. If social distancing cannot be enforced or is impractical, ask your staff to wear face coverings when around others.

One of the other aspects of social distancing is allowing remote working. At the start of lockdown, we put an ‘odds and evens’ measure in place where we allocated each member of staff an odd or even. The odds came in on odd-numbered days and the evens came in on even-numbered days to reduce the number of staff in the office, which is something you may consider doing as the rates rise again.

5. Increase ventilation 

This isn’t always the simplest task to achieve. Many of our clients will have offices that are converted buildings or older structures that don’t lend themselves to good air flow.

The government guidance talks about making sure doors and windows are left open as often as possible and having fans to help circulate the air where there are no other ventilation options.

But staff complain about air conditioning and radiators at the best of times – as we head into Autumn and the weather gets colder, I can’t see this being a viable option.

Our solution to this is to combine increased cleaning regimes, the use of fogging the office periodically to give all surfaces an antiviral coating, alongside some limited options for increasing ventilation.

There are other options involving HEPA Air Filters which might be of use to some workplaces.

Every workplace will have to work out their own way of dealing with this. The more staff you have in the workplace the greater that risk becomes. So it’s important you look into this carefully.

6. Take part in the NHS Test and Trace 

Tracking visitors to your workplace and staff appears to be one of the most important things to do. If a member of your staff has symptoms of Covid-19 then you want to be able to get all of your staff who potentially came into contact with that person tested too.

Knowing who needs to be kept separate from the rest of the workforce for a period of time will be very important for enabling your business to continue to function if there is a suspected case.

It is also important to put procedures in place and make staff aware of what they need to do if they have symptoms or a positive test, so the right action is taken.

You don’t want to be devising a plan of action on the fly when you get wind of a staff member having a confirmed case. It is better to have your team prepared to know what to do and put in place should this happen and ultimately this will limit the economic damage to your business dealing with an outbreak in your workforce.

7. Turn people away who have Coronavirus symptoms

This one proves to be slightly harder than it first seems.

Some of the most common ways of dealing with this is to have a set of questions for staff and people visiting to be asked for example: “In the last three days have you developed a consistent cough?” or “in the last three days have you experienced a loss of taste?”. You also might want to check the temperature of staff and visitors who come into the workplace.

I am sure I am not alone in experiencing the complications of this because sometimes a raised temperature is a result of being in a hot car or running to be on time for an appointment. How do you distinguish between an incidental high temperature and an actual fever?

In searching for advice on the matter it was hard to find. A practical suggestion was to have a Green, Amber and Red system or some equivalent of that.

When someone’s temperature is above 37.8°C then they are categorised as “Amber” and denied access to the building but are given a “cooling off period” to see if some time stood in the shade will give their body time too cool down. 5 or 10 minutes later a retest will be done to decide if they are now “green” or if they are denied access to the workplace.

This can be a tough decision. Can you still operate without that staff member? If you deny access to that customer, will you be low on sales?

We are by no means Health and Safety experts, but just another business trying to muddle through the guidance to make our workplace safe for staff and clients alike. We hope by sharing our thought processes, it will help you muddle your way through these strange times too.

Besides the Health and Safety measures, Pandemic Normal will be putting a lot of pressure on your business in a whole host of ways.

Our hub is full of advice. Our Breakthrough Recovery Programme can help you rebuild your business and focus on profitability.

josh curties our veterinary specialist

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Josh Curties

BA (Hons) FCA

Partner & Principal Adviser

01474 853856

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