Winning hearts and minds essential for safe return to work
As the UK government unveils new guidelines for making workplaces ‘COVID-secure’, global health and safety expert Bureau Veritas is advising retailers that their safe return to work depends on their ability to “win the hearts and minds of employees” alongside creating clear policy, systems and processes with regular monitoring.
On 11 May, the government published guidance for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely following almost two months of strict coronavirus restrictions. The new guidance covers eight workplace settings that are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites through to factories and takeaways.
The guidelines focus on five key points; work from home if you can, carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with workers or trade unions, maintain social distancing and, where this is not possible, manage transmission risk, all of which must be supported with more stringent cleaning processes.
And with many businesses now facing the daunting challenge of implementing the guidelines, Bureau Veritas, which has been working with a number of sectors to help them safely resume operations, believes that those firms that work collaboratively with their workforce to introduce new ways of working are likely to fair better.
Ken Smith, UK Chief Executive at Bureau Veritas UK, said: “For almost all retailers, introducing the appropriate health, safety and hygiene measures required to make workplaces ‘COVID-secure’ as per the new government guidelines will require a complete overhaul of their current operations.
“It’s a mammoth undertaking which will only be successful if employers win the hearts and minds of employees to ensure they are empowered and committed – and must be underpinned by clear policy, systems and processes with regular monitoring. To achieve this, firms are advised to introduce measures in consultation and consensus with staff, parents and pupils, have regular communication and active engagement on whether these are effective as well as creating a system that encourages staff to come forward and voice concerns if at any point they feel unsafe at work.”
Other challenges the retail sector should consider, says Bureau Veritas – which recently launched its ‘Restart Your Business’ assurance service to help firms manage their return to work strategies – includes how the government’s advice to avoid using public transport will impact employees as well as having a better understanding of the movement of people around business premises.
“Taking the time to understand the occupational use of buildings – logistics, deliveries, how lifts, if present, are used, or the queues at toilet facilities are managed and the hygiene of frequently used touchpoints – will stand duty holders in good stead for resuming operations. Given the sheer size and complexity of making workplaces safe against the threat of coronavirus transmission, a nuanced approach that truly reflects best practice, could ultimately, help to save lives.”