Operational guide and checklist
Changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce
As a minimum we expect:
- enhanced health and safety measures to be in place upon return to work, including physical distancing guidance and hygiene measures, generally and at bottleneck situations and
- safe travel to work arrangements to be considered as part of a risk assessment, with any relevant adjustments adopted.
Safe workplace planning and communications
It is vital steps are taken to ensure a safe working environment and related workforce confidence. This is best done through early, regular and ongoing engagement between companies and trade union or workforce representatives. As it will take time to complete the necessary risk assessment, identify the relevant mitigation measures and put those measures in place, the engagement between employers, trade union or workforce representatives should have started well before a planned production restart date (or ramp-up where production of essential goods has continued at less than full capacity).
It is important everyone understands the measures taken to establish the safe working environment as this is likely to have a significant impact on workforce confidence. Being and feeling safe will play an integral role in supporting a recovery in productivity levels.
Enhanced hygiene measures should be a key plank of workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment, including for example:
- sanitiser and hand-washing facilities at key points, including on entry and exit points
- additional sanitiser and handwash facilities around communal areas
- regular cleaning of work equipment and work stations including considering how often and where deep cleans may be required
- minimising the use of touchpoints throughout buildings, including exploring where possible how digital processes or systems may replace the need for face to face discussion
Physical distancing is the other key plank of workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment. Factors companies should have considered include:
- facility layout and signage with clear marking of two metre boundaries around the workplace and workstations and signage which reinforces expectations of employees at relevant points. (As English may not be the first language for everyone onsite companies should consider how best to use visual material to reinforce messages).
- limiting access to parts of the workplace required by an individual to do their job as this will limit the chances for interaction with others
- staggering entry and exit times to prevent bottlenecks arising as people arrive or leave
- staggering break times and adjusting canteen arrangements to reduce opportunities for larger numbers of staff to interact on a face to face basis
- splitting the workforce into specific teams to avoid cross-team contamination and provide a level of operational resilience in case someone in one team develops COVID-19 symptoms
- considering opportunities to introduce additional technology support and systems to assist in managing the safe working practices and in particular physical distancing
Companies may develop or implement plans to change shift patterns to both protect the workforce and optimise productive capacity. This could include considering opportunities to reduce the need for travel at peak times and opportunities for flexible working patterns. While this might help boost production it requires proper negotiation with trade union or workforce representatives if it involves a change in employee terms and conditions.
Dealing with emergencies
Protocols for dealing with emergencies, evacuations and accidents will be impacted by the need to maintain physical distancing, while individuals who would normally lead or coordinate site responses in such situations may be amongst those working from home. Emergency, evacuation and accident response processes therefore should have been considered to ensure effective arrangements are in place. Everyone onsite should be familiar with new processes.
Travel to work
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) have provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings which reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. The HPS advice and any subsequent safe travelling advice should be factored into company decisions on planned returns to work.
All arrangements for those staff who need to travel to work should be reviewed and consideration given to the need for additional measures to ensure these staff are able to maintain physical distancing when using public or private transport and are applying effective hand hygiene before and after journeys. For employees who live a reasonable distance from their workplace, the best and advised option is to walk or cycle.
Employers currently offering staff transport may need to re-schedule trips or offer an enhanced service to facilitate appropriate physical distancing. In light of the requirements, managers should also discuss with staff the need to review other travel arrangements such as car sharing.
Employees should be encouraged to avoid shared transport but in situations where this is unavoidable:
- encourage arrangements which ensure the number of workers in each vehicle is kept to a minimum, for example by organising more trips with fewer people in each vehicle
- where possible, restrict car sharing to groups of people who use the same work area
- all employees should be advised to wear face coverings in shared vehicles (as required when using public transport)
- vehicles should be well ventilated (i.e. by keeping the windows open), and passengers should face away from each other wherever possible
- all employees should be instructed not to use shared transport if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and should stay at home and follow government guidance on self-isolation
- encourage drivers or designated persons to check employees prior to boarding vehicles to ensure those who have suspected symptoms do not travel
- shared vehicles, including minibuses, should be cleaned regularly using gloves, with particular emphasis on handles and other areas where passengers may touch surfaces
Personal Protective Equipment
The HPS guidance also offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming workplaces should use PPE consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment.
Both the Scottish Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend a risk based approach focused on a hierarchy of control which seeks to eliminate risks, combat risks at source, adapt workplaces to individual needs, ensure adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk and then use PPE where required. Where PPE is deemed necessary, an adequate supply and quality must be maintained which is provided free of charge to workers and which must fit properly.
The interpretation and use of any guidance should be considered in line with normal protective security operations and practices. Organisations should consult with and involve their security departments in the interpretation and implementation of the guidance. In particular, security should be considered in any revised risk assessment
Under no circumstances is it advised to remove, or alter, or reduce existing protective security measures without providing clear recommendations (e.g. from the National Technical Authority/police CT specialists) on how to maintain effective protective security.
This should extend to measures not primarily intended to provide a protective security benefit, but nonetheless doing so, for example removal of street furniture that could make moving or queueing pedestrians more vulnerable to vehicle-as-a-weapon attacks. Security staff should remain focused on security duties. Where COVID-19 creates additional staffing requirements, e.g. for queue management employers should ensure additional suitable staff resource is made available. Employers should ensure security staff feel safe, e.g. having access to appropriate PPE and hand-washing facilities, and that they are able and confident to raise any concerns.
Read further detailed guidance on security:
- Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure: staying secure during COVID-19
- National Counter Terrorism Security Office
COVID symptoms within the workplace
The virus is expected to remain in the population for some time, even after lockdown restrictions have been eased and people begin to return to work. This will cause anxiety for people who will also want to understand how any outbreaks in the workplace will be handled. The approach of employers should be consistent with Test and Protect advice for employers. As part of risk assessments companies should explore with trade union or workforce representatives how to respond should anyone develop symptoms while at work, including whether it is possible to identify any particular parts of the site the individual may have accessed or equipment used while symptomatic. As part of this consideration should be given how best to monitor health of all individuals in a workplace.
Employees have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to overall COVID-19 advice which says people with symptoms should remain at home and self-isolate. Companies and employees should remain in regular communication throughout any period of self-isolation with companies encouraged to work with trade union or workforce representatives to enable individuals to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate.
Safe home working
Home working will be new to many and may have been implemented at pace, without normal health and safety planning to ensure people have suitable working arrangements and equipment. Companies should consider that, and how to best support working from home (for example, provision of laptops, mobile phones, video conferencing services etc). Get advice on home working.
A checklist to support companies implement this guidance has now been developed. The actions in the checklist should be fully considered and implemented where possible as part of procedures to ensure a safe workplace.
Advanced Manufacturing Policy Team