AnchorHandS – Severn Valley Business Group
 

Author: AnchorHandS

AnchorHandS

I have spent over 30 years of my working life in the fire protection industry, where I qualified as a Health & Safety practitioner, and was integral in the company achieving one of the first accreditations to the international health and safety quality standard OHSAS 18001. During this period I also qualified as an Electrical Appliance Tester. In 2007 I decided to go it alone, in order to provide my skills, knowledge and experience to smaller businesses who cannot afford to employ their own Health & Safety personnel. Accordingly I now provide health & safety services to many types of organisations, specialising in carrying out Fire Risk Assessments, Portable Appliance Testing, installation of Health & Safety Management Systems and providing general Health & Safety Advice. For more information about what services we provide please see our website at www.anchorhands.co.uk Thank you for looking at my profile and please remember our heartfelt tag line: Your Safety in Secure Hands

Covid-19 – A guide to managing the return to workplace

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The future of work is changing, and Covid-19 has brought extraordinary challenges to businesses across the globe. Staff have been furloughed, allowed to work from home or continued to work as ‘normal’, however this situation is far from normal. The way people work going forward will change and what seemed impossible just a few months ago is now becoming the new norm. Covid-19 has created a new way of working for individuals and organisations and in this paper, we examine what that might look like when returning to work.

Without any clear guidelines we can only use our knowledge to predict what challenges organisations may face when returning to work. This guide will help identify potential risks, put in place solutions to reduce the risks and improve wellbeing and performance.

When do we reopen?

Once the government has given clear instructions that you can restart work, then make sure that everything is in place as per the following guidance, decide who and when are going to come back to work, give clear dates and stick to them, unless there is further conflicting advice from the government. Remember that all staff do not necessarily need to come back, if they have been just as effective working from home, then why not consider this as a permanent situation.

 

The office environment

The office environment will operate in a way we have never witnessed before. Covid-19 has brought along many new challenges for organisations and has made them question how they value the health and wellbeing of their employees. In the past many organisations have viewed employee health and wellbeing as a nice to have, rather than a business priority. Witnessing the devastating effect, the crisis has had on employee’s mental and physical wellbeing has forced organisations to readdress the importance of having a healthy workforce. Employees may be anxious about returning to work for the fear of catching Covid-19. Organisations have a legal obligation to identify and manage risk in the workplace and this includes the risk of cross-contamination and psychosocial risk. Performing a risk assessment allows organisations to implement a hierarchy of control measures to eliminate the risk as far as is reasonably possible or to minimise exposure to risk if total elimination is not viable. The adverse situation organisations have found themselves in will hopefully create opportunity for a healthier working future.

 

Physical Risk Social Distancing

Physical interaction should be kept to a minimum and staff should adhere to the 2m social distance rule. To adapt a safe working environment, it may be necessary to implement a rota or shift work that enables the business to operate but without putting the health of the workforce in jeopardy. It is important to remember that social distancing is not just about the time spent at the desk, it is also about time spent in public spaces such as washrooms, kitchens, lifts, walkways, and meeting rooms. It is recommended that only 1 person enters the washrooms at any one time and signage should be used to identify if it is vacant or occupied. Meetings should be kept to a minimum and where possible held virtually rather than face to face. Breaks should be staggered to allow minimum contact in rest and canteen areas. If it is not possible to keep a social distance of 2m to perform necessary work, then a maximum time of 15 minutes should be spent in the location. Clear guidelines should be set within organisations to help alleviate the fear staff may have about returning to the work environment.

 

Workplace hygiene

It is recommended that a deep clean takes place before employees return to work. Keeping a clear and clutter-free workspace will help make the cleaning process easier for staff. Other considerations are how to minimise the possibility of cross-infection when entering the building and opening doors and organisations should consider investing in automatic hand sanitisers in well-used spaces. Organisations may also wish to offer a ‘temperature check’ before staff enter the workplace, but this alone does not highlight the presence of the disease. It is not just about contamination from the things we first consider. How shared resources are used will have to be readdressed, i.e. will the shared teabag pot still be suitable or will staff need to take their own supplies to use whilst at work? Encourage good hygiene such as hand washing and etiquette around sneezing and coughing and make resources available for staff, such as tissues and hand sanitiser on the desks (catch it, bin it, kill it). Put strict rules in place of ‘stay at home when demonstrating symptoms of Covid-19’ and have a plan in place should a member of staff come down with Covid-19 after attending the workplace. Consideration must be given to personal protective equipment (PPE) if personal risk cannot be managed with the above actions. This may be something as simple as a pair of gloves to protect employees when using a shared resource, to full PPE. This decision will need to form part of your overall risk assessment. Communication is key During this unprecedented time we are facing; many workplace procedures will change, and it is vitally important that any changes are communicated to staff clearly and timely. Ensure strategic information is shared and that regular contact is kept with staff whether they work from home or are on furlough. Arrange a coffee and catch up at regular times as this will help individuals feel they are still part of the organisation and help reduce the feeling of isolation. Changes may need to be made to contracts or training schedules and changes communicated clearly demonstrating why these changes are taking place. Implementing ‘Post Covid-19’ guidelines for staff will help them to understand what is required of them and the business during these uncertain times. Psychosocial risk Before the Pandemic 72.8% of businesses stated that pressurised work was the biggest organisational threat and 59% stated that mental health was a key driver but going forward this figure is likely to be much higher. Psychosocial risk and work-related stress are among the most challenging issues in occupational health and safety and with current circumstances compromising the mental health and wellbeing of so many, psychosocial risks must be managed effectively. Psychosocial risk arises from poor work design, organisation, and management, as well as a poor social context of work, and they may result in negative psychological, physical and social outcomes such as work-related stress, burnout or depression. The changes in the working environment over the past few months have been colossal and how well or not so well these have been managed will start to show in the coming months. The exceptional times of Covid-19 have forced employers to take a more flexible approach to the way employees work, offering flexibility on workload, autonomy over the way they work, and an increased level of trust. Managers are cited as having a more empathetic style of management and better relationships being formed through a shared understanding of what each person is going through. Communication has been increased and people are taking the time to talk to each other, and ‘check-in’ rather than just send emails. This time has shown that the way in which organisations control psychosocial risk is vitally important in addressing levels of workplace stress. Offering a level of autonomy over job roles, having a supportive culture, building positive relationships, communicating change and offering a level of flexibility is essential going forward if organisations want to manage the risk to mental health and wellbeing. Over the past few weeks many positive lessons have been learnt about psychosocial risks in the workplace and hopefully this will change the way in which employee mental wellbeing is viewed going forward.

 

People needs versus organisational needs

The control of where to work and when has shifted from an employer-led decision to an employee-led decision with employers have little influence over things. As employees juggle to manage carer responsibilities, home-schooling and work, a new level of flexibility has been unearthed along with increased autonomy over job roles. Whilst many employees have relished this new way of working others long to be back in their normal workplace with their colleagues and working as they are used to. Only 3 months back the thought that most of the workforce would be working from home would have sent many organisations into a spin, it seemed impossible until it was done. This new way of working is seen as an opportunity for many and has allowed them to spend less time commuting and more time communicating with their families. The forced time away from the office has led many people to readdress their priorities and it is predicted that demands for agile working will increase and this new wave of flexibility will become the norm, whilst this may not be the preferred way to operate for organisations this largest natural experiment has proven that it can be done!

 

How to ensure staff are fit for work

 

Managing the return to work process is not as simple as ‘business as usual’. Organisations will need to consider what the return to work process looks like and how will they establish if people are healthy and well. Firstly, organisations need to consider who will return to work and when, is it a case of survival of the fittest or will you adopt a different mechanism for selection? Many employees will be classed as high risk and may not be able to return to work in the first instance. Consideration also needs to be given to staff who were previously off sick and staff who have become sick during lock-down. It is also worth considering how the limited access to medical care has impacted on individual health. You may find staff have accumulated longer term health problems by not getting the immediate care they required, and they may need additional support during this time. Hopefully, regular communication via videocall has been an ongoing process and managers have a clear understanding of how their staff are keeping. However, it is still recommended that some form of health diagnostic is performed prior to staff returning to work. It may be in the form of a health questionnaire or preferably a face to face video return to work call. Asking staff how they are feeling at this stage is vitally important to managing the health and wellbeing return to work process. Not everyone may be able to return to work in the initial phase. Organisations may need to adopt shift work, part time working or phased return to work in order to maintain safe social distancing. Organisations will also need to plan for what action needs to be taken if a staff member becomes ill with Covid-19 whilst at work and plan for what adaptations may need to be made to accommodate post Covid-19 employees (Covid-19 may leave awith reduced lung capacity). What is paramount is that mental and physical health considerations are at the forefront of the return. If organisations do not establish a robust return to work process, they will most likely experience longer-term issues further down the line.

How to support employee mental health both now and in the future

The personal impact of Covid-19 Employees is all going to be affected by the crisis in different ways. For some, it has been a time of realisation, growth, and appreciation whilst for others it has been a time of fear, trauma and grief. Cases of domestic abuse, mental illness, and suicide have increased, and this will impact on individuals when they return to work. The financial situation has put many individuals under increased pressures and compromised the health of themselves and their families. Having a clear understanding of employee needs during this time is paramount to managing mental health and wellbeing. Individuals have all been through their journey and it is up to employers to understand what journey their staff have been on and how this will impact them now and in the future. The pandemic has compromised the mental health of so many. It is not just about employees who have previously experienced poor mental health there are many new cases with people suffering from increased anxiety. Organisations need to ensure that staff are mentally well to return to work, identifying individual’s concerns and helping to alleviate the fear will help make the process more manageable. Ensuring support systems are in place such as occupational health, employee assistance programmes, health care plans and health training will help reduce the risk of poor mental health.

Out of adversity comes opportunity

No health and wellbeing strategy could have prepared for the enormity of the situation we now find ourselves in. However, there is evidence to suggest that organisations who have a robust workplace health and wellbeing strategy in place outperform organisations with no strategy. Aligning the health needs of your workplace to the needs of your business is key to improving both employee and business outcomes.

Remember:

  1. Decide when to reopen.
  2. Carry out a risk assessment for the new way the premises will operate.
  3. Manage the potential spread of the virus.
  4. Disinfect and modify the premises, as necessary.
  5. Screen employees prior to re start and then monitor them.
  6. Provide clear details of new systems, resources and regimes.
  7. Ensure everything is in place prior to reopening, consult professionals, as necessary.
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Elf ‘n’ Safety take on some of our favourite seasonal songs:

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Please note that the following is meant as a bit of seasonal fun, no Health & Safety practitioner would ever act like this and the HSE itself do go to extreme lengths to bust these Elf ‘n’ Safety myths. (Courtesy of Tony)

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir
We will lend a coat of fur
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
We will rock you, rock you, rock you

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to the risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative. Please note; only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh can be considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note; permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched
While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year, they should watch their flocks via CCTV cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts. Please note; the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his/her glory all around she/he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Little Donkey
Little donkey
Little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards
With your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry. Also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear facemasks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The RSPCA has also expressed discomfort at donkeys being labelled ‘little’ and would prefer they just be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable – as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as ‘cash for gold’ etc., gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipient’s name or perhaps give a gift voucher. We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and recommend the use of the RAC route finder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr. Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels’ hooves.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer?
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw him
You would even say it glows

You are advised that under the ‘Equal Opportunities for All’ policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R. Reindeer from the Reindeer Games shall be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions – including suspension on full pay – will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

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Health & Safety is everyone’s business

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There are certain functions within Health & Safety that apply to all personnel, whet

her they are in the office, on the road or on site. Although the communication and delivery of these functions may differ, dependent upon the location, it is important that everyone recognises them and complies fully with their requirements

There is a legal duty for everyone to take reasonable care for health and safety to themselves and others (this means everyone, staff, public other contractors) as well as not to interfere with or misuse any equipment provide for Health & Safety. In other words, don’t put yourselves or others in danger and use health and safety equipment the way it is designed to be used.

It is important that someone knows where you are, this is so that in an emergency it can be verified very quickly that you are safe, or that you are indeed in imminent danger. To this end, you must comply with the signing in and out procedures laid down at whatever location you may be. When you are in someone else’s premises or on site you must comply with their procedures, make sure you know what they are!

There will be procedures laid down for actions necessary in the event of a fire, when you are on someone else’s property make sure that you have read their procedures and act on them accordingly.

The company will have carried out risk assessments to identify, where possible, any risks that may cause harm, it is important that where applicable these risk assessments are complied with fully. It is a duty of all employees to look after any equipment, tools or furniture in their care, to inspect all equipment for damage and report, without delay, any faults identified. The risk assessments carried out will not be exhaustive, it is therefore a requirement that anyone who identifies a new risk, reports the same back to the company for inclusion within the existing risk assessments.

It is important for everyone to report all accidents, incidents or near misses, no matter how minor, to the appropriate persons. In the event of a serious injury or dangerous occurrence, the company will then decide whether it is necessary to advise the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or not.

It is everyone’s responsibility to identify new risks or hazards. If you come across a health and safety issue that has not been addressed, then you must notify the company as soon as possible, where appropriate assessments should be carried out, and any necessary procedures or actions put into place.

Remember that everyone is responsible for the health and safety of not only yourself but others!

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Fireworks Season Approaches

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Firework Display & Safety
Firework displays should be enjoyable and spectacular occasions – but they obviously need some responsible planning. The good news is that there is straightforward guidance to help you.
If you are organising a major public event, you will clearly need a robust and detailed approach to planning as well as professional involvement. If you are holding a local firework display, such as those organised by many sports clubs, schools or parish councils, you still need to plan responsibly, but the same level of detail is not necessary or expected. Below are some tips and guidance to help you.

Before the event:
• Think about who will operate the display. There is no reason why you should not light a display yourselves provided it only contains fireworks in categories 1, 2 and 3. but remember, category 4 fireworks may only be used by professional firework display operators. In untrained hands they can be lethal.
• Consider whether the site is suitable and large enough for your display, including a bonfire if you are having one. Is there space for the fireworks to land well away from spectators? Remember to check in daylight for overhead power lines and other obstructions. What is the direction of the prevailing wind? What would happen if it changed?
• Think about what you would do if things go wrong. Make sure there is someone who will be responsible for calling the emergency services
• Make sure you obtain the fireworks from a reputable supplier.
• If the display is to be provided by a professional firework display operator make sure that you are clear on who does what especially in the event of an emergency
• Ensure you have a suitable place to store the fireworks. Your firework supplier or local authority should be able to advise
• If you plan on selling alcohol the bar should be well away from the display site
On the day of the event:
• Recheck the site, weather conditions and wind direction
• Don’t let anyone into the zone where the fireworks will fall – or let anyone other than the display operator or firing team into the firing zone or the safety zone around it
• Discourage spectators from bringing drink onto the site
• Don’t let spectators bring their own fireworks onto the site
• If you will also have a bonfire at the display then you should:
o Check the structure is sound and does not have small children or animals inside it before lighting it
o Not use petrol or paraffin to light the fire
o Have only one person responsible for lighting the fire. That person, and any helpers, should wear suitable clothing e.g. a substantial outer garment made of wool or other low-flammable material.
o Make sure that the person lighting the fire and any helpers know what to do in the event of a burn injury or clothing catching fire
• Never attempt to relight fireworks. Keep well clear of fireworks that have failed to go off

The morning after:
• Carefully check and clear the site. Dispose of fireworks safely. They should never be burnt in a confined space (eg a boiler)
Additional points to consider if you are organising a major public display
For major displays, particularly those involving category 4 ‘professional’ fireworks or very large number of spectators, a more robust approach is obviously needed.
• Plan and mark out the areas for spectators, firing fireworks (and a safety zone around it) as well as an area where the fireworks will fall
• Think about how people will get into and out of the site. Keep pedestrian and vehicle routes apart if possible. Mark exit routes clearly and ensure they are well lit. Ensure emergency vehicles can get access to the site
• Appoint enough stewards/marshals. Make sure they understand what they are to do on the night and what they should do in the event of an emergency
• Contact the emergency services and local authority. If your site is near an airport you may need to contact them
• Signpost the first aid facilities

Insurance
Although it is not required by health and safety law, if you are holding a public firework display, it’s a good idea to have public liability insurance. Bear in mind that not all companies are used to dealing with this type of event, and as with any other type of insurance, it’s worth shopping around: look for a company that’s used to insuring firework and other public events – you are likely to get much better deal and avoid unsuitable terms and conditions. If you have difficulty with the standard insurance terms, TALK to your insurer and find a way forward; they can be very helpful.

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The following is the Elf ‘n’ Safety take on some of our favourite seasonal songs:
Please note that the following is meant as a bit of seasonal fun, no Health & Safety practitioner would ever act like this and the HSE itself do go to extreme lengths to bust these Elf ‘n’ Safety myths. (Courtesy of Tony)

The Rocking Song
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir
We will lend a coat of fur
We will rock you, rock you, rock you
We will rock you, rock you, rock you

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to the risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative. Please note; only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh can be considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note; permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched
While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year, they should watch their flocks via CCTV cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts. Please note; the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his/her glory all around she/he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Little Donkey
Little donkey
Little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards
With your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry. Also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear facemasks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The RSPCA has also expressed discomfort at donkeys being labelled ‘little’ and would prefer they just be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable – as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as ‘cash for gold’ etc., gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipient’s name or perhaps give a gift voucher. We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and recommend the use of the RAC route finder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr. Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels’ hooves.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer?
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw him
You would even say it glows

You are advised that under the ‘Equal Opportunities for All’ policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R. Reindeer from the Reindeer Games shall be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions – including suspension on full pay – will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

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