Gerard Hand, former President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and Company Director of GPH Safety suggests the following three measures to safely return to the workplace:
1. Consultation with employees
The initial measure businesses need to take when preparing their workforce to return to work is conducting a risk assessment, however this cannot and should not be done without consulting with employees. In order to effectively manage risk in the workplace, consideration of the employees who are conducting the work is essential.
Speak with them about their fears and expectations of returning and implement these into your risk assessments. Listen to their concerns and adapt their working environment accordingly. Returning to work will only work if your employees are on board, feel safe in their working environments, and are able to carry out their duties safely and effectively.
2. Agile approach
Once businesses have carried out their risk assessments and put in measures for employees to safely return, they need to be agile and flexible with these strategies. The government guidelines are likely to change considerably as we move forward, so a flexible approach is essential.
It is important to monitor closely the effectiveness of implemented measures, but not be scared to lift or change them as COVID-19 progresses and we learn more about the virus. Many people are referring to ‘the new normal’, however this suggests that there is no going back once these measures are in place, this should not be the case. Businesses need to look to past practices that worked well, as well as new ones, in order to effectively adapt to the changing environment.
3. Consider employee wellbeing
The effects of the pandemic have been so widespread and have impacted almost everyone, so it is essential that businesses consider the mental wellbeing of their employees. Many will have lost loved ones, be experiencing financial difficulties, or have anxieties about their children and families.
Without taking the time to listen and understand your employee’s needs, you will not have the fully engaged workforce that is needed to sustain business long-term.