It has already been more than 100 days since the coronavirus outbreak that has impacted everyone’s personal and work life. While most businesses have closed, others have remained open, manned by essential operational staff only. It’s important these workplaces maintain best practices to ensure the working environment stays COVID-19 clean. So, what does that mean?
HR Departments will already have introduced a breakdown of the new code of practice necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Essentially, this means adopting certain habits like washing hands regularly, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and not shaking hands.
But even where staff members are adhering to these measures when interacting, there are other steps to take to maximize safety in the workplace during the COVID19 crisis.
Here are some that should be considered:
- Limit Contact With Surfaces
Whether it be contaminated skin or surfaces, touch is the principal method through which COVID-19 spreads. Interaction controls can deal with the bodily transfer of the coronavirus, but to curtail the spreads from contaminated surfaces requires something more.
Limiting the areas employees can be in helps to reduce the spread of contamination, especially in open work spaces. So, set some simple rules:
- Allot a specific work spot for each employee present
- Ensure spots are sufficiently far apart (2 metre minimum)
- Ban sharing equipment (staplers, notepads, chargers etc)
- Limit movement to within a set route (no wandering)
Office cleaning procedures should have been enhanced in offices and working environments, but it is essential that these measures are maintained for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Disinfecting surfaces is so important in fighting the virus spread, so don’t ease up on cleaning efforts.
Hand sanitizers must be kept fully stocked but they should also be kept visible and easily accessible. Set up a sanitizing table in the office, ideally at entrances and exits. That way, it’s the first and last action employees do when arriving and leaving the work area.
In March, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) advised that each business should appoint a coordinator to oversee the changes and cleaning standards in the COVID-19 crisis, a COVID-19 Manager. Part of their new responsibilities is to monitor progress, that every contact surface is being disinfected regularly, from staff refrigerators to photocopiers.
With lengthy periods of change, it’s not unusual for complacency to slip in. For this reason, it’s important to keep employees in the loop, so deliver communiques to office and remote working staff. According to one report, 61% of US organizations have already developed a communication strategy related to COVID-19. What should you share? Things like:
- Updates on developments and management decisions
- Clarifications on policies and procedures
- Friendly reminders on hygiene practices and social distancing
- Details of available resources and responses to operational needs
- Details of actions to take in the case of a COVID-19 positive test (see below)
Keeping in contact helps in maintaining employee morale and wellbeing, especially at a time of such uncertainty.
Ensure a defined response structure clearly identifies the procedures to follow when responding to a suspected case. And clarity is essential. Key areas to consider include:
- incident response personnel for stabilisation, continuity and recovery activities
- a designated isolation area that:
- has practical routes to and from it
- can safely isolate a person behind a closed door
- has adequate ventilation
- provides adequate hygiene standards, supplied with tissues, hand sanitiser, disinfectant, gloves, masks, and clinical waste bags.
Staying alert to the risks in an office environment during the COVID-19 crisis is a major part of ensuring a safe workplace for those not working remotely.
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