Workplace safety is no joke. And now that we have COVID-19 to worry about, there is an entirely new emphasis on keeping workers safe on the job. Workplace safety now has a whole new meaning that will likely linger for some time to come.
Here in the UK, regulations pertaining to workplace safety are largely the domain of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Things are different in other countries. In the US for example, safety regulations are enforced by a number of agencies, including OSHA and state health departments.
It is up to business owners to know and understand any new regulations relating to COVID-19 safety. Whether it’s a celebrity signing a deal to manufacture a new line of luxury clothing or a small business owner just trying to keep a family restaurant alive, the realities of COVID-19 dictate that running a business today is remarkably different from what it was just a year ago.
Different Rules for Different Businesses
Making things more complicated is the fact that there are different rules for different businesses. Again, let us use the UK as an example. Our COVID-19 guidance is divided into multiple categories covering a range of different business categories:
• Close contact services (hairdressers, beauticians, etc.)
• Construction and other outdoor work
• Industrial (factories, warehouses, etc.)
• Heritage locations
• Hospitality (hotels, restaurants, etc.)
• Labs and research facilities
• Offices and contact centres
• Retail shops and branches.
Believe it or not, this is just a partial list. The HSE is so thorough that it even offers guidance to people who work inside other’s homes. They have left nothing to chance here.
For business owners, it is a matter of deciding which guidance is most suitable for their operations. And yes, there is overlap. A good example is the overlap between restaurants and hotels. Both are hospitality-based businesses. But for the purposes of HSE guidance, hotel operators are required to go above and beyond because they are places of accommodation.
Asking for Help Is Smart
With so much about the COVID-19 pandemic changing on an almost daily basis, it is not uncommon for business owners to not fully understand what is required of them. As such, asking for help is a smart idea. Business owners can consult local and regional authorities to get answers to their questions.
Most of the physical supplies necessary to maintain COVID-19 compliance will be available from normal vendors. For example, the Seton workplace safety inventory now includes an entire section of products devoted specifically to coronavirus protection. It includes safety posters, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and more.
It isn’t necessary for business owners to work with suppliers who specifically market COVID-19 safety compliance, just so long as they get the equipment and supplies they need to meet requirements. On the other hand, it is probably going to be hard to find suppliers who haven’t already adapted to the crisis. So perhaps that is a moot point.
Social Distancing and Washing Hands
Workplace safety in the COVID-19 era places a great emphasis on practising social distancing and washing hands regularly. As we all know, adherence to both principles can greatly reduce the likelihood of transmitting germs in just about every environment. The trick for some businesses is implementing social distancing policies.
Imagine owning a kitchen and juice bar in central London. It is fairly easy to reduce your establishment’s capacity in order to keep patrons properly spaced. But what about your employees? They must still practice social distancing as much as possible. That means not getting too close to patrons and keeping their distance from other employees when they can.
As far as washing hands is concerned, it should really be a no-brainer. Employees should take every opportunity to wash their hands – especially before coming into contact with other team members. They should also make a point of enhancing the benefits of handwashing by not touching their faces and staying away from surfaces that could be contaminated by others.
Personal Protective Equipment
In some work environments, social distancing and hand washing are not enough. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is also necessary. These types of workplaces include all medical facilities. At the very least, medical personnel should be wearing face masks throughout the day.
Items like isolation gowns and face shields have already started appearing in some medical environments as well. These are utilised as extra protection when medical personnel are at risk of being contacted by bodily fluids.
It is obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed daily life. As countries are reopening and people are returning to work, the pandemic has forced on us all the need for additional workplace safety measures. What will your workplace look like in the future? If it hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19, you and your fellow employees are in the minority.