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Health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic

Compensation Strategy & Design|Environmental|Future of Work|Risk Management Consulting
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Chris Brown | May 11, 2020

This insight explores the health and safety risks posed to your employees during COVID-19.

The health and safety of your employees during this time is paramount. This article provides guidance only. Please reach out to your Willis Towers Watson representative for further clarification.

Your people are the key to getting through this crisis and having a business to return to afterwards. Take the time to review procedures and ensure you’re protecting their physical and mental wellbeing the best that you can.

As a business you will need to review all risk assessments in light of the current pandemic. It is important to keep up to date with government advice – especially where staff are still on site.

If you have increased home working, you will need to assess the new risks that brings and put control measures in place.

Key worker considerations

Scenario – warehouse still operating during the pandemic

Understand the systems that are in place if someone becomes unwell in the workplace

It is recommended you establish a protocol for what happens if someone becomes unwell on site and also consider how you will protect first aiders.

It is recommended you establish a protocol for what happens if someone becomes unwell on site

You may already have a first aid risk assessment, but you may need to review and update it in line with any changing government advice.

You may also need to review the procedures around staff calling in sick. Always ensure employees are aware of any changes.

Implement enhanced employee hygiene procedures

It is important to ensure that employees who are continuing to work on site are maintaining enhanced hygiene procedures in line with Government advice.1 This might mean you need to provide additional washing stations and review the layout of the workspace to optimise hygiene.

Consider how to clearly communicate any new information with employees. For example, use PA systems to make announcements, put up posters in communal areas and send emails to office staff.

Implement enhanced site cleaning measures

To decide when and where to clean, you will need to consider how sites are laid out and used.

Communal areas and canteens may need to be cleaned more frequently.

Shift change may be a good opportunity for cleaning to take place.

Reduce, relocate and redesign employee roles to maintain social distancing

If possible, consider reducing staff numbers on site and increase the amount of employees working from home. If this is not possible stagger shift and break to reduce the contact between staff.

Certain elements of the workspace may need redesigning to encourage effective social distancing. For example, using tape to mark two-metre distances, using barriers or railings to encourage one-way movement, and limiting unnecessary movement between different business areas.

Keep suppliers informed of your protocols and expectations.

Encourage non-contact deliveries to minimise contact between employees and delivery drivers.

Mothballed areas

Scenario – a mothballed site where some functionality is continuing

Key areas to consider:
(this is not an exhaustive list, for further guidance please contact your Willis Towers Watson representative)

Security

Security teams may need to update their procedures and staffing in light of the new potential risks.

Equipment systems and inspection

Maintain equipment, including providing certificates of thorough examination for lifting equipment. However, it may not always be possible to get an engineer on site to do this work. This may mean you have to isolate equipment safely until it can be inspected.

Lone working and personal security

If an individual employee is occasionally visiting your site to carry out tasks, you may need to review your lone-working risk assessment and personal security assessment to accommodate this.

Contractor access arrangements

It is important to update your contractor procedures to reflect the current situation. For example, consider who will supervise a contractor coming onto the site, and whether you have carried out a risk assessment around the threat of COVID-19 for them and your employees.

Home working

Create a safe environment

Businesses have always had a duty of care towards home workers. However, in the current situation, it’s worth looking into those again in detail.

Looking at your home working protocols, assessments and guidance documents will be useful if the situation continues for a long period of time and you have people working from home for longer and with more intensity.

Optimise workstations

To provide a safe working environment for your employees encourage them to make sure their workspaces have appropriate lighting, are the right temperature and are free from trip hazards.

Ideally, employees need a work area that is physically optimised and away from other people in the home. There is evidence that working on a laptop or from a sofa carries ergonomic risk, so you may want to consider whether you provide desks and chairs to employees.

Create systems for home working

Encourage employees to develop new routines, including making sure they take regular breaks. And you’ll need to keep them informed of any new protocols linked to working from home, such as who they should communicate with if they’re unwell.

Help colleagues adjust to home working through regular contact and communication, such as holding digital weekly catch-up meetings.

Complete a home working assessment

Willis Towers Watson have developed some detailed guidance on home working and have created a home working assessment.

Download a guide for homeworkers during COVID-19
Title File Type File Size
Homeworking during the COVID-19 pandemic PDF .7 MB

We’ve found that common issues can usually be addressed through small changes to the working dynamic.

Disclaimer

Each applicable policy of insurance must be reviewed to determine the extent, if any, of coverage for COVID-19. Coverage may vary depending on the jurisdiction and circumstances. For global client programs it is critical to consider all local operations and how policies may or may not include COVID-19 coverage. The information contained herein is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your own legal and/or other professional advisors. Some of the information in this publication may be compiled by third party sources we consider to be reliable, however we do not guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of such information. We assume no duty in contract, tort, or otherwise in connection with this publication and expressly disclaim, to the fullest extent permitted by law, any liability in connection with this publication. Willis Towers Watson offers insurance-related services through its appropriately licensed entities in each jurisdiction in which it operates.
COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation and changes are occurring frequently. The information given in this publication is believed to be accurate at the date of publication shown at the top of this document. This information may have subsequently changed or have been superseded, and should not be relied upon to be accurate or suitable after this date.
Willis Towers Watson is a trading name of Willis Limited, Registered number: 181116 England and Wales. Registered address: 51 Lime Street, London EC3M 7DQ. A Lloyd’s Broker. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for its general insurance mediation activities only

Footnote

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19

Author

Deputy Practice Leader | Health and Safety

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