Ensuring we provide an environment where people can work safely and be safe around our workers is nothing new. The legislation that relates to the safety of employees and our clients is exhaustive. Everything from the ergonomics of an office desk to the control of hazardous substances, from working at height to sinking a hole in the ground, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) empowered by primary legislation has it covered.
So, what’s new? A virus. A virus that kills people horribly and that spreads very rapidly through populations. A disease that has spread to every part of the planet as a result of contact between humans.
Risk Assessments for a Covid-safe workplace
In terms of our own workplace this new threat must be considered in our risk assessments. The identifiable new hazard is the virus, and the risk we identify relates to getting infected with an unacceptably high probability of illness or death. The principal control mechanism to manage the hazard and reduce risk is our behaviour.
Containing the spread of Covid-19 is everyone’s responsibility. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or whether at home or at work. We all get this. As a result, we have willingly succumbed to enormous constrains on our liberty and freedoms that have been imposed on us by Governments. To facilitate this control, we all changed the way we live and importantly work (or not work) – overnight.
Acknowledge the hazard and manage the risk!
But get to work we must. As we see some of the restrictions lifting as people return to the office, visit shops, mix with friends, and interact with others, and with 57% of the UK population having been jabbed at least once, the pressure is growing for a move back to “normality”. We must continue to ensure that despite the controlled measures imposed by “lockdown” being relaxed, we find ways of working and living that acknowledge the hazard and manage the risk.
Members of the PCA staff are coming back to the office, learners are joining us again. Our trainers are with us for days at a time and suppliers are appearing at our door. We have a duty of care to keep them safe while they are with us. So, we test. We test all staff who attend the office and who may mix with our visitors. Tests are done twice a week as we wash our hands, we keep our distance, we wear our masks, and we talk to each other about what we can do better and keep ourselves safe.
We maintain our safe operating systems, we review our processes, we split our working week between home and office, and if we need to act, we act to protect our people or our business quickly.
Remain vigilant for a safer environment
It has probably never been so important to create an environment that feels safe, as well as it being safe. If our team is to work together, they need to feel comfortable to be under our roof. If we expect learners to come, they must know they are safe, and our trainers must feel protected when in our classrooms.
The hazard remains so the risk must be managed, though thankfully with a vaccination, the chance of death diminishes. Even when we have all had the vaccine, the hazard may well remain present and very real for a long time to come. With the right controls and continued vigilance, we can all create a safe environment for work, study, and to go for a pint.
It’s going to be sometime yet before we remove Covid-19 from our list of workplace related hazards. We will get used to it, we will grow to live with it, but it is really important that we don’t get complacent.
Advice & Guidance for PCA Members
To find out where you can access your nearest test centre, rapid flow tests for collection/home delivery or more general guidance, please click on the relevant button below:
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