Businesses are working hard to mitigate on-site Covid-19 risks and keep their employees safe. However, this hard work can be undone from the moment people leave their homes – and if an employee’s commute is not ‘Covid-safe’, it has the potential to contaminate the office, and put others at risk.

Unfortunately, as we are now all too aware, there is a sea of misinformation out there, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by conflicting (or seemingly impossible to follow) advice. Nevertheless, it is vital that businesses take broad brush steps to improve safety for the protection of all, while also looking to introduce prescriptive measures for their location and environment.

Accurate advice should be disseminated to staff as succinctly and frequently as possible to ensure a consistent and safe transition between remote and on-site working. However, organisations will need to bear in mind that the real challenge now lies in reinforcing a lasting cultural change across all work environments for the foreseeable future.

Here are some useful first steps to consider…

 

Be clear with guidance:

Consider issuing a corporate steer on travel etiquette and ensure that it is appropriately communicated to all staff. On-site working is no longer the default position and lines have become blurred on the rules of travel across workforces that can now operate in a much more flexible way.  Justification requiring senior sign off may be required on a case-by-case basis, but a concise set of rules should be created for employees to follow and reference when making plans.

 

Be prescriptive where necessary to maximise safety:

  • Stagger employee start times
  • Encourage workers to travel off-peak
  • Highlight quieter routes
  • Emphasise and encourage effective PPE use
  • Suggest staff travel with personal hand sanitiser

 

Reinforce good respiratory and hygiene etiquette:  

Ensure staff know the importance of Covid-safe travel and how important it is in protecting the entire on-site environment. This includes the use of effective PPE and the importance of meticulous hand hygiene. Providing signs and advice about unnecessary touching of surfaces, faces and other people, coupled with regular use of hand sanitiser (especially at key contaminating stages of the journey) should help to keep health and safety at the forefront of peoples minds.

A corporate expectation of PPE or face coverings can help generate a positive safety culture that is clearly understood by an engaged workforce. Moreover, employees should be made aware of the risks associated with PPE and understand how to safely don, doff and dispose of it.

It is also advisable that staff appreciate that PPE is finite and may have a shelf life. If worn on a sessional basis, employees should recognise when it should be disposed of, changed or cleaned.

Be prescriptive – travel smart and light:  

It should be made clear to workers that only essential items should be transported into the office. You could perhaps consider separating on-site and home working equipment to further avoid the risk of cross contamination across devices and surfaces. This may also extend to clothing or uniform. By providing clean changing areas or an on-site laundry service, staff can feel supported and protected in performing their roles on a day to day basis without the fear of contaminating others.

If this is not possible, then items should be made transport safe. This can be achieved by encouraging cycling or walking wherever possible and enhancing the provisions for the safe storage and necessary facilities to accommodate this shift, on-site.

Wherever possible, advise staff to avoid travel that prevents adequate social distancing. This may not be entirely possible so the following steps can be taken to further mitigate these risks:

  • Wear adequate PPE (it is a legal requirement in England on all public transport)
  • Sit facing out where possible and minimise face-to-face seating
  • Maximise social distance – the bigger the better
  • Ventilate spaces by opening windows (although…winter is coming)
  • Travel alone where practically possible
  • If moving as a team – keep within your bubble and maximise social distancing

 

Create a learning safety culture:

Encourage regular workforce feedback and keep the lines of communication with staff open and strong. This process will require continual learning to better understand the problem, so organisations need to adapt accordingly. Empower and engage employees to try to better understand the issues on the ground. Be sanguine, but realistic; appreciating when the system is working, and identifying when it is not. The scientific evidence and guidance will inevitably change; so, your strategy may have to too.

 

Ask for help:

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it can be cost effective and help restore confidence in your strategy and team.

Coronavirus is still novel and therefore presents a complex melee of evidence-based medicine, expert opinion and pragmatism. Implementing guidance to your environment will require nuance and a good level of understanding.

 

There’s a lot to take on board, and every day we are faced with new challenges when looking to keep staff and businesses safe. If you need someone to do the heavy lifting for you and bring some clarity to your operations, then speak to the experts – we at MA Health are happy to advise.

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