Implement ‘range of control measures’ as workplaces reopen, urges IOSH

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Employees and customers must be kept safe when non-essential retail, gyms and outdoor hospitality venues reopen on Monday, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has urged.

It said employers must implement a range of control measures to prevent Covid-19 transmission in their workplaces as the economy begins to reopen, and not rely solely on workers and customers being vaccinated. Indeed, less than half the population of the UK has received a first Covid-19 jab, with 31.8 million having received one so far.

All organisations should take a “prevention-first approach”, it said, starting with risk assessments to determine how likely it is that workers could be infected with Covid-19 at work and what factors would be behind that.

“From there, they can introduce measures to ensure workplaces and work activities are safe and do not risk the transmission of Covid-19,” said Ruth Wilkinson, head of health and safety at IOSH.

“One of the measures could be employees being vaccinated. But this should not be the only measure in place as vaccines are not 100 per cent effective; they are the last line of defence in the hierarchy of control when considering workplace hazards.

“Other measures can include physical barriers, staggered shift patterns to limit the number of people in the building at one time, one-way systems and physical distancing measures, as well as more stringent hygiene, for example.”

IOSH has also warned employers that, although their staff may be working at home, they could still be mixing with others in outdoor hospitality venues, private gardens and outdoor spaces. Some may be tempted to commute into the area in which they would normally work in order to meet colleagues or visit shops, gyms or get a haircut.

Head of advice and practice Duncan Spencer said: “This is bound to pull more commuters back into our cities, especially if workers miss being with their colleagues and want a break from working from home, even if the government is still advising people to work from home where they can.

“I also know that some employers still wish for their staff to be working together in the same physical space, at least for a significant part, if not all, of the time so that they can benefit from a more spontaneous awareness of what’s going on around them in a business, learn from their colleagues and generate greater creativity.

“But without wanting in any way to put a dampener on people’s enthusiasm to get back working face to face with colleagues and clients, it really is important to stress that workplaces have to be made safe and kept Covid-secure.”

IOSH has produced guidance and resources around mental health and wellbeing and risks relating to remote working.

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