Technology can play a vital role in helping organisations go above and beyond what’s recommended in Covid-secure guidelines, as Chris Potts writes.
It is beginning to seem clear that restrictions and Covid-secure workplace guidelines will exist long into 2021 and, in order for employees to return to the office without worrying about catching the virus, employers need to consider introducing additional protocols.
The HSE has outlined guidelines for ‘Covid-safe’ workplaces, including simple solutions such as social distancing and hand washing. But do they go far enough to sufficiently protect employees?
We all hope with the rollout of the vaccine programme, things will get back to “normal” sometime in the autumn – with far fewer (if any) restrictions in place. By then, it is forecasted that the whole of the UK adult population will have some immunity against the virus, as they should have all been offered a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination.
However, organisations and employees must not drop their guard completely, as there is always the threat of mutated strains of the virus – ones that the current vaccines provide less protection against. Of course, vaccines will be updated to combat new strains, but there will be a period between discovery and immunity where the virus can spread more easily.
No one wants to go back to full lockdowns or even a tiered system where businesses are shut and office staff are forced to work from home. This means implementing new procedures and perhaps new technology to help reduce the rate of transmission.
Temperature monitoring could aid businesses looking to implement safer practices that go beyond Covid-secure government recommendations. By checking whether an employee or customer has a raised temperature, organisations could prevent potentially unwell people entering their premises and spreading the disease.
Thermal imaging can be used to regularly measure temperature, while also being discreet where needed. Those with high temperatures can then be informed, asked to get a Covid-19 test and told to self-isolate if deemed necessary.
For locations where multiple temperatures need to be checked at one time, cameras can be calibrated in order to achieve this. Screening terminals can be quickly and easily implemented, even without the need for third-party installation on site – providing instant reassurance for those attending the facility and limiting further outside contact. Systems can also offer face mask detection and can even be expanded to allow remote camera viewing for those entrances that cannot be manned all the time, resulting in a more Covid-secure workplace.
Test and trace
With many organisations remaining open throughout lockdown, social distancing has been important for minimising infection.
Unfortunately, the NHS Test and Trace app has reportedly only had a marginal impact and has not been very successful in identifying and preventing the spread of Covid-19. A more specific and nuanced approach could play an incredibly helpful role in keeping essential businesses open.
Unfortunately, the NHS Test and Trace app has reportedly only had a marginal impact and has not been very successful in identifying and preventing the spread of Covid-19.”
A private test and trace system offers one way of identifying and containing any outbreaks identified in the workplace. Such systems see employees wear tags that connect with each other and automatically alert the wearer when they come near, with the contact recorded in a database. This means that employers can easily identify who an employee has been near if they test positive for Covid-19.
This type of solution allows companies to control an outbreak, thus avoiding the need to temporarily close a workplace because they do not know who may have been infected.
Workplaces may have limits on capacity to ensure the safety of staff.This means that there will be an increased likelihood of lone workers. Employers need to consider ways to protect these workers, as they may have no longer have colleagues around them to raise alarm should something happen.
Secondly, due to social distancing, workers are less likely to converse face to face, so companies need to look at alternative ways to help teams collaborate.
Ideally, businesses need to tackle both issues together via one multifunctional device, which enables workers to communicate with their team and raise alarm in the event of an emergency.
Combining these functions means that workers don’t need to worry about having different devices on them throughout the working day. Panic buttons, tilt and no-motion sensors, push-to-talk technology and other comprehensive communication and lone worker protection functions can be integrated into one device. Based on digital radio or smartphone technology, such devices can be compact and robust, capable of transmitting alerts over private radio or 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks.
This can provide safeguards for staff working alone because of social distancing requirements and can be fine-tuned to suit a business’ requirements.
These solutions will aid businesses in going above and beyond government recommendations to promote a more Covid-safe workplace. Workers will feel more secure with regular temperature checks using thermal imaging devices, and by adopting a private test and trace system employees will have confidence knowing that the spread of the virus is being carefully monitored in their workplace. Furthermore, lone worker solutions will promote safer practices for those who can no longer work closely with colleagues due to social distancing.
It’s clear that technology can provide an effective barrier against the spread of the virus, and it will help support businesses from a commercial angle too.