In this blog, we outline current government guidelines to create a clear checklist of considerations for businesses which operate within factories, plants and warehouses. This advice should not supersede any official advice and as such it is recommended that you refer to government sources to check for updates and industry specific advice. We hope, however, that this serves as a useful springboard when creating a reopening policy that puts making your business Covid secure at the forefront.
It is an employers responsibility to ensure a safe working environment for all involved and at present that also includes minimising the risk of the spread of COVID-19. The following considerations will need to be adapted to each specific workplace to ensure that they are as effective as they can be to your own restrictions and circumstances. Your legal obligations in the workplace remain, along with those pertaining to employment equality and health and safety. Making your business COVID secure should not override these responsibilities.
The first step for any employer is to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment and convey its findings effectively to all those within the businesses affected. You can read more about this in our recent blog here. [Tom – link]
Social distancing should be maintained within all workplaces wherever possible. Current guidance is that people should remain two metres apart, or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not possible. This includes all areas of the business such as break rooms and communal areas. Where it is not possible it should be considered whether the activity is necessary to the business and if so a clear plan of action to minimise the risk of infection should be detailed. This includes regular hand-washing, regular surface cleaning, minimal time spent on activities, using screens and barriers, avoiding face-to-face working and creating teams or ‘bubbles’ to minimise the contact between groups of people.
Arrival and leaving work
Arriving at and leaving workplaces should be staggered to minimise contact and designed to protect the most vulnerable team members. Employers should think about how people arrive and provide appropriate levels of parking, discouraging the use of corporate shared vehicles and encouraging arriving by foot or bike. Once arriving at the factory or plant, staff should be clearly guided to their work station through one way systems and provided hand-washing facilities at entrance and exit points. Finally, think about how people access the buildings and what they have to touch in terms of keypads and lock systems to ensure there is regular cleaning and minimal touch points.
Moving around the building
Movement should be discouraged wherever possible. Within a factory, radios and telephones should be used to communicate between work areas rather than having to move between them. Job and equipment rotation should be minimised. A one-way system should be in place through the building. High traffic areas such as turnstiles, walkways and corridors should be managed to further increase social distancing. The use of lifts should also be minimised, with priority given to those with mobility issues. Sanitizers should be made available when operating lifts and standing places marked out to users. On-site vehicles should also be managed to reduce use and occupancy.
Workplaces and workstations
Social distancing should be maintained whilst people are at their work stations. Wherever possible people should work in one place only, allocated to the individual as much as possible. Where workspaces are shared this should be minimised. Line set ups and processes should be reviewed to allow people to work away from each other and guidance should be marked out on the floor and walls.
Where maintaining social distance is not possible equipment should be cleaned regularly to reduce risk. In this circumstance team members should work side-by-side and screens installed where appropriate. For work that requires two-person working (such as maintenance or lifting activities) a consistent pairing system should be implemented.
Physical meetings should be reduced as much as possible and remote working tools such as online meeting applications should be introduced. Where physical meetings are necessary, social distancing should be maintained with signs and marking to assist, sharing of objects avoided, and hand sanitiser provided. Wherever possible meetings should be held outside.
Social distancing should be maintained throughout the premises, including break rooms and social areas. Introduce outside areas for breaks where possible, and increase the size allocated to break rooms by utilising unoccupied areas within the business. Staff canteens should be avoided, and packed meals provided where possible but staff should be encouraged to stay on site during work hours. Break rooms should be designed to maximise space and reduce face-to-face seating. Staff in reception areas should be protected by screens. Other communal areas such as toilets, lockers and changing rooms should also be reviewed and measures taken to reduce queues and increase distancing.
Accidents and incidents
Where an accident or incident takes place, social distancing only must be complied with if it is safe to do so. Measures to sanitise affected areas directly after an incident should be implemented. Ensure you review your emergency procedures in light of current guidelines. Consider any changes you are making to your working practices and how this will affect security on site. Review how searches of people arriving on site can take place without the need for physical contact whilst maintaining security on the premises.
Visitors to site
Visitors to site should also be minimised wherever possible, with remote working offered as an alternative. Where visitors are necessary, for example for deliveries, essential service or maintenance work, numbers of visitors should be limited, visits scheduled in quieter site times and hand-washing should be required at entry. A record of all visitors should be kept for track and trace purposes.
Unnecessary work travel should be avoided with walking, cycling and driving private vehicles prioritised. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport. Where there are shared work vehicles, fixed travel partners should be allocated and vehicles cleaned between shifts. An employer is also responsible for ensuring any travel for work that includes overnight accommodation meets social distancing guidelines.
When making deliveries to other sites procedures should be in place to minimise personal contact. Where two-person deliveries are required these should be in consistent pairs. Payments and documentation should in person should also be minimised and electronic methods favoured.
When goods enter and leave site there is the potential for a lack of social distancing and surface transition on goods. Distribution centres and dispatch areas should be revised to ensure they are as COVID secure as possible. This included minimising unnecessary contact at key contact points. Electronic pre-booking should be introduced where possible. Numbers and frequency of deliveries should be reduced where possible.
All procedures should be clearly signed and marked out within delivery areas. Single loaders, or consistent pairs of workers to load and unload should be used. Drivers should have access to welfare facilities that conform to guidance and be allowed to stay in their vehicles where safe to do so.
Before reopening make a thorough assessment of your site and ensure they are cleaned and ready to restart. Key areas to review include ensuring ventilation systems can work at full capacity, reviewing air conditioning systems to consider whether they circulate air between workspaces and your positive pressure systems.
Cleaning and hygiene
You will need to review your current cleaning schedule in light of your COVID-19 Risk Assessment. Frequency should be increased to clean more regularly with particular attention to areas that are touched the more regularly including handles and printers. Cleaning materials should be disposed of hygienically so as to not recontaminate cleaned areas. Workspaces should be kept clean and clear at the end of each shift. If someone has a known or suspected case of COVID-19 within the workplace, then a thorough cleanse should be conducted in accordance with government guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings
Work areas should also be well ventilated with windows and doors being kept open as often as possible.
Hygiene standards should be encouraged throughout the workplace including avoiding face touching and safely sneezing and disposing of tissues. Regular hand-washing should be prioritised. Signs and posters should be used to educate and remind as well as easy access to hand washing, hand sanitiser and waste facilities. The hygienic use of toilet facilities should also be clearly set out and guidance made visible to everyone using them. These should be well equip with hand washing materials, well ventilated and regularly and carefully cleaned. Shower rooms and changing facilities should also have clear use guidelines and cleaning systems in place. Personal items should be removed and social distancing maintained.
All shared equipment including tools, vehicles and equipment should have clear cleaning procedures in place. Where goods are being handled extra hand-washing should be encouraged. Vehicles that are used by employees for deliveries should be regularly clean as should delivery boxes where disposable are not used.
Method Grid allows you to create, review and regularly update cleaning procedures as well as allocating responsibility to team members for the management of each area. Create a free account today >>
Shifts should be organised in distinct shift groups that minimise the number of contacts each worker has. Where passing items, materials and information must be passed between shift groups, ‘drop-off points’ or ‘transfer zones’ should be created. A record of shift patterns should be kept to assist with the NHS Test and Trace system. Check what data you need to collect and how it should be managed.
Once your plans are in place, it is essential to ensure everyone working in your business understands their responsibilities and roles in maintaining a safe site. Clear signage and guidance should be made available on site and conveyed to those coming to site by appropriate means to ensure they are understood. Those that visit site, such as deliveries and contractors, should be made aware of expectations prior to arrival and a host allocated to monitor and guide them onsite. Anyone coming in contact with the premises such as other occupiers, landlords and tenants, should be clearly communicated with. Ensure that visitors understand any expectations of them including removing face coverings for security identification and that these are conveyed in a safe and appropriate manner.
Policies and procedures should be clearly communicated to team members with regular review and opportunities for feedback. Training material should be developed to help people transition back to the work place with a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Ongoing engagement with workers, unions and representatives should be a priority so that you can effectively monitor and improve your working practices.
Demonstrating a clear understanding of the mental health impact to your staff should be at the fore front of your review process.
Method Grid is an excellent way to collate your policies and procedures and easily convey them to staff and visitors alike. Grids can be tailored to provide relevant information and easily shared with all involved.
From Risk Assessment through to re-onboarding staff there is a lot to consider when reopening any business. This blog has sought to give a good overview of the factors consider as you reopen factories, warehouses and plants within your business. You can see full government guidance on this sector here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/factories-plants-and-warehouses