Covid-19 Workplace Safety Checklist and Practical Guide
As businesses begin to open after the Covid-19 lockdown, companies must ensure safe workspaces for their employees. Several guidelines and safety measures have been advised to implement by the World Health Organization as well as the UK government.
Check out our comprehensive practical guide and an easy-to-follow checklist to make your workplace safe for your employees and customers.
The 6-step workplace safety checklist
Coronavirus mainly spreads when a healthy person comes in contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person or a contaminated surface. Factors like working in closed spaces, commuting to and from work, and coming in contact with colleagues and customers increase the risk of spreading the virus drastically.
To ensure maximum health safety, businesses need to prepare their workplaces according to the six essential steps of the safety checklist below:
- Risk Assessment
- Developing hygiene practices
- Work from home facilitation
- Workplace social distancing rules
- Mitigating transmission risk where social distancing isn’t feasible
- Safe commute to and from work
1. Risk assessment
According to the World Health Organization’s Guidelines, businesses should carry out risk assessment procedures of their workplace before proceeding to reopen. It determines the risk of exposure to the virus in the workplace and helps devise a prevention strategy accordingly.
Risk assessment can be carried out by managers with the assistance of workers, as well as consultation of health work professionals. In terms of the risk factor, workplaces are designated as low, medium, and high exposure risk. Let’s take a look.
Low exposure risk
Low exposure risk workplaces include the nature of work, which doesn’t require close contact with others. Employees in this industry have negligible occupational contact with colleagues and the general public.
Examples of these jobs may include:
- Remote employees in a work-from-home setting
- Office workers that can perform their jobs without having to come in close contact with other individuals
- Workers in the teleservices industry
- Workers in the online business industry
Medium exposure risk
Medium exposure risk includes all those jobs that require workers to come in close contact with the general public. It may also include those workplaces that operate in high-population density environment like, markets, train stations, public transport, etc.
Any type of work that requires co-workers to come in frequent contact with each other also comes under this category.
Examples of medium exposure risk jobs include:
Frontline retail workers
- Home delivery workers
- Water and sanitization workers
- Public transport
- Police and security
- Construction workers
- Workers in hotel/accommodation services
High exposure risk
Jobs that cater to people that could potentially be infected with Covid-19 come under high exposure risk category. It mostly includes people responsible for the caretaking of infected patients or those that come in contact with surfaces that may be contaminated with the virus.
Examples of high exposure risk jobs include:
- Drivers responsible for transporting people suspected of COVID-19 infection
- Domestic service providers or caretakers of people with COVID-19
- Workers that come in contact with a deceased who has had COVID-19
- Social care workers
- Technicians, plumbers, and electricians providing services in places known to be home to infected people
Employers should consult with their workers as well as trade unions before opening their business for the public.
Risk assessment of the workplace can be carried out by the employers using template and examples provided by Health and Safety Execution (HSE).
The results of the risk assessment should be shared with the workers as well as posted on the company’s website.
2. Developing hygiene practices
If you’re reopening your company to your employees and customers (if applicable), strict hygiene practices must be implemented to prevent the risk of virus infection.
Health safety guidelines can be implemented in the workplace by:
- Reinforcing guidelines on frequent handwashing and hygiene
- Installing hand sanitizing stations around the workplace
- Frequent cleaning and disinfection of regularly used objects and surfaces
- Extra cleaning measure for busy areas
- Encouraging the use of masks in crowded spaces
- Setting ground rules for cleaning and use of common spaces like toilets, kitchen, etc.
- Offering increased handwashing and drying facilities
3. Facilitating employees to work from home
You need to consider not bringing all the employees back to their work stations unless they have a critical role in operations, which can’t be fulfilled remotely.
The number of employees called back to work should be minimal to ensure the health safety of all.
If some of your employees have been infected with COVID-19 or have come in close contact with an infected person recently, you need to keep them on a remote-working basis.
Following measures can be taken to facilitate workers operating remotely:
- Providing them with the right equipment and access to work systems and Softwares
- Keeping them in the loop with all necessary communications
- Monitoring their physical and mental wellbeing by keeping in regular touch with them
- Keeping them connected to the rest of their colleagues
- Providing them timely assistance and guidance on daily tasks, if needed
4. Workplace social distancing
WHO recommends at least 1 m distance between people while HSE’s national guidelines emphasize that 2m distance should be kept between people in a workplace, wherever it is possible.
To implement these safety requirements, your workplace might need a few modifications, like spreading out work stations, changing the design of shared spaces, splitting teams, and scattering the workplace.
These practices and guidelines can be implemented by:
- Putting up posters and reminder signs for workers and customers to practice social distancing guidelines
- Not sharing close workspaces
- Use paint or markers to draw 2m circles around each workstation
- Changing all two-way hallways and spaces to one-way and redirecting employee traffic accordingly
- Making it mandatory for visitors to make appointments before showing up, to manage the number of people in a space at a time
If you can’t ensure the implementation of these safety measures, then you’ll have to consider suspending on-site work. However, if that’s not feasible, then additional safety measures must be implemented, like regular disinfection, ventilation, respiratory hygiene, frequent hand sanitizing practices, face shields, and face masks.
Check out the HSE guidelines relevant to your specific industry for particular practices and actions required to ensure safety.
5. Mitigating transmission risk
If keeping a 2m distance between workers isn’t possible, then additional measures should be taken to mitigate the risk of transmission by:
- Reconsidering the need for an activity, or the operation of the business entirely
- Shortening the close contact activity time as much as possible
- Use of screens and barriers to prevent the transfer of respiratory droplets from one person to another
- Changing sitting arrangement to back-to-back or side-to-side whenever possible
- Dividing arrival and leaving times amongst employees to ensure minimum contact
- Limiting the number of people, a worker comes in contact with by designing ‘fixed teams.’
- Maintaining social distancing practices as much as possible
- Use social distancing floor sticker which helps in maintaining distance.
- Implementing increased frequency of handwashing practices and common surface cleaning
- Avoiding face-to-face interactions as much as possible
- Strictly implementing social distancing practices in common rooms and social spaces like cafeterias, restrooms, breakrooms, etc.
6. Commute to and from work
Apart from providing safe working space to employees, the health concerns of commuting to and from work should also be addressed. Many employees might be using public transport, which puts them at high risk of transmission.
Following steps should be taken to minimize the risks of arrival and departure from work:
- Increasing the number of parking spots
- Installing bike racks and encouraging workers to cycle, walk, and run to work to avoid public transport, if possible
- Limit the number of passengers incorporate vehicles by introducing minibuses or leaving empty seats between two passengers
- Introduce more entry points and gates to the workplace to manage the crowd
- Providing extra storage and lockers so the workers can keep extra clothes and bags
- Making the entry and exit points for one-way traffic
- Increasing handwashing and sanitizing facilities around the workplace and at entry and exit points
- Avoiding touch-based security and entrance devices
- Regulating the use of keypads and passes and cleaning them after each use
- Replacing touch-based systems with other alternatives
General key measures against Covid-19 transmission for all kinds of workplaces
There are a few general health guidelines for all risk level companies and workplaces issued by the international, national regulating bodies. They have been collected together as follows:
- Promoting frequent handwashing practices and disinfecting with sanitizers containing alcohol
- Maintaining respiratory hygiene by covering your coughs and sneezing in your elbows
- Keeping a distance of at least 1m or more, as per the national recommendations
- Frequent use of face masks
- Regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and frequently used objects
- Stopping or limiting unnecessary travel
- Creating clear policies, practices, training, awareness material and educational resources for workers and managers
- Managing communication with infected people and shifting them to stay-at-home or self-isolation
- Requiring unwell and untested workers to work from home.
Additional measures for medium risk workplaces
Medium risk workplaces have a higher chance of transmitting and spreading the virus infection.
That includes all the jobs that require the workers to come in close physical contact with either their colleagues or other people. These workplaces are usually situated in densely populated areas, where implementing social distancing could be a challenge.
Therefore, they require additional safety measures to mitigate them.
Medium-risk workplaces should adopt the following practices to ensure the safety of their employees:
- Daily sanitizing and disinfection of workstations and surfaces that are used and touched frequently, like break rooms, common rooms, surfaces, floors, toilets, and dressing rooms at least twice a day
- Suspending activities in places where physical distancing of 1m can’t be implemented satisfactorily
- Increasing ventilation in all rooms and bathrooms
- Implementing strict hand hygiene practices by making the use of hand sanitizers mandatory
- Use of face coverings like face masks and goggles
- Encouraging the use of gloves and napkins
- Providing washing and changing rooms at the workplace to allow the workers to change before coming in and leaving
Additional measures for high-risk workplaces
High-risk jobs include those workers that have to cater to or care for people that have been infected with the virus. That exposes the workers to highly contaminated surfaces and direct contact with an infected person.
Those workplaces that operate in close vicinity to a treatment center or in a community that has gone shown mass transmissions of the virus are categorized as high-risk. Such workplaces should consider prolonging their operations on a remote basis.
However, if it is not possible, then enhanced safety measures must be implemented to ensure the safety of employees and all the parties involved.
These additional measures include:
- Implementing multiple hand sanitizing practices
- Providing medical masks, disposable gloves, disposable gowns, goggles for eye protection, and face shields to workers who are providing services in the homes of infected people or those who are suspected of Covid-19 virus
- Training workers in safety measures and infection control and prevention practices
- Use of personal protective equipment or PPE
- Not assigning high-risk tasks to employees with pre-existing health conditions
The reopening of businesses has put an enormous responsibility on companies to ensure the health safety of their employees. Adopting and implementing the guidelines mentioned above will help ensure a safe workplace.
Make sure you asses the risk level of your workplace thoroughly and consult healthcare professionals before reopening. Without a proper health safety policy and regulations in place, you can’t ensure safety of your employees, clients, or any other visitors.
Check out further industry-specific guidelines by the UK government, to take any additional measures necessary concerning your particular industry.