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Preparing for a return to the office? Remember to check your health and safety arrangements!

With companies set to begin a phased return to the workplace, every company has a legal obligation to ensure that all of their health and safety arrangements and procedures have been reviewed and updated to reflect the change in circumstances.

Providing health and safety advice to employers is among HR:4UK’s key services, and we’re delighted to be working with highly experienced health & safety, quality and environmental professional Lucy Walsh on the four key health and safety aspects you must consider as more and more of your employees return to the office.

Make sure your Health & Safety policy is up to date and reflects your business

HR:4UK works with a range of businesses, many of whom have had their premises empty since March 2020, and with the number of staff returning to the office increasing, it’s important to make sure that your yearly health and safety review reflects the workplace of 2021. 

By checking that all of your arrangements are in place, you’ll be truly reflective of the environment your employees are working in. At the same time, you’ll be compliant with the law, and should you have an on-site inspection, you’ll have the documents to support it.

  • Consider an on-site Safety inspection or audit to ensure that you can highlight any potential risks, implement any required changes, and ensure that your workplace is compliant with the Health and Safety at Work Act and the various other regulations.
  • Ensure DSE workstation assessments have been completed as you still have a legal requirement to complete a health and safety assessment for your staff who are undertaking any part of their employment, be it in the office or at home. 
  • Ensure that all of your documents are up to date and accessible. If you’re subject to a surprise on-site inspection, the ownership of health and safety compliance falls on you as the employer.

Remember that COVID-19 has changed

You may have used our HR:4UK COVID-19 risk assessment last year when the pandemic first took hold, but as with any risk assessment, it needs to be reviewed regularly to reflect changes in advice, guidance and law.

With Boris Johnson urging workers to return to the office, reviewing the COVID-19 risk assessment and associated documents and procedures is key when considering elements like social distancing and the increased on-site employee headcount.

  • A lot has changed in the last year, so make sure you use the HR:4UK COVID-19 Risk assessment, ensuring that the updated assessment reflects your current business approach. 
  • Open a dialogue with your employees about the shift towards returning to work or even towards flexible working. Allow your employees to share their concerns about returning to work and ensure you share your COVID-19 risk assessment to alleviate any fears they may have.
  • Consider new approaches to the growing shift towards returning to the office, for instance, staggered working hours to ensure that you can keep your workplace COVID secure.

But remember your day-to-day responsibilities 

Securing your workplace against the COVID-19 pandemic is a major focal point of your employer duties. However, it's important to step back and ensure that you continue, and don't forget, your more traditional workplace requirements like PAT testing and Water Hygiene Management for Legionella control.

  • From ensuring fire-extinguishers are in date to checking that the first-aid box contains everything and that the contents are in date, to making sure that you have the appropriate signage. It’s imperative to ensure you do your yearly inspections, especially after a period of absence as checks and schedules may have been missed during this time.
  • Ensure better awareness, control and attitude towards Health and Safety by involving your employees in the review and audit process. They’ll offer insights into the risks they face and advise you on the support they need to complete their duties. 
  • Your employees' health and safety requirements go beyond simple physical aspects. It’s also vital to review, audit and address the mental health side of your employees welfare, covering aspects like Stress, Bullying and Harassment or the impact of working alone.

Ensure all your staff have the correct training

The last year has been difficult for employers and employees, with many staff either facing redundancies, being put on extended furlough schemes, or shifting from the traditional work pattern. So ask yourself this question: What are the implications of this shift on your workplace and staff?

  • Do you have enough trained staff on-site for roles like first-aiders and fire-marshals? If not, do you need to consider training new members of your on-site staff with the required qualifications?
  • Do your staff require an updated procedure, communication and risk assessment to ensure they can work in a COVID secure way either from the office, at home, or while visiting customers and clients?
  • Is there a staff member that can be identified as an internal Health and Safety leader or champion? Somebody who has direct responsibilities for the day-to-day health and safety concerns of your business and employees?

How can HR:4UK help you?

If you are interested in HR:4UK carrying out a health and safety audit on your business, ensuring that your workplace and employees are compliant with the laws and regulation, we would love to hear from you.

For more information on our Health and Safety Service, please click here or telephone 01455 444222.

Disclaimer: Please note this is not legal advice on your circumstances and HR:4UK are not qualified to give medical advice. Our advice is based on our understanding of the information currently available and may be subject to change as and when more guidance becomes available.