As businesses are slowly reopening employees who have been working remotely may slowly be phased back into the office. To do this safely employers have to consider changes that make sense to protect their employees while still operating effectively. A risk assessment should be done to look at all potential risks such as those that are hygiene related, safety related or involve staff scheduling and deciding what measures need to be put in place to reduce them.
Here are five best practices that employers should think about putting in place to create a safe as possible workplace.
Create a Task Force and a Contingency Plan - Establish a team to monitor the workplace. They can create a response plan should workers test positive for workplace disruption and enabling the business to continue. All contingency plans should be continually revised to reflect the current situation and should document all response lessons learned over time.
Communicate Effectively - Employers should communicate their return to work and safety plans effectively either through the task force or the health and safety representative. Most employees will be anxious about the return to work and these anxieties need to be addressed by employers strongly communicating the safety plans to their staff. Staff need to be kept up to date either weekly or even daily by email or conference call so that they know what practices are being put in place or revised to protect employees from potential risks or exposure and how these practices will affect their jobs. It is a good idea to involve employees in conversations and safety plans.
Plan to have a slow return to work - Some companies are finding that having staff working from home is working successfully while for others it is a short term solution which is not sustainable. Phased returns, staggered shifts and different start and end times are a good way of reducing risk so that only a portion of the workforce is present at a given time. Many companies are now used to working with a remote workforce so employers can decide who must return to work as soon as possible and who can be gradually called back. Employers should be more flexible when considering the individual circumstances of employees such as those who are at a higher risk of serious illness or those who need to have child care in place.
Maintaining Distance in the Workplace - Whatever the plans for the return to work employees should be returning to a set of guidelines to help them to continue physical distancing. Working closely together is difficult to avoid in change rooms or manufacturing lines and even in offices there are challenges that arise in elevators, kitchens, washrooms and boardrooms. It might be necessary to do some office re-design or create pods of workers to optimize physical distancing.
In BC employers can find help through the following resources:
From an article by Ethan Rotberg
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