As steps are made to ease the lockdown, some companies are putting plans in place to open up offices.
There are key considerations that employers should make and Charlene Armour, the CEO of Armour is here to answer a few questions:
What would be the first step that a company should take when putting plans in place to open up offices?
The first step is risk assessment, with COVID-19 related risks, you need to first think about who will be impacted (employees, customers, general public, contractors, suppliers etc).
Once this has been determined then you will need to think about the level of risk, i.e. high-medium-low. The level of risk then drives what controls/plans you put in place. – Think about how your business operates open to close and who you interact with in that time.
What’s also really important in this is communication. Employers should be communicating and consulting with their workforce, trade unions or anyone affected by their business activities. This needs to be much more than a paperwork exercise to be effective. Keeping lines of communication open is key, before, during and after rick assessment.
How do businesses know what control measures they need to provide?
Level of controls needed will depend on level of risk and what you can do to reduce the risk “so far as is reasonably practicable”.
Following control measures in a particular way is a legal requirement and can be referred to in Management of Health & Safety at Work (NI) as the principles of prevention or the hierarchy of controls.
The higher up this list, the more effective the control and the more controls a business has, the better.
1. Eliminate or avoid the hazard (Unfortunately with COVID-19, for now, we can’t eliminate it or avoid it completely)
2. Substitute – Replace the hazard – Combat the risk at the source – (Again, with respect to COVID-19 this is difficult)
3. Engineering controls – Physical barriers to reduce interaction – like protective screens.
4. Administration controls – Change the way people work or interact. Isolation of people, limiting size of gatherings, hygiene practices etc.
5. PPE – This is considered the least effective within these controls and almost always used in conjunction with other controls.
This controls should be reviewed on an ongoing basis and communicated to everyone who needs to know about them.
Where can employers find out more information about how to protect their people in business?
At this time, there is so much guidance out there, companies can be overwhelmed and confused. I have set up a guidance section in Armour that creates a central hub, to avoid this confusion. This includes the best guidance from Health & Safety Executive NI, Manufacturing NI, Construction Employers Federation etc..
Is there other industries apart from just offices that the Armour platform can help with?
Armour was built to help any SME, irrespective of sector – common sectors include and are in no particular order: Construction, Engineering, Manufacturing, Business Services, Agriculture, Sales and Retail etc.
Are the resources to help with COV19 measures available on Armour and is there any costs?
Yes, there’s guidance and downloadable templates like risk assessments, which is updated daily. I have also introduced a “Tell us what you need” with respect to health and safety documentation in COVID-19 crisis. If it’s not in our system today, it will be tomorrow. This is all free and accessible using the free trial. 14 days free access to legal registers with unlimited access to guidance & templates indefinitely.
Thanks to Charlene for her insights into practical steps to open up an office after COV19 lockdown.