There’s no doubt that the recent outbreak of coronavirus has had a seismic impact on business and society, and will affect us all greatly going forward. With the government advising businesses to implement a ‘work from home’ procedure where possible, for businesses in the marine, aerospace, composite and automotive markets operating factories and warehouses, this poses a slightly bigger challenge – after all, you can’t build a yacht or paint a plane from your house.
With emphasis during this COVID-19 pandemic being on self-quarantine and social distancing, we’ve put together tips on how you can reduce the spread of coronavirus in your workplace, and its impact on your business.
- Continue to review and follow government guidance
- Identify and isolate vulnerable staff
- Identify and isolate staff with symptoms
- Minimise the potential of spread in your workplace
- Secure your suppliers
- Contingency plan if the business needs to close
- Know the resources available to you
Note: the below information is not meant to replace official health and safety advice. For the most up-to-date advice, guidance and restrictions please refer to GOV.UK.
1. As priority, continue to review and follow government guidance
Most importantly of all, make sure to continue following the most up-to-date advice, guidance and restrictions put in place by the government. Where the situation is so fluid, the best way you can continue to ensure the welfare of your staff, and the greater population, is to abide by government guidance. You can find all the latest guidance for employees, employers and businesses here:
2. Identify and isolate vulnerable staff
Due to the severity of the outbreak and its effects on individuals with underlying health issues, it is important to identify and isolate employees that are at greater risk of catching the coronavirus. The government has strongly advised people who are at higher risk (vulnerable people) to take strict social distancing measures to limit the potential of contracting the virus.
Employers must take extra care for anyone in their workforce who is in a vulnerable group. They include, but are not limited to, those who:
- Have a long-term health condition, for example asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or a weakened immune system as the result of medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- Are pregnant
- Are aged 70 or over
- Care for someone with a health condition that might put them at a greater risk
Once identified, it is important to allow them to self-isolate. Currently, the advice given to vulnerable people is to shield from social contact for 12 weeks, which includes:
- Not leaving their home – not to go out shopping, visit friends or family, or attend any gatherings
- Avoid close contact with other people as much as possible
3. Identify and isolate staff with symptoms
To limit the spread of the virus, ensuring a stringent plan for if someone were to contract the virus in your business is vital to reducing the internal and external impact. Creating a plan that outlines the actions during identification of the virus and thereafter will help to ensure your business keeps on moving.
This plan should consist of:
- The procedure if someone becomes unwell in the workplace
- A workplace decontamination procedure
- Aftercare and support
The procedure if someone becomes unwell in the workplace
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, they should:
- Tell their manager immediately and go home
- Avoid touching anything
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
- Use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
Workplace decontamination procedure
If someone was to become unwell in the workplace, to avoid the potential of cross contamination, it is important to correctly and effectively decontaminate your facilities. Full decontamination procedures can be found at:
Aftercare and support
It is advised that anyone who contracts the virus should self-isolate at home for a minimum of 14 days, and during this time, all human contact should be limited, if not completely stopped. This allows enough time to for the virus to pass, becoming less contagious. Retain regular communication with them throughout this period and once better, be sure to conduct a ‘back to work’ assessment to ensure they’re fit and well to return to work.
But, how do you know who has it? What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:
- New continuous cough and/or
- High temperature (above 37.8 °C)
Encourage staff and employees to remain vigilant and aware of their ongoing condition, advising them to be open and transparent if they begin to experience any potential symptoms.
4. Minimise the potential of spread in your workplace
Your best defence against the coronavirus is ensuring your workforce are abiding by stringent procedures, while maintaining clean and tidy facilities. Implementing strict measures throughout the workplace will help to reduce and limit the potential spread of coronavirus in your business.
Although there’s still a lot to learn about coronavirus, it is understood that being a respiratory virus, it’s transmitted through respiratory droplets. Ensure staff members are showing correct respiratory etiquette to reduce the potential spread, including:
- Coughing into a tissue or the crook of their arm away from any person or object, making sure to dispose of the tissue in a bin after use
- Sneezing into a tissue or the crook of their arm away from any person or object, making sure to dispose of the tissue in a bin after use
Put measures in place to ensure employees and staff are regularly washing their hands throughout the day to limit any potential spread. It is advised to use 70% alcohol hand sanitiser, but cleaning with soap and water is also effective. Ensure staff who are handling goods are more regularly washing their hands and limiting the touching of their face. Set up and communicate key activities/times for your staff to clean their hands, such as; before and after lunch, after use of toilets, after touching product or equipment, and immediately when entering the facility. Provide hand sanitising disposers at key points, such as at the entrance to your reception area and the staff room. Include clear signs asking people to make use of these upon exiting and entering.
It’s important to ensure the regular cleaning of facilities and common touch points. Regularly clean door handles, appliances, equipment, common areas and remind staff to clean down equipment after each use, or when someone else is due to use the equipment. Ensure high-use surfaces in breakrooms and lunch areas are frequently sanitised by introducing an updated cleaning rota.
Reducing staff interaction limits the likelihood of the virus spreading between staff members and lowers the possible impact on your business. This can be achieved by:
- Encouraging employees to work at home, wherever possible
- Ensure staff are a safe distance apart in all areas of the business, from paintshop, warehouse and workshop, to the office. The government advises a safe distance of 2m
- Refraining from any physical contact with others including handshakes etc
- Prevent staff and employees from going for lunch/breaks at the same time and place in groups
- Limit any potential gatherings such as team meetings
Look to implement shifts, reducing the number of people on site at any one time. And, keep your shifts a mix of the same people to reduce potential contamination throughout the business.
To further reduce the potential spread of the virus in your workplace, prohibit the sharing of utensils, cups, beverages, etc. You can also advise staff to bring in their own cutlery from home to further assist. To minimise use of communal kitchens, encourage staff to bring in their own food.
5. Secure your suppliers
A big risk to your business and your production capabilities is your suppliers. Your business needs a reliable supply of production critical product. But with coronavirus affecting us all, you need you effectively plan ahead to ensure your business has what it needs to keep on working. Work with your suppliers to cover the below points:
- Understand your supplier’s stock levels. Do they hold adequate stock to fulfil your ongoing requirements? Is there any shortfall? Has there been any unexpected high-demand for the products you require, effecting your ability to source what you need? Are they limiting their customers to set quantities?
- Is there any risk that they may close? Confirm their plans and the guidelines they’re currently working to. At what point could they close? What is their contingency plan if someone were to fall ill in their workplace? Do they have a plan to ensure your reliable supply of product in the instance of reduced movement? All these would hugely impact your production capabilities.
- What procedures have they put in place to limit the spread? This is particularly relevant as it may impact how your supplies are delivered, and the reliability of delivery. Businesses are beginning to implement a ‘no signature required’ procedure and instead, asking for a name while remaining a safe distance. Whereas some are only delivering outside the premises in order to remain a safe distance.
- Plan ahead! Ensure you begin building a list of alternate suppliers who could assist if an existing supplier were unable to continue their service. Make sure to run through the above points with these potential suppliers.
6. Contingency plan if the business needs to close
To understand the options and advice available to you if your business were to close, follow the below:
7. Know the resources available to you
We’ve pulled together some useful resources below to help you to navigate the current global pandemic and the challenges it brings. Be sure to follow these regularly for all the latest up-to-date advice, guidance and restrictions in regards to coronavirus.
- GOV.UK - COVID-19: support for businesses
- ACAS - Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees
- FSB - Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice and guidance for small businesses and the self-employed