Face Masks – Dos and don’ts

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published new advice for the public on when and how to wear masks safely.

The guidance covers fabric masks and medical masks, describing who should wear what type of mask and when.

Face coverings have become mandatory in some shops and supermarkets in England. In terms of the law, in England, people are required to wear face coverings:

  • on public transport
  • in airports, rail and tram stations, ports, bus and coach stations and terminals
  • in shops and supermarkets
  • at indoor shopping centres
  • in banks, building societies and post offices.

Some key points for fabric masks include the following.

  • Clean hands before touching your mask.
  • Inspect the mask for damage or dirt.
  • Adjust the mask to your face without leaving gaps on the sides.
  • Cover your mouth, nose and chin.
  • Avoid touching the mask.
  • Clean your hands before removing the mask.
  • Remove the mask by taking off the straps behind the ears or head and then pull the mask away from your face.
  • Store the mask in a clean plastic, resealable bag if it is not dirty or wet and you plan to re-use it.
  • Remove the mask by the straps when taking it out of the bag.
  • Wash the mask in soap or detergent, preferably with hot water, at least once a day.

In addition, the WHO has advised the public of the following Don’ts with regard to fabric masks.

Don’t use a mask that looks damaged.
Don’t wear a loose mask.
Don’t wear your mask under the nose.
Don’t remove the mask where there are people within a metre.
Don’t use a mask that is difficult to breathe through.
Don’t wear a dirty or wet mask.
Don’t share your mask with others.

With thanks to The World Health Organization (WHO)

Contact us if you want to discuss Covid-19 risk assessments, social distancing signage or hand sanitiser.

Stay Safe!

Workplace Housekeeping

Industrial CleaningWhy should we pay attention to housekeeping at work?

Effective housekeeping can eliminate some workplace hazards and help get a job done safely and properly. Poor housekeeping can frequently contribute to accidents by hiding hazards that cause injuries. If the sight of paper, debris, clutter and spills is accepted as normal, then other more serious health and safety hazards may be taken for granted.

Housekeeping is not just cleanliness. It includes keeping work areas neat and orderly; maintaining halls and floors free of slip and trip hazards; and removing of waste materials (e.g., paper, cardboard) and other fire hazards from work areas. It also requires paying attention to important details such as the layout of the whole workplace, aisle marking, the adequacy of storage facilities, and maintenance. Good housekeeping is also a basic part of accident and fire prevention.

Effective housekeeping is an ongoing operation. By keeping the work area consistently tidy can show the company are serious about keeping employees and others safe. Periodic “panic” clean ups are costly and ineffective in reducing accidents.

What is the purpose of workplace housekeeping?

Poor housekeeping can be a cause of accidents, such as:

  1. tripping over loose objects on floors, stairs and platforms
  2. being hit by falling objects
  3. slipping on greasy, wet or dirty surfaces
  4. striking against projecting, poorly stacked items or misplaced material
  5. cutting, puncturing, or tearing the skin of hands or other parts of the body on projecting nails, wire or steel strapping

To avoid these hazards, a workplace must “maintain” order throughout the working day.

What are some benefits of good housekeeping practices?

Effective housekeeping results in:

  1. reduced handling to ease the flow of materials
  2. fewer tripping and slipping accidents in clutter-free and spill-free work areas
  3. decreased fire hazards
  4. lower worker exposures to hazardous substances
  5. better control of tools and materials
  6. more efficient equipment clean up and maintenance
  7. better hygienic conditions leading to improved health
  8. more effective use of space
  9. reduced property damage by improving preventive maintenance
  10. less janitorial work
  11. improved morale

How do I plan a good housekeeping program?

A good housekeeping program plans and manages the orderly storage and movement of materials from point of entry to exit. The plan also ensures that work areas are not used as storage areas by having workers move materials to and from work areas as needed.

Housekeeping order is maintained not achieved. This means removing the inevitable messes that occur from time to time and not waiting until the end of the shift to reorganize and clean up.  A good housekeeping program identifies and assigns responsibilities for the following:

  1. clean up during the shift
  2. day-to-day clean up
  3. waste disposal
  4. removal of unused materials
  5. inspection to ensure clean up is complete

Don’t forget places such as shelves, basements and boiler rooms that would otherwise be overlooked. The orderly arrangement of operations, tools, equipment and supplies is an important part of a good housekeeping program.

The final addition to any housekeeping program is inspection. It is the only way to check for deficiencies in the program so that changes can be made. Walker Health and Safety Services can carry out workplace inspection.

Contact Walker Health and Safety Services should you require further information.


PPE and the coronavirus

The coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic continues in the UK. As we move to the “recovery phase” or the “new normal” as it is often referred to, employers are expected to plan for the return to work of employees where they are not able to work from home.

The UK Government has published COVID-19 Secure working safely guidance for workplaces that provides a hierarchy of risk control measures that employers and the self-employed are expected to follow when reviewing their risk assessments for COVID-19 hazards.

The various guidance documents all state the following.

“When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.

“Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

“Unless you are in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is extremely limited.

“However, if your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly.”

Note: Where an employer is required to provide PPE in relation to the mitigation of transmission risks from COVID-19, the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 will apply.

The Government’s PPE Plan

The UK Government has published a Coronavirus (COVID-19): Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Plan. This contains guidance on who needs PPE, what type of PPE is required and in what circumstances. It states that PPE is “a precious resource and must be used only where there is a clinical need to do so”.

In summary, the guidance recommends that:

  • any clinician or care professional working within 2m of a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patient should wear an apron, gloves, a surgical mask and eye protection
  • clinicians carrying out tasks that could generate airborne droplets are required to use an even higher standard of protection, including disposable gowns, filtering respirators and face shielding visors
  • those cleaning non-healthcare settings, those involved in the care and management of the deceased and first responders may require some PPE, depending on the risk of COVID-19.

The guidance then states: “Beyond these roles, the current clinical evidence says there is not a widespread benefit from wearing PPE. Instead, the best way to protect yourself and others is to regularly wash your hands and to keep at least two metres between you and other people whenever you leave your house”.

PPE for cleaning

The guidance on Cleaning of Non-healthcare Settings states the following.

“The minimum PPE to be worn for cleaning an area where a person with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) has been is disposable gloves and an apron. Hands should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds after all PPE has been removed.

“If a risk assessment of the setting indicates that a higher level of virus may be present (for example, where unwell individuals have slept such as a hotel room or boarding school dormitory) or there is visible contamination with body fluids, then the need for additional PPE to protect the cleaner’s eyes, mouth and nose might be necessary. The local Public Health England (PHE) Health Protection Team (HPT) can advise on this.

“Non-healthcare workers should be trained in the correct use of a surgical mask, to protect them against other people’s potentially infectious respiratory droplets when within 2 metres, and the mask use and supply of masks would need to be equivalent to that in healthcare environments.”

Face coverings

The Government’s COVID-19 Secure guidance states that covering the face may be “marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure”. The evidence indicates that wearing a face covering does not protect the wearer but may protect others if you are carrying the virus.

Face coverings are not a substitute for other forms of risk control in the workplace.

The guidance states: “Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.”

Optional use includes on public transport and in some shops or other “enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible” and where individuals might come into contact with others that they do not normally meet.

If you require further information, on risk assessments for COVID-19 or any other topic, please contact us.


Planning the return to the workplace

Women stretching at desk1. Inspect the premises

If the property has been left completely unattended, you may find unexpected pests, damage or breakages — all of which need to be addressed before employees begin to return.

Tests to run before the premises is reoccupied might include:

2. Undertake the necessary risk assessments

These will help you identify the additional control measures and adjustments that will need to be implemented. Look at our page for further information.

Risk assessments should be carried out in consultation with employees or trade unions and should be continually reviewed and adjusted. If you require a Covid-19 risk assessment please contact us.

3. Decide who will return

Will the return to work be staggered? The priority will be those employees who can’t do their job fully from home. Are there others who could continue working from home for the foreseeable future? Don’t forget to continue to support homeworkers.

4. Redesign the workplace for social distancing

Review workplaces before employees return to the company. The following may need to be considered….

  • Can you adjust work patterns and arrival/departure times to reduce the number of employees in the premises at the same time?
  • How can you reduce bottlenecks at access points and lifts?
  • Do you need screens or barriers for employees?
  • Would investing in equipment for card payments prevent contact through handing over cash?
  • What actions should be taken to mitigate the risks of shared equipment or hot-desking?
  • How will you maintain distancing and hygiene with regards to bathroom use?
  • Can you improve ventilation?
  • Could you implement one-way corridors?
  • To what degree do employees need to change how they use break times, and access kitchens, canteens and refreshments on-site?
  • What will be the procedure for visitors and contractors?
  • Would signs or other visual aids assist in changing behaviour?
  • How will the organisation evacuate for a fire or other emergency?

5. Establish your cleaning and hygiene needs

If your company are going to deep clean before the premises opens, this should be stated in the risk assessment. regular cleaning should also be documented including who is responsible for certain tasks. Identify your cleaning needs (eg more frequent cleaning, regular disinfecting of surfaces, handles, keyboards, bannisters, lift buttons, photocopiers, etc) and confirm whether your existing cleaning contractor can fulfil them.

Until a vaccine is available, the organisation will need to maintain a high level of hygiene. Government guidance says employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

6. Consider issues around work equipment

Plant and machinery will need to be inspected for deterioration, etc. If employees have taken IT equipment, office furniture or other assets home with them you will need a plan to get them back to the workplace, sanitised and checked. If the risk assessment identifies the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent COVID-19 infection, ensure you purchase appropriate PPE.

7. Devise a communications strategy

It is worth involving staff in the planning process and you should keep communications channels open with staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Once you have a plan, it needs to be communicated carefully to all employees on the understanding that it will likely need to be adjusted as you go. Aim to give employees reasonable notice of a return to the workplace so that they can arrange childcare, investigate commuting options, etc. Your employees must be confident that you are not putting them at risk by asking them to return to work, so let them know the measures you are taking to keep them safe.

For further information, please contact us.


Preparing to go back to work during Covid-19

Preparing your workplace for COVID-19 is a tricky matter. Because it is a new virus, more information is coming out nearly daily about the risks, contagion, and dangerous side effects. As lockdowns and quarantines are being lifted and people begin returning to work, preparing your workplace against COVID-19 is absolutely necessary.

Businesses need to say yes to the following three questions before bringing their workforce back into work.

  • Is it essential? If people can continue to work from home, they must continue to do that for the foreseeable future. If they cannot work from home, is their work deemed essential?
  • Is it safe? Employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to. This will involve social distancing measures, potentially reconfiguring workspaces and common areas, possible changes to working hours to reduce risk of exposure, and increased workplace cleaning and sanitation measures.
  • Is it mutually agreed? Research has been carried out which suggests that 4 in 10 people are anxious about returning to work and there are concerns people could be forced back. It is vital that there is a clear dialogue between employers and their people so concerns, such as commuting by public transport, can be raised and individual’s needs and worries taken into account.

The new normal

Before taking any actions it’s important to take a step back and determine what the new normal is for your particular workplace. In our world, one way that is done through producing a risk assessment. Before employees step back through the door it’s important to thoroughly assess the risks. This will help to uncover potential issues and determine how to work around them, ultimately helping to keep your employees safe and well, allow your operations to continue and keep your company compliant.

Read our detailed article on deep cleaning here.

Clean the Workplace

The most important aspect of preparing your workplace for COVID-19 is cleaning the building top to bottom on a daily basis. The WHO states, “Studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, less than 4 hours on copper and less than 24 hours on cardboard.” As even asymptomatic people can spread the virus, it is vital that surfaces are cleaned regularly. A basic, household disinfectant can kill the virus, so it’s a benefit to use one frequently.

Cleaning surfaces isn’t enough though. Hands must be washed frequently, and preferably with soap and warm water. Alcohol based hand sanitisers can be used, but soap and water are far more effective at killing germs. Once hands have been washed, be careful not to touch your face, as that can further spread COVID-19 germs. If you have to cough or sneeze, do it in your elbow or a tissue, and wash your hands right away.

Guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the Coronavirus pandemic.

These 8 guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe.

Further guidance and information is available from Walker Health and Safety Services.

If you require further information, please contact us, Walker Health and Safety Services.

We worked with a guest blogger on this post. “Holly from The Long Reach“. Thank you, Holly for your time.