Q: Why is it necessary to practice social distancing at work?
Social distancing at work is essential in reducing the spread of COVID-19 whilst businesses reopen, employees return to work and normal business operations begin. As this occurs, measures must be put in place for physical distancing to ensure the number of COVID-19 cases does not spike.
Q: Is it possible to enforce social distancing in the office?
It is possible to social distance whilst at work as long as a concise plan is in place and communicated to all employees prior to returning to work. Utilising compliance officers is a great way to ensure protocols and procedures put in place are monitored and enforced regulatory. By rearranging workspaces to ensure employees are working 1.5 meters apart will also ensure physical distancing is achieved.
Q: What should I consider when developing a return-to-work plan?
When preparing your safe return-to-work plan, you should consider a variety of factors. Some of these factors should include PPE equipment if relevant, providing cleaning and disinfecting products and protocols, crowd control planning, personal protective equipment (PPE), and rearranging workspaces to allow for 4-metre square workspaces per employee. If your office space does not lend itself to a 4-metre square workspace per employee, you may consider a hybrid approach, where employees are split into teams and work from the office on alternative days or weeks.
Q: What’s the best way to plan a safe return to work?
The best way to prepare your employees in returning to work is to first consider the pros and cons of continuing working from home versus undertaking the logistics of having everyone return to the office. With the uncertainty of the current situation, you may consider continuing to work from home if your company has the capabilities to do so. If you decide to have your staff return to the office, they must be consulted to see if they are comfortable with returning to work. To help prepare a safe return to work plan, you should conduct a risk assessment to identify factors that will impact employee’s safety and devise controls that will either eliminate or reduce these risks. It is important that your safe back to work plan is communicated to staff effectively to ensure a smooth and successful transition. Please note in some states, it is recommended that if you have the capability to continue to work from home than you should.
Q: How can a safe working environment be maintained?
You can maintain a safe working environment during the pandemic by encouraging staff who are feeling unwell to stay home and be tested. You can conduct a risk assessment to determine how employees could be exposed to the virus whilst at work or while commuting to work. You may need to provide alternative options on how your employees travel to reduce exposure. You can encourage staff to wear PPE if they feel comfortable doing so to avoid the spread of the infection through infectious bodily fluids found on surfaces or in the air from sneezing or coughing. It is also imperative that you educate your employees on safe working practices.
Q: Is it safe for my employees to commute to the office?
If feasible you should offer employees incentives to use individual forms of travel to work e.g. walking, riding, or driving. You could also provide employees to use PPE e.g. masks and gloves whilst travelling on public transport to and from work. You can also educate your employees on how to protect themselves when using public transport by sharing recommendations from your local public transport company. Finally, by staggering office hours, employees will be able to catch public transport at non-peak times, which reduces their chances of being infected and spreading the virus to the entire office.
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