With the trials and tribulations of the last three months, how do we move on from here, learning from what’s happened and drawing on this to continue to look after our teams, customers and our businesses?
Here I share a few examples of good practice and pitfalls I am seeing with organisations I work with and some tips for the coming months.
How have we benefited from this pandemic?
With over 40,000 deaths from COVID in the UK, it’s pretty grim to try and pull out any benefits from the situation. However, some of the aspects I have seen coming out of this include:
- More discussion and action on mental health and wellbeing.
- The importance of health and safety for all and a shift away from the media incessant rambling about ‘health and safety gone mad’.
- Flexible working and reducing wasteful travel time. This has it’s downsides though with lack of space between online meetings meaning less thinking time.
- More exercise – using what was commuting time for exercise. You can’t help but think where did all these cyclists and joggers appear from? What were they doing before?
Good practice – let’s not completely step backwards
Are you already tiring of people talking about ‘getting back to normal’?
I’m not sure I want to feel I am working at top speed all the time with little thinking time and the constant focus on growth for growth’s sake.
So, what can we take forward and what examples of good practice have I seen over the last three months.
- Unnecessary travel. I am looking forward to spending a few days away now and again with work, but let’s question it a bit more. Our recent external ISO9001 audit was completed online and in half the time. We can examine working practices for a better use of technology. We’ve seen clients using wearable technology such as head cams to assist with site audits and reduce travel time and operational disruption.
- Learning a bit more about our colleagues. With the increased use of online meetings, we have spoken more about homelife, feeling that we are more relaxed about disruptions at home and the increased efficiency of not always being in an office. This isn’t to say the office is dead. It certainly isn’t. Work just needs to be more flexible with meeting hubs and social interaction.
- Teamwork. I have certainly seen much more ‘pulling together’ in difficult times, in client businesses and with their colleagues. This has included some exemplary examples of leadership and being proactive. Many of our clients were already risk assessing how they might get through this pandemic and putting guidelines in place before the government even mentioned it.
Avoiding common pitfalls
As soon as the announcement came out yesterday for relaxing the 2 metre rule and bars and restaurants starting to open, my 23 years of experience as a health and safety practitioner kicked in. Familiarity breeds contempt. I have heard so many times in the past, talking about auditing health and safety or communications around it, ‘we’re too busy at the moment’. This is exactly when you need to focus on it even more!
COVID19 is a single element, albeit one of the most challenging, in risk assessing the hazards that can impact your business. Essential aspects to consider are:
Get good advice! Well, I would say this, wouldn’t I! If you don’t employ a health and safety advisor, connect with one now and make the best use of their valuable experience. The earlier the better. Don’t wait for an accident, bad publicity, a fire, regulatory action or complaints from employees. This takes the pressure off you and will enable you to focus on the day to day operation of your business.
Back to basics. What health, safety, property and fire risk management controls did you have in place before this pandemic started? Are they all still in place? Do you need to review your fire arrangements because you have altered the layout and office/operational spaces? Has training lapsed for first aid, fire marshals and other key roles? An audit with your health and safety advisor will help to pinpoint and address these key risk controls.
Check, audit and review. Keeping good records (backed up of course!) of how you monitor your arrangements for health and safety is critical. It is also a legal requirement. Things are changing on a weekly, if not daily basis. Therefore, you should ensure that you check government guidance frequently and if your risk assessment and practical controls are still current. Keeping your colleagues and teams informed about changes and also asking for their feedback and input.
For more information and resources please visit https://www.vitasafety.com/news/new-video-how-to-safely-bring-your-team-back-to-work/ or contact Ian directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Ian Hutchings – Managing Director of Vita Safety Limited (Health and Safety Consultancy)