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2020/21 has firmly rooted health and safety in our day-to-day lives and our cultural consciousness.

The latest HSE statistics reveal some interesting points that highlight the state of health and safety in the UK, between 2020 and 2021

2020/21 has firmly rooted health and safety in our day-to-day lives and our cultural consciousness. However, the latest statistics from the HSE prove we still have a long way to go. Simon Walter, Co-Director at Rhino Safety, shares his thoughts on what the focus should be in 2022.

 

  • Work-related ill-health cases increased from 1.6 million to 1.7 million
  • New cases of work-related ill health rose from 638,000 to 850,000, a 33% increase
  • The number of workers suffering from a new case of work-related stress, anxiety and depression rose by 30%, from 347,000 to 451,000
  • The major cause of new and long-standing cases of work-related ill-health is stress, depression and anxiety, which accounts for an astonishing 50% of cases
  • Musculoskeletal issues are next at 28%, while other types of illnesses account for 22%, Workers suffering from a new case of work-related musculoskeletal disorder rose by 6.5% from 152,000 to 162,000
  • Workers who sustained non-fatal injuries (self-reported) decreased by 36%. Non-fatal injuries reported by employers also fell by 22%
  • The major cause of non-fatal injuries across all industries is slips, trips and falls. In 2019/20 it accounted for 29% of incidents. In 2020/21 it rose to 33%
  • Fatal injuries at work rose from 111 in 2019/20 to 142 in 2020/21. The major cause of fatal injuries is falling from height, which is consistent with previous years
  • Over half of fatal injuries to workers in 2020/21 were in agriculture, forestry and fishing (34%) and construction sectors (39%)

Looking at these statistics, there’s a lot to reflect on. Among them are things we can do in 2022 to ensure that health and safety remain at the forefront of policy and strategy across a wide range of industries and sectors.

So – what are the key things we should focus on to move the dial on health and safety in 2022?

1. Keep health and safety in focus

2. Prioritise and incorporate mental health and wellbeing into health and safety practice/policies etc

3. Reduce the threat of musculoskeletal disorders across multiple industries

Are you confused with the updated Public Health Covid Guidance ?

Read what the latest Public Health guidance means for your business

The guidance appears therefore to be quite confusing. On the one hand COVID safety measures are no longer required for the majority of businesses, but on the other the guidance to self-isolate has been significantly widened. This leaves employers in a real bind as to what to do and leaves open the ongoing significant interruption to business that periods of self-isolation create. Employers will need to give thought to what, if any, other protective measures (such as screens and sanitiser) they wish to retain should they wish to insist on those suffering from a respiratory illness coming to work.

What to do if a member of staff has symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19

If a member of staff is unwell with symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, they should follow the guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection such as COVID-19.

Employers, in accordance with their legal obligations, may wish to consider how best to support and enable their workforce to follow this guidance as far as possible.

Management of members of staff who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19

Some workers are at a greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, for example people who have a weakened immune system.

There is specific guidance for people whose immune system means that they are at higher risk, because they have a reduced ability to fight infections, such as COVID-19. Employers may wish to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

It is unclear whether there will be any specific updates to the Living with COVID plan but pulling together the various strands we now know:

 

The guidance is to be updated monthly and we will have to see what impact the loss of free mass testing and the updated self-isolation requirements will have.

Working Safely through Covid-19 – Updated Advice & Guidance

Businesses and other organisations

Businesses and other organisations – Covid Update

Employers and businesses have taken significant steps over the pandemic to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 within their settings. The Government has lifted the majority of legal requirements on businesses, and continues to provide ‘Working Safely’ guidance setting out the steps that employers can take to reduce risk in their workplaces.

From 24 February, workers will not be legally obliged to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate. Employers and workers should follow Government guidance for those with COVID-19 which will be to still stay at home if you are unwell and to take a test

From 1 April, the Government will remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments. The intention is to empower businesses to take responsibility for implementing mitigations that are appropriate for their circumstances. Employers that specifically work with COVID-19, such as laboratories, must continue to undertake a risk assessment that considers COVID-19.

From 1 April, the Government will replace the existing set of ‘Working Safely’ guidance with new public health guidance. Employers should continue to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. The Government will consult with employers and businesses to ensure guidance continues to support them to manage the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces.

Employers should ensure that areas of the workplace that are poorly ventilated have airflow improved – research done shows good ventilation can reduce transmission of viruses by up to 70%.

FROM 1ST APRIL 2022

  • The Government will announce guidance that sets out the ongoing steps anyone with Covid-19 should take to minimise contact with others
  • The Government will no longer provide free LFT for the public in England
  • Tests will still be available to anyone who wishes to buy them privately through local chemists
  • Some free testing will still be applicable to social care employees and certain at-risk people, more details will follow closer to the time
  • The current requirement for some venues to require the Covid NHS pass will end
  • The H&S requirement for employers to have Covid-19 in their risk assessment will be removed
  • The existing ‘Working Safely Guidance’ will be replaced with new public health guidance

More guidance will be published in April for employers, on how to deal with employees who are at high risk of serious illness from Covid-19, even if they are vaccinated

Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

Points of frustration for HR during COVID-19

Points of frustration for HR during COVID-19

XpertHR Survey Results 2021

The response of the HR community to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been to put people first, while also supporting business continuity during exceptional circumstances. It is unsurprising then, that wellbeing tops the priority poll for the profession for the coming year, coupled with employee engagement.

HR professionals told us that they had to deal with many frustrations when trying to drive their response to the pandemic. These have centred on four areas:

  • Lack of clarity on the complex guidance issued by the Government, sometimes at short notice. HR had to interpret, implement and be the point of information for this within the organisation.
  • Increased workload as a result of having to juggle existing tasks on top of responding to COVID-19, with no appreciation of the extra work created and covered.
  • Concerns around the consequences of a lack of day-to-day interaction with colleagues and employees as a result of remote working or social distancing while in the workplace.
  • Tensions between HR and senior management teams around priorities. HR told us that leaders were, at times, lacking in concern around the impact of the pandemic on employees, which has led to more issues around engagement, wellbeing and productivity.

Looking forward for 2021 and beyond, the participants anticipated their focus being on:

– a continuing emphasis on employee wellbeing and dealing with Covid;

– addressing the future balance of flexible and hybrid home/office working, as more people returned to the office through the Autumn and early Winter; and

– with rapidly emerging and widespread, intensifying labour shortages, a greater emphasis on and investment in learning and development, so as to ‘grow more of our own’.

They also foresee a stronger future emphasis on diversity and inclusion policies, so as to better meet their staffing needs for growth and to address the growing emphasis on fairness emerging from the highly unequal health and economic experiences of the pandemic.

HR roles survey: Response to the coronavirus pandemic and priorities for 2021 | Survey analysis | Tools | XpertHR.co.uk

#hrforsme #covid19 #coronavirus #pandemic #healthandsafety #employeewellbeing #leadership #xperthr #employeeengagement

Plan B – Implications for Employers

The Prime Minister has announced that England will move to ‘Plan B’ in response to the rapid rise of cases of the Omicron variant.

Do office workers now need to work from home?

Anyone who can work from home is being advised to do so from Monday 13 December. The Cabinet Office guidance says that anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go into work .  This is guidance rather than law so nobody will be committing an offence by continuing to work from the office if they could have worked from home.

Note that the new guidance applies to England only – the position is different in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In Wales, for example, working from home is already encouraged.

Does this mean the office Christmas party must be cancelled?

In answer to a question at the press conference, the Prime Minister said that Christmas parties can go ahead. This is legally correct – there are no restrictions on social events.

Ireland recently brought in restrictions in a similar way – with working from home being introduced without restrictions on social events (although social events in Ireland are now also restricted).

Are there new rules for offices if they stay open?

The Working Safely guidance on how employers can reduce the risks in their workplace has not yet been updated and there is currently no new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive.

Which settings must use NHS Covid passes?

From Wednesday 15 December, subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS App will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and large venues – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees. In a concession to the affected industries, alternative proof (such as an email or text) of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted. The requirements are likely to be apply only to customers, rather than staff.

What are the planned new self-isolation requirements?

Under the current law, a close contact of someone with a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant is required to self-isolate regardless of vaccination status.

Working during COVID-19/Coronavirus 

Working during COVID-19 (written 7/7/20) 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have had to close or have experienced a decrease in productivity. To combat the Coronavirus, certain measures must be put into place for a business to operate safely and for employees to be protected whilst working.

Conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment

Employers should conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment.  This will highlight the risks from being exposed to COVID-19 and the control measures to be put into place to combat this. Update the risk assessment as control measures change and in line with any changes to government guidance. All employees should have seen a copy and understood the risk assessment.  They should then sign it to acknowledge that they have read/understood the risk assessment and have access to it.

Provide information to employees and contractors.

Inform employees of any changes that have been implemented to the control measures in place. If possible, consult with employees on proposed changes to get feedback on whether they will be beneficial and if they will work. Protect those who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and allow employees to work from home if their roles allow them to do so. Consider how employees may travel to and from work. When they should travel and what they must do upon entering and exiting the premises.

Preparing the working area

Employers should rearrange working areas by moving workstations, tables in canteen areas, working equipment etc. to promote social distancing. Mark out areas using floor markings or signage to help employees socially distance. If the workplace means employees cannot socially distance, the number of persons in the working area should be reduced.  Separate employees by using screens; alternatively persons could be assigned to work in specific areas.  Also consider the possibility of shift working. Where possible, stagger working times of employees including break times. Commonly used equipment and touch points should be cleaned more regularly. Provide additional handwashing facilities.  Open other areas for breaks such as unused rooms or external areas.

Good hygiene

Encourage employees to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer regularly.  This could be when entering new areas within the premises, starting new tasks and after using welfare facilities. Employers should provide additional handwashing areas. Inform employees about avoiding touching their faces and coughing/sneezing into their elbows or tissues.  Reinforce this with signage.

Information and guidance

Provide employees with information on any procedures that have been implemented to work safely. This information must be shared with them before they return to work. Once back at work it must be reinforced with reminders e.g. signage, updates etc. Don’t forget to share this information with all visitors, customers, and contractors.

PPE

Provide employees with PPE normally used, and any additional PPE that may be needed following the risk assessment. Face coverings are not considered to be PPE; however, employers should support any employees who may wish to wear them. It is not the law to wear face coverings in business premises and is the employee’s choice to do so.

Working from home

Any employee who can work from home must do so. The employer must support employees who are working from home by providing any necessary equipment. Regular contact should be made by having Teams/Zoom meetings, phone calls and emails. Employees working from home long-term should complete a DSE assessment to ensure that they are using a suitable workstation.  This will make sure that they are not at risk of related health problems such as upper limb disorders, fatigue, eye discomfort and back pain.

Protecting vulnerable workers

Shielded/clinically extremely vulnerable workers cannot return to the workplace before August 1st. Allow shielded employees to work from home wherever possible. After August 1st 2020 if employees cannot carry out their work at home, they will be allowed to return to the workplace.  This is providing that the COVID-19 risk assessment is regularly updated and the employer is doing everything reasonably practicable in order to protect the employee. Pregnant workers must strictly follow any social distancing measures. Pregnant workers who have been advised to shield by the NHS must work from home. They should be put on paid leave if adjustments to their work cannot be made.

Cleaning

Welfare facilities such as canteens and toilets should be cleaned more regularly, whilst ensuring that social distancing is enforced. Clean work areas and equipment between uses.  Regularly touched surfaces should be frequently cleaned with ordinary household cleaning products. If there is a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace a deep clean of the area must take place immediately.

Maintaining records

Employers must maintain records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace. A temporary record must be kept for 21 days of all persons in the workplace. Information should be collected in a way that is manageable. The NHS may request these records. Persons do not have to share their details if they do not want to nor do they have to share accurate information. When deleting these temporary records, do so in a way which complies with GDPR. The following information must be collected:

  • Staff
    • the names of staff who work at the premises
    • a contact phone number for each member of staff
    • the dates and times that staff are at work
  • Customers and visitors
    • the name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and the number of people in the group
    • a contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people
    • date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time
    • if a customer will interact with only one member of staff (e.g. a hairdresser, meeting etc.), the name of the assigned staff member should be recorded alongside the name of the customer
  • Specific guidance – employers must follow measures put forth in their industry-specific guidance published by the Government. Employers must update their COVID-19 risk assessment and any control measures upon amendment of these guidelines.

For further information on this, see: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/working-safely-guide.pdf and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/maintaining-records-of-staff-customers-and-visitors-to-support-nhs-test-and-trace

What should be included in a COVID-19 risk assessment?

  • The work activity or situations which may cause transmission of the virus.  This should include travelling to/from work, poor personal hygiene, high traffic areas such as canteens, corridors, entrances/exits etc.
  • Persons who could be at risk i.e. employees, visitors, contractors, customers, delivery drivers etc.
  • Determine how likely it is for someone to be exposed to COVID-19.  This could be done either as a number rating (1-5) or low/medium/high.
  • In the first instance attempt to eliminate the risk.  If this is not possible, control the risk through measures such as increased handwashing, social distancing, maximum occupancy in areas, one-way systems etc. For industry-specific control measures, consult the Government guidance that has been issued.

For further information on this, see: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/risk-assessment.pdf and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

What consultation needs to take place with employees regarding COVID-19?

Talk to your employees before they return to work.  This is to develop plans on making the workplace secure and to inform them of any measures to be implemented. Repeat these discussions if something changes.  For instance, amended guidelines are published; the plans are not working as expected and need to be altered; changes to tasks and work – this could be some equipment not being able to be used, staggering shifts etc. Also very importantly if an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Social distancing

If equipment is currently shared, this may need to be assigned to one person. If possible, additional equipment should be sourced or the employees reassigned.  Tasks may need to be redesigned for one person to do for instance by using mechanical aids.  Rooms may need to have a maximum occupancy.  Someone may need to be in place to enforce that employees are following these measures.

Organising the workplace

Workstations and tables in break areas may have to be moved to promote social distancing.  Screens may have to be installed to separate areas where people may interact.  One-way systems may also have to be implemented to maintain social distancing.  Hand sanitizer will have to be provided in multiple areas to promote hygiene measures.

Cleaning

Common areas such as door handles, handrails, work equipment and welfare areas should be regularly cleaned.  If possible after each use. If travelling to another business premises, ensure that you sanitise your hands before and after visiting.  Consider measures needed to handle incoming and outgoing goods.

Information

Ensure employees know everything they need to work safely.  Ensure any information is passed on in the best way e.g. emails, posters, inductions, conversations etc.  Consider ways to reinforce messages and how to check if employees have understood any messages given to them.  Ensure information is in place for anyone else who may visit your workplace.

Wellbeing and support

Ensure employees are prepared to return to work and feel safe to do so.  Keep in contact with employees, and if possible, allow employees to work remotely.

For further information on this, see: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/talking-with-your-workers.pdf