We’re now living and working alongside the Covid-19 virus as it spreads, subsides and then ‘spikes’ again in unexpected ways among populations, communities and workforces.
This virus exploits weaknesses in controls and safeguards, as well as those in human behaviours – both socially and at work.
The pandemic is at various stages of development in territories around the world. In many places, where infection rates and the reproduction rate – or ‘R-number’ – has declined, a resurgence of Covid-19 cases can occur, often in a variant form.
Affected cities and regions have extended or introduced restrictions on travel, movement, sizes of social gathering and what venues and businesses may operate. These are known in some places as ‘local lockdowns’ and, as with enhanced quarantine measures for international travel, they can be imposed suddenly, taking on various forms.
These restrictions are relaxed when risks subside, but they can be imposed again without much warning when case numbers begin to rise once more.
It is therefore essential to remain vigilant, agile and disciplined in how you plan for and implement your own workplace controls.
Safe people, workplaces, equipment and systems
Responsible organisations are ensuring their people stay safe and healthy, whether they’re working from home or are now back and operating in work buildings. IOSH’s Returning Safely guidance has already established main areas of focus for businesses and other organisations to help them adapt ‘post-lockdown’.
We recommend a systematic plan–do–check–act approach. Employers need to deploy a planned, risk-controlled approach – based on strong leadership, worker involvement, national policy and sound health and safety advice – to ensure safe people, workplace, systems and equipment.
These fundamentals help employers ensure they can continue to operate well while navigating our very different, less predictable world of work. They range from making sure necessary restrictions are in place, work well and are enforced, to looking after the communication needs and mental wellbeing of all workers.
In principle, there should be no change in relation to risk assessments and control measures. Our four Returning Safely areas are safe people, safe workplaces, safe equipment and safe systems, and can be consulted alongside sections on Legal obligations and Risk assessments.
- Safe people
- Safe workplaces
- Safe equipment
- Safe systems
Further information to consider
Throughout this pandemic, your planning and risk assessments should include ‘horizon scanning’ to anticipate factors that may affect how your situation may change.
We recommend you review IOSH’s Returning Safely Post Covid-19 policy position, which sets out priorities and approaches.
As scientists better understand the virus and how it is likely to manifest itself over the coming months, information will continue to develop. Credible sources of authoritative information can be found here.
Managing your work safely through local lockdown and The law in lockdown – workplace rights and obligations have been the subjects of IOSH Covid-19 webinars. You can access the recordings by following the relevant links. Panellists from different sectors, including construction and consultancy, as well as a regional business network whose area includes places affected by local lockdowns, shared their experiences and assessments.
Further information on all these topics can be found by visiting the Returning Safely section of the IOSH website. This includes four free e-learning modules to help support employees and managers with safety and health risks during Covid-19. They span: Returning safely after Covid-19 lockdown, Managing temporary workers, PPE and RPE awareness and Returning Safely - your workplace.
The IOSH health and safety helpline also puts you in touch with a friendly team of experts who can answer your queries.
We’re keen to hear what works for you. How are you adapting to changing situations affecting your organisation and dynamically risk-assessing, planning and implementing good systems and processes?
Please email us to let us know.