Following Government confirmation that England will move to the final stage of relaxing COVID-19 lockdown restrictions on 19 July, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has urged caution around people returning to workplaces.
Duncan Spencer, IOSH’s Head of Advice and Practice, said:
“While the Government has removed the requirement to work from home where possible in England, COVID-19 still poses a significant threat, so we urge businesses to ensure they continue to do all they can to protect staff from contracting it.
“To do this, we recommend they are guided by health and safety professionals. These professionals work throughout all sectors and for businesses of all sizes and types and play key roles in protecting lives and managing health, safety and wellbeing risks along with ensuring business continuity and sustainability.
“Risk assessments are the starting point for this, as they can help to identify proportionate controls to protect workers, clients, consumers and communities. With COVID risks, this might include a reasonable request for people to continue wearing face masks and observe social distancing measures. Employers might wish to emulate other socially conscious organisations by asking workers to test themselves regularly, including supplying them with lateral flow test kits.
“It is crucial that any preventative measures are communicated clearly, thereby empowering people to work safely while this disease remains a significant threat.
“In addition to preventing COVID transmission, employers also need to consider the impact of returning to work on people’s mental health and wellbeing, with the possibility that staff may be deeply concerned about returning. We advocate that open and non-stigmatised conversations are proactively arranged by line managers as part of a strong overall mental health and wellbeing strategy.
“Organisations need to be safe from COVID and safe from the mental health consequences of this pandemic and the impact it has on people’s lives.”