5 Easy Ways to Protect Employees Returning to Work This Winter

September 28, 2020
Caroline Preece

Winter is coming or, rather, it’s looming in the distance and full of unknowns. With changing regulations regarding advice on returning to work and the new dangers that employers must navigate when it comes to health and safety, it’s easy to view winter as a problem waiting to arrive rather than an opportunity for growth. But there are many practical steps that companies can take to shift this mindset into a more positive (and productive) one.

While the realities of tackling the coronavirus pandemic as 2020 continues are certainly daunting for absolutely everyone - especially businesses trying to balance staying afloat and being in-line with official guidance - it’s also a great time to review your existing policies for protecting staff and, in turn, potentially breeding greater employee satisfaction.

So how can you get started on that plan? Some companies will already have excellent health and safety regulations and lone worker solutions in place, of course, but the constantly shifting nature of the ways in which we are required to work in 2020 means that we must all remain vigilant about how our existing policies reflect the current realities of either working alone or as part of a larger team.

This article is designed to shed greater light on a few of the best ways organisations can make returning to work this winter seamless and safe for everyone involved.

Build a Simple Lone Working Policy

As we look at returning to work in the midst of a pandemic, likely more employees than ever are now working alone. That means an inevitable uptick in lone workers for a huge number of companies across a wider variety of industries than ever before, and effectively protecting a remote workforce differs greatly from doing the same for employees who work together for most of their shift.

Lone workers are classified as anyone who operates without direct contact with co-workers and supervisors for any part of the day, making them more vulnerable to some workplace hazards than others. For example, a security guard who is dealing with the public, or a construction worker who must be kept safe from environmental risks such as falling or working with heavy machinery.

A lone worker policy should include clear instructions for employees to follow, such as where they need to use PPE like hardhats, masks or a lone worker alarm, and should be informed by the information revealed in your risk assessment.

The best way to tackle writing a great lone working policy is covered in our guide, helping you to determine things like what the policy needs to cover, how often it needs to be updated, and how to format it for the best results.

protector by vatix mobile workforce management

Mobile Workforce Management

A good mobile workforce management system can mean the difference between being blind to your lone workers’ status and the health and safety implications that come with that, and being able to track your workforce and the effectiveness of the measures you’ve introduced. 

Protector™ by Vatix, for example, uses this principle to create a streamlined, easy-to-use platform that helps managers and health and safety executives to keep track of all sorts of things including the location and status of lone workers, incident logs and history, custom user profiles and the personal safety devices that are out in the field at any one time.

Not only can this be an invaluable part of your health and safety efforts, but it can also help your entire operation stay more organised and promote greater synergy between managers and lone workers who are out in the field everyday. 

Complete a Workplace Hygiene Checklist

Once you’ve completed your risk assessment and used it to create a robust and thorough lone working policy for those returning to work, then the next step is to look at some more specific things you can do to improve hygiene and limit the risk of transmission across your workplace. That could be for lone workers themselves, who should be offered their own checklist or list of requirements for their day-to-day duties, or at head office, where you and your colleagues can work together to keep each other safe.

The HSE recommends that as part of a COVID-19 risk assessment, employers should:

  • Identify risk areas for transmission such as door handles, toilet facilities and shared equipment.
  • Determine who could be impacted e.g. workers, contractors, customers
  • Decide whether some potentially hazardous activities where social distancing is difficult need to take place at all.
  • Stagger shifts where appropriate.
  • Enforce social distancing as far as it is possible, and provide PPE for situations where it is not.
  • Introduce one-way systems in common areas,
  • Arrange deep cleaning of relevant areas and schedule additional cleaning throughout the day.

This list, while a good place to begin, is not exhaustive. For example, those trying to protect staff in a retail context will have different concerns than someone managing a fleet of drivers. The best approach is to only apply what is relevant to your business, at the same time as identifying where official advice may not cover all of the requirements of your industry (a risk assessment will help with this).

Talk to Your Employees

While a huge amount can be achieved by completing the necessary steps to meet health and safety regulations, it can also be invaluable to meet with teams and individual staff members to talk through any issues they may be having. Whether it’s stress and mental health struggles or practical things that could be done better on-site, simply opening a conversation with your workforce can unlock brilliant ideas that may not have previously occurred to you.

Returning to work may cause undue distress for certain employees who are concerned about what safety measures have been implemented in their absence, especially if they are more at-risk from coronavirus or have been furloughed for an extended period of time. This is why publicising the work you’ve put in to make things safer is so important. Make everyone aware with posters put up around your workplace or, for remote workers, pamphlets that explain the new normal. 

sentinel bold lone worker device

Lone Worker Alarms

Finally, lone worker alarms can be your best friend if working with employees who are so often performing their roles out of sight. Small and comfortable to wear for an entire shift, these personal safety devices can hook onto a belt, be attached to a vehicle windshield or worn on a lanyard and allow the user to hit a SOS button on the front of the alarm should an safety incident occur.

Not only this, but many of the alarms also have a Man Down feature to detect when a fall has taken place, and they’re a fantastic way to track the location of lone workers in combination with your workforce management system. With devices from Vatix, you can use them with a lone working app, a dedicated lone worker alarm, or a mixture of both - whatever is best for your organisation and the work you need to do.

Organising a return to work for your business this winter doesn’t have to be an ordeal, and there are many services and tools available to help you get there faster and more efficiently.

To find out more about how Vatix can help, for advice on how to effectively bring back employees, or are interested in our services, click here or call us on 020 3991 5555.

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