Preparing for a Second Wave of COVID-19 Cases

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the UK, daily operations will continue to be disrupted for many organisations across the country. The coronavirus pandemic is still going on, despite many businesses having been able to reopen during the summer. On 22nd September, the UK announced a number of new restrictions related to the pandemic, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that they could last up to six months.

Of course, no one knows if the severity of the current rise in cases will be as severe as the first. As such, businesses across the country should start planning today so they’re properly prepared.

Review Government Guidance

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted regions in different ways. A second wave of cases may follow the same suit, affecting different regions at different times and in varying capacities.

Similar to the first wave of COVID-19 cases, governmental guidance will play a large role in how your organisation should respond to a second wave. This means that businesses in one region may be able to remain open, while businesses in other regions may need to close or adjust for a second time. As such, it’s critical to understand and continually review all relevant orders to determine if your business needs to take action in the face of a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Review Your Organisational Risks

Even if there aren’t recommendations to close your business or make changes to prevent the second spread of COVID-19 cases, that doesn’t mean your organisation is safe from the coronavirus. What’s more, some businesses may have greater exposures than others, underscoring the importance of performing a thorough risk assessment to determine how you should respond.

Similar to conducting a risk assessment for planning to reopen following the first wave of COVID-19 cases, your organisation should conduct a risk assessment in preparation for a re-emergence of COVID-19 cases. While the complexity of risk assessments will differ from business to business, they typically involve the following steps:

  1. Identifying the hazards—When it comes to planning for a second wave of the coronavirus, businesses need to think critically about their exposures, particularly if an infected person entered their facilities. When identifying hazards, it’s a good idea to perform a walk-through of the premises and consider high-risk areas. It’s also important to consider what tasks employees are performing and whether or not they are especially exposed to COVID-19 risks when performing their duties.

 

  1. Deciding who may be harmed by a second wave of cases and how—Once you’ve identified hazards to your business, you need to determine what populations of your workforce are exposed to COVID-19 risks. When performing this evaluation, you will need to make note of high-risk individuals (eg staff members who meet with customers or individuals with pre-existing medical conditions).

 

  1. Assessing risks—Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyse them to determine their potential consequences. For each risk facing your business, you’ll want to determine:
    • How likely is this particular risk to occur?
    • What are the ramifications should this risk occur?
    • When analysing your risks, consider potential financial losses, compliance requirements, employee safety, business disruptions, reputational harm and other consequences.

 

  1. Controlling risks—With a sense of what the threats to your business are, you can then consider ways to address them. There are a variety of methods businesses can use to manage their risks, including:
    • Risk avoidance—Risk avoidance is when a business eliminates certain hazards, activities and exposures from their operations altogether.
    • Risk control—Risk control involves preventive action.
    • Risk transfer—Risk transfer is when a business transfers its exposures to a third party. For preparing for a second wave of the coronavirus, control measures could include cleaning protocols, work-from-home orders and mandated personal protective equipment (PPE) usage.

 

  1. Monitoring the results—Risk management is an evolving, continuous process. Once you’ve implemented a risk management solution, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness and reassess. Remember, the COVID-19 pandemic so far has been rapidly evolving, and guidance can change quickly. Your business should be prepared to take action at short notice.

Maintain Workplace Safety

Maintaining workplace safety is crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19 at your organisation, and will continue to be crucial in protecting your organisation against a second wave of COVID-19 cases. There are a number of HSE workplace controls to consider if your risk assessment determines that COVID-19 poses a threat to your employees or customers. For instance, you should:

  • Implement administrative controls—Typically, administrative controls are changes in work policies or procedures that reduce or minimise an individual’s exposure to a hazard. An example of an administrative control for the coronavirus is establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time.
  • Utilise PPE—Businesses should focus on training workers on proper PPE best practices. Employees should understand how to properly put on, take off and care for PPE. Training material should be easy to understand and must be available in the appropriate language for all workers.
  • Consider engineering controls—Engineering controls protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard. For COVID-19, engineering controls can include:
    • Installing high-efficiency air filters
    • Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment
    • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards
  • Screen employees before they enter the building—To keep employees safe, consider conducting screening procedures to identify potentially ill employees before they enter the workplace. The Equality and Human Rights Commission permits employers to measure employees’ body temperatures before allowing them to enter the worksite. Any employee screening should be implemented on a non-discriminatory basis in accordance with The Equality Act 2010. Be sure to notify employees of this practice prior to implementation in order to avoid catching them off guard.
  • Be adaptable—You should be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations. This could involve identifying alternative suppliers, prioritising existing customers or suspending portions of your operations.
  • Create a dialogue with vendors and partners—Talk with business partners about your response plans. Share best practices with other businesses in your communities, and especially those in your supply chain.
  • Encourage social distancing—Social distancing is the practice of deliberately increasing the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. In terms of COVID-19, social distancing best practices for businesses can include:
  • Hosting meetings virtually when possible
  • Limiting the number of people on the job site to essential personnel only
  • Discouraging people from shaking hands
  • Encourage employees to stay home if possible—Statistically speaking, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to minimise person-to-person contact. As such, employers should consider these precautions:
    • Following the latest government guidance, which includes advising that all office employees who are capable of conducting their duties remotely do so
    • Highlighting benefits offerings that employees might not know about, including short-term disability
    • Expanding leave policies
  • Manage the different risk levels of their employees—It’s important to be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
  • Separate sick employees—Employees who appear to have symptoms (eg fever, cough or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers and visitors, and sent home. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19. The employer should instruct fellow employees on how to proceed based on HSE guidance.
  • Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene—Businesses should encourage good hygiene to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This can involve:
    • Providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles
    • Providing soap and water in the workplace
    • Placing hand sanitisers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection—Businesses should regularly sanitise their facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some best practices include:
    • Cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
    • Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
    • Providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.

Be sure to consider the needs of your business and implement strategies that are specific to controlling and promoting workplace safety at your organisation.

Communicate With Employees

It’s not possible for you to control the pandemic, but it is possible for you to help ease the stress your employees may be experiencing. In these uncertain times, it’s imperative that you clearly communicate your business’ plans as frequently as possible. Here are some tips for effective employee communications:

  • Be open with employees about management decisions and ask for suggestions to rectify problems.
  • Provide as much information as possible about the pandemic.
  • Communicate the future of the business with employees often—in meetings, on the company website, in newsletters and in blogs.
  • Be empathetic in your communications, as every employee’s situation may be different.

Additionally, try to give as much notice as possible if your organisation plans to make significant workplace changes, including shutting down operations or requiring employees to work from home.

Prepare Now to Stay Safe Later

Due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, rules and regulations are constantly changing. You should be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations.

 

 

The content of this blog is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of all matters relevant to its subject matter. The content should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. Further, the law may have changed since first publication and the reader is cautioned accordingly. Content by Zywave, Inc. provided by TH March.

Read our other posts

Knowing Which Type of Cloud Models Are the Right Fit for Your Organisation

Knowing Which Type of Cloud Models Are the Right Fit for Your Organisation

While many organisations have become aware of how cloud services can allow their workplaces to operate smoothly, there are still many aspects of these services that may not be fully understood. One of the most important steps to utilising cloud services optimally is understanding what type of cloud service model is the right fit for […]

Preparations for Traders After Brexit Transition Period

Preparations for Traders After Brexit Transition Period

The UK’s final weeks before the completion of Brexit are on the horizon. Although Britain exited the EU earlier this year, some aspects of its relationship with the EU have remained during a transition period that is set to expire 31st December. When this transition period ends, it is important that all traders are prepared […]

Potential Ramifications of a No-deal Brexit

Potential Ramifications of a No-deal Brexit

As the UK approaches the end of its Brexit transition period, a familiar topic is coming back up for discussion. Despite technically leaving the EU earlier this year, the UK has continued to adhere to EU rules and regulations throughout the remainder of 2020. This transition period was intended to provide time for the UK […]

Business Briefing: The UK Global Tariff

Business Briefing: The UK Global Tariff

As the UK’s Brexit transition period nears its end on 31st December 2020, it’s important for employers to understand how trade agreements are set to change. Although the UK exited the EU earlier this year, the transition period was intended to provide time for a new trade deal to be reached. This deal would help […]

Understanding Cyber-security Within Different Cloud Services

Understanding Cyber-security Within Different Cloud Services

The importance of cloud services continues to be amplified as the world becomes more reliant upon technology. In addition to the general advancements that have been taking place in UK workplaces, remote work has also become more common. As such, the ability for various workers to be able to access shared data from many different […]