7 January Using several approaches to minimise the risks from COVID-19 At the start of this New Year, it is a sad fact that COVID-19 is still with us, and we are now in the shadow of the omicron variant wave of infections. As an employer, you should consider multiple layers of protection for your workers rather than relying on a single strategy. The concept is to provide protection through several barriers (see below), so that if one barrier is compromised another will provide protection to the worker. Typical barriers (layers of protection) to be considered/used for control of COVID Minimising contact between people Working from home or hybrid working as appropriate. Social distancing (encouraging people to keep their distance from each other in the workplace – such as the two-metre separation). Avoiding/Reducing the need for face-to-face meetings unless necessary (consider the use of video calls or phone calls). Discouraging unnecessary visitors to the premises and controlling contractors carefully. Considering staggered start times to reduce the potential of close contact when arriving/leaving working. Staggering worktimes for breaks can also help to reduce contact. Avoiding inhalation of the virus in the workplace Ensuring that the premises have good standards of ventilation, with regular air chances (not just recirculated air). This may include opening windows within the workplace. Appropriate use of CO2 monitors to demonstrate that the ventilation is sufficient. Encouraging the use of face coverings when moving about within the premises. Avoiding the need for face-to-face working (such as by providing screens or changing patterns to allow side-by-side working). Clean Premises Ensuring that the premises are cleaned regularly (discuss the cleaning regime with the cleaners) and ensure that touchpoints (such as door handles) are cleaned regularly. Encouraging people to clean any of the common areas that they have used (meeting room tables, dining areas, etc.). Premises Maintenance Ensure that the ventilation and the heating system are maintained to ensure good performance and help with worker protection. Dress Code Considering relaxing the dress code to allow workers to wear layers of clothing to tolerate cooler, more ventilated conditions. Personal Hygiene Reminding workers about the advantages of good personal hygiene and handwashing practices. Providing sanitising materials to supplement the handwashing regime (not to replace it). Public Health Initiatives Encouraging workers to attain and maintain their COVID vaccination status. Reminding workers not to come into work if they feel ill or are displaying COVID symptoms. Enforce the rules and requirements for self-isolation for those with COVID. Encouraging all those who may need to attend the premises to undertake a Lateral Flow Test (with a negative result) before coming to site. Risk Assessment Keep your COVID-19 Risk Assessment up to date, and monitor the changes that may be required to meet changes in the workplace or changes in government guidance or rules. Communications Delivering toolbox talks or updating site induction training to reflect the enhanced risks from COVID. Preparation for staff absences Making sure that you have contingency plans for dealing with unexpected staff absences (such as first aiders, fire wardens, but also managers supervisors, and workers, etc.) Mental Health Establishing suitable and simple ways of staying in touch with people who are working from home and maybe feeling isolated. Considering the provision of Mental Health First Aiders and/or Mental Health Champions People who are working from home may feel isolated.