Businesses urged to maintain Covid-secure measures as staff return to offices

6 Sep 2021 By Francis Churchill

As many schools in England return today after the summer holidays, employers have been told not to ‘let their guard down’ around workplace safety

The professional body for health and safety professionals has urged businesses not to relax their enforcement of Covid guidelines as society starts to further return to normality.

While many employers have already started welcoming staff back to the workplace, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has warned that the broader relaxation of coronavirus restrictions means it's important that firms “not let their guard down” when trying to prevent the spread of the virus.

In particular, IOSH cautioned that returning to school today for many pupils in England could lead to a wider spike in infections, citing reports suggesting that the same happened when children returned to schools in Scotland last week.

Ruth Wilkinson, head of health and safety at IOSH, reminded firms that the virus had not gone away. “Thousands [of people are] being infected daily in the UK alone and many of these cases [lead] to people becoming seriously ill,” she said. 

“Since lockdown restrictions were eased, many businesses have continued to operate or have reopened and gradually returned to their workplaces or to work activities successfully, with measures in place to prevent and reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

“But now is not a time to be complacent so we are urging businesses to not let their guard down, as Covid-19 remains a hazard within the workplace,” said Ruth.

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IOSH added that now would be a good time for businesses to review the effectiveness of the measures they currently have in place, stressing that putting in place a Covid risk assessment was an important starting point.

“[A risk assessment] can help to identify the risks of transmission, persons at higher risk, and importantly the proportionate controls to protect workers, clients, consumers and communities,” said Ruth.

Separately, a poll of 2,000 UK employees conducted by recruitment agency Michael Page has suggested many employees are positive about the prospect of returning to the workplace.

A quarter (26 per cent) of those polled said they were happy to return to the workplace, while a similar percentage (22 per cent) said they were excited.

The poll also found that while a third of respondents (33 per cent) said they had missed their workplace friendships during lockdown, more than two fifths (43 per cent) now feel closer to their colleagues than before the pandemic, and 47 per cent say they are more empathetic.

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