What protective equipment do I need to enforce social distancing in the workplace?

By Fordhay

|News|May 2020

Share:

The government has recently announced that those who cannot work from home should return to work with caution. The focus is still firmly on maintaining social distancing at all times. While you make the return to your workplace as working from home isn’t possible, it’s vital for the health and safety of your employees and the public to abide by government advice.

Employers have a duty of care to put the equipment and regulations in place to ensure you prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is no small feat for business owners or office managers who have probably never experienced vigilance like this. The policies and procedures that must now be introduced include everything from cleaning and hygiene, entry and exit from site and personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the industry in which you operate and the nature of your business, it’s difficult to determine which protective equipment you need to introduce to your workplace.

Carry out a risk assessment

The first step before returning to work should be to carry out a risk assessment of your work environment. Firstly, establish how many employees are absolutely required to return to work and the number of safe access points available. If it’s not necessary for all workers to return, ensure they stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. If workers are permitted in the workplace, stagger entry and exit times to limit the number of people in the building at one time.

Identify the hazards in your workplace that could cause a build-up of individuals and are handled the most. For example, walkways, printers, kitchen appliances and bathrooms. These are the areas that will cause the highest risk of contracting or spreading the virus. Mark which hazards can be controlled by regulations and changes in policy. For example, limiting access to the kitchen to one person at a time who must clean the surfaces they’ve handled. Then mark which hazards will need physical protective equipment, such as where face-to-face contact or two-meter distancing cannot be followed. With these insights into the hazards and measures you have to take to protect your team and the public, you can begin sourcing equipment and enforcing procedures. 

Floor alterations and markings

One of the most simple but effective ways to enforce social distancing and hygiene rules in your workplace is to implement floor alterations and markings. These instructional cues remind workers to maintain the six-foot distance at all times, especially when their minds are on other things and standards can slip. Depending on the industry you’re in, the type of floor marking you need will be different.

One-way floor markings can help is to prevent workers from moving past each other in close proximity. With arrows on the floor dictating the circulation of footfall, you can ensure they maintain two meters’ distance when moving around the workplace. You can also provide points on which people can stand whilst they wait for others to move within a safe distance. This is particularly useful to maintain consistency throughout the work environment and avoid groups of people building up in small areas.

External hoardings or barriers

Temporary hoardings and barriers are a more robust way of enforcing distancing rules. This type of equipment is especially useful for outdoor sites near public places such as construction sites, manufacturing warehouses or retail stores. Installing barriers or temporary hoardings prevents access to areas that are at risk of gathering crowds. If you don’t need barriers to prevent access to your worksite itself, you could fit barriers to restrict access to your car park and surrounding areas to ensure no one can enter unknowingly.

However, you must ensure that if you’re installing temporary hoardings or barriers on public property, they are in line with your local council’s legislation. You can’t block access to public property without permission and a licence to ensure you’re compliant with regulatory requirements. If you’re erecting hoarding on private property, you don’t need council permission. It may be wise to inform surrounding stakeholders why the barriers are in place and create signage to ensure the public know which areas are out of bounds.

Signage

Signage is one of the most straightforward ways to ensure everyone remains on the same page in your workplace. It may seem patronising but instructional signage can give workers, visitors and the public reminders to follow the guidance in place. This could be on a basic level by implementing signs to aid with hygiene and cleaning procedures. For example, above the bathroom and kitchen sinks with instructions of how to wash your hands thoroughly. In areas where the build-up of people is likely, signs on walls and the floor will remind workers to keep two meters away from each other or avoid certain areas in general.

You could provide signs on access points to construction sites or warehouses where PPE is permitted to ensure everyone knows what they need to do to remain safe. In retail scenarios and other sectors where close proximity is necessary, signage can act as a reminder not to enter the premises if they have symptoms of the virus. If your workplace is closed to visitors, signs on windows will ensure they know how to contact you whilst you’re not on site. 

Internal Hoardfast systems

Hoardfast systems are similar to external hoardings or barriers but are most practical for internal use. They’re made of a PVC material that’s easy to clean and quick to set up. Hoardfast systems are a temporary solution that will provide a protective barrier when working on an internal site. The hoardings create smaller areas within larger buildings; for example, a warehouse, office block or retail centre. As they’re used indoors, they will gather more dust, debris and germs than external hoardings do. If using this equipment, it’s crucial your workers clean it regularly to prevent coughing and sneezing that leaves bacteria on surrounding surfaces.

Hoardfast systems can be used for pop-up support stations to create modular rooms within an internal space. Cleaning and testing stations can be created by installing Hoardfast barriers that distance workers from one another and the public. Signage can be attached to these systems to ensure full transparency of the activities happening inside the hoarding structure.

The protective equipment you need in your workplace is dependent on the sector you operate in and the number of individuals that are required to work in your organisation. A risk assessment is your first port of call and must be completed to understand the hazards and controls you must put in place. Floor markings and signage provide important reminders and instructions for individuals to follow at all times. External and internal hoarding will provide protective barriers in areas where exposure to other people is necessary to carry out your work. With the relevant protective equipment in place, your business can vigilantly look after the health and safety of your employees and the public.

If you would like to discuss implementing the protective equipment discussed in this post in your workplace, please contact Fordhay and we can find a solution for you.

How to find the perfect balance between the home and work office
How office design has gone back to basics because of COVID-19