While previously we have relied on more subtle social cues from our peers and general good manners in promoting personal hygiene, the requirement for stricter hygiene protocols will be paramount in safe guarding the workforce against COVID-19. A key method to protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is by requiring workers and others to practice good hygiene and outlining this in a formalised workplace hygiene code of conduct.
COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A person can acquire the virus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
You may want to consider developing or enhancing protocols around the following:
Albeit a bit of an awkward one, it’s important to outlay clear requirements for personal conduct such as sanitisation, bathing and regular hand-washing. Reiterate government advice on washing your hands, not touching your face and covering coughs and sneezes. Let employees know it is in both their own interests, and the interests of their fellow colleagues to follow the recommended guidelines.
Businesses should plan and revise cleaning protocols, establishing more stringent rules around desk areas which are in high use, especially if you are operating a staggered work week amongst different teams of staff. Focus on surfaces that are touched and handled frequently and continuously by staff, clearly outlining how, when and by whom these are to be cleaned. You may want to consider getting sanitisation caddies for desks, and attaching instructions for cleaning to each workstation, ensuring you mention cleaning instructions for ancillary items such as desk pads and keyboards.
Let your staff know that health hazards can quickly establish themselves in poorly maintained and unhygienic environments and this is paramount in communal bathroom facilities. Current government advice on dealing with bathrooms includes offering advice on safe hand washing that instructs users that in order to be protected from the virus, people should use a paper towel to turn off the tap after washing their hands. Ensure you are clear about waste management and have appropriate waste facilities to keep washrooms safe
Communicate and enforce cleaning regimens to employees and define these in your code of conduct to ensure adherence. Identify which spaces are assigned to employees for them to clean upon exit and entry, and when areas will be cleaned by your support staff. We recommend combining this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from your designated occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings and distributing information via internal intra-net or emails to ensure everyone is informed.
Employers will need to carefully draft hygiene protocols and consider how to approach adherence to these standards. Look to government advice for guidance and ensure your rules are fair, taking into consideration different job role requirements. Ensure you have appropriate facilities and supplies to allow adherence to newly required protocols and brief supervisors accordingly.
This piece is part of our ongoing commitment to delivering resources that will help initiate discussions around getting your workplace back to work safely. More resources are available here.