It wasn’t that long ago that questions of office safety centred on ensuring that the procedures to be followed in the event of a fire were understood by employees, trip hazards were identified and the correct approach for lifting and handling was followed.
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented employers and employees with a new set of challenges when it comes to working safely. Managing an office workforce now means managing virus risk.
Know your enemy
Unlike other health and safety issues, viruses represent a more difficult and insidious challenge. Asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19 may not even suspect they have the virus. They are still able to pass the virus on and anyone who contracts it from them may not be quite so lucky. It’s the range of possible outcomes that infection can bring that makes Covid-19 such a dangerous virus.
According to current understanding, Covid-19 is spread through respiratory droplets and surface contact. This means that when a carrier coughs, sneezes or even talks they will emit the virus. It can hang in the air and settle on surfaces. If someone passes through these invisible droplets, they are at risk of contracting the virus.
This is why social distancing is so important. People moving around an office will be at increased risk of encountering the virus and it is a risk that must be addressed.
The easiest way to reduce this risk is to create an office one-way system that ensures social distancing can be maintained. It should take people away from where other staff members are working as directly as possible, then allow them to move around the building at a distance from others.
It’s recommended that employees are asked to walk clockwise around the building as this is easy to remember.
The ability to do this will depend on the size and layout of the building. If there are pinch points these will need to be managed. There should be clear guidelines on how these should be managed with attention being paid to how it is working out in practice.
Like roads, Covid-19 safe offices will have good signage that makes it clear exactly how employees need to travel. This may seem like overkill but when someone is used to moving around the building in a particular way, signs help them to remember that they need to be more mindful. We rapidly develop an autopilot when we’re in familiar surroundings. The advantage of this ability is that people can soon adjust to any new system, but initially, there may be a few teething problems.
Clearly visible signage with easy to follow instructions can help make this adjustment easier. It’s important to commission long-lasting, professionally made signage rather than improvise with materials at hand. The Covid-19 crisis is unlikely to be over in the short to medium term and any signage should be seen as an investment.
Good business sense
Covid-19 cases in the workplace mean large numbers of employees are forced to self-isolate, which in some instances will result in temporary shutdowns of the entire office. A one-way system may not seem like a particularly important component of your strategy to reduce the transmission of Covid-19, but in reality, it’s vital. Along with spacing, social distancing, ventilation and good office hygiene, it helps to significantly lower the chances of the virus being transmitted.
For more advice about making your office as safe as it can be in the current climate, speak to the expert team at Flow Office today.