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Returning To Work In A COVID-19 Environment

Woman hands using hand alcohol gel or sanitizer bottle dispenser, against corona virus Covid-19. Antiseptic, hygiene and health concept. Prevention of the pandemic virus outbreak

As employees go back to the office, clear guidance on returning to work in a COVID-19 environment is of paramount importance. Here at ASM, we’re experts in creating safe and healthy workplaces. We’ve put together this guide on what you should expect on your return to work.

Planning Your Return To Work In A COVID-19 Environment

There are several systems employers should have in place before asking their employees to return to the workplace. These include:

  • Appointing a lead worker representative, who will ensure that health and safety guidance is followed
  • Updating business and safety plans, including the workplace risk assessments, the safety statement, the occupational health assessment, and the COVID-19 Business Response Plan. Businesses should have a plan in place for how to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19, and a manager responsible for implementing it.
  • Employees should receive a Pre-Return to Work form. This will ask employees if they have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 during the previous 14 days; if they are self-isolating; and if they have been in contact with anyone who has confirmed or suspected COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
  • Employees should expect to receive COVID-19 safety induction training on their return.


The Commute

Travelling to and from work can become quite a challenge from a health and safety perspective. Consider:

  • Can you travel in your own vehicle? Travel alone where possible. If car sharing is necessary, your passenger must follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Your employer should provide you with cleaning equipment and hand sanitisers to be used in work vehicles.
  • If you need to use public transport, try and minimise your journeys. Face coverings must be worn while onboard.


At Work

Reducing the spread of COVID-19 requires a team effort. Employers and employees must work together to try and ensure the safety of the whole workplace.

Duties of employers:

  • Provide good hygiene facilities, plus information on hand washing techniques, and good ventilation. Supply tissues plus bins for their safe disposal. Regularly empty these bins and provide advice on good respiratory practice.
  • Two metre physical distancing must be implemented wherever possible. This applies to all aspects of time at work. Breaks should be staggered, and access to communal areas such as kitchens and bathrooms should be restricted to a minimal number of users at a time. Thought should also be put into smaller actions that could have big impacts – for instance, a no handshake policy; no touching of other people’s belongings; no sharing of pens or utensils. One way systems could be implemented in narrow corridors. Each workplace will need its own specific adaptations in order to create the safest environment.
  • Where two metre physical distancing is not possible, employers should install physical barriers between workspaces or prepare specific risk assessments for activities less than 2m. do not go less than 1m. If there is an identified COVID-19 risk, Personal Protective Equipment must be provided in line with public health guidelines.
  • Close Contact Work and Group work should be recorded as part of contact tracing.
  • Hand sanitisers should be provided, and the workplace should be thoroughly and regularly cleaned. This includes disinfecting all surfaces with frequent contact, with especial focus on areas of communal touch such as door handles.
  • Employers must have a dedicated isolation area for any employee who develops COVID-19 symptoms. The sick employee must be directed to this isolation area whilst maintaining distancing, and the employer must then arrange for the employee to be transported to a medical facility or to their home, without using public transport. A full risk assessment must be completed.

Duties of employees:

  • Each employee must follow the health and safety guidelines, plus any specific rules their employer has made for their workplace.
  • Maintain good hygiene practices, such as physical distancing and frequent, thorough hand washing.
  • Do not go to work if they suspect any symptoms of COVID-19
  • Talk to their employer about any concerns they may have, for instance if another member of their household needs to isolate, meaning they do too.

Returning to work in a COVID-19 environment is a challenge for both employers and employees. Experts like ASM can smooth the journey. If you need assistance in reviewing your workplace and ensuring that your current plans are compliant with requirements, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can contact ASM on 01 234 3724 / 021 2409072 or info@asmgroup.ie.