The COVID checklist: The top three ways businesses can master workplace safety during the ‘new normal’

Dan Joyce, General Manager EMEA of SafetyCulture, explains why workplace safety is now firmly on the agenda for businesses no matter what sector they are operating in.

The COVID checklist: The top three ways businesses can master workplace safety during the ‘new normal’

The COVID checklist: The top three waysbusinesses can master workplace safety during the ‘new normal’

Dan Joyce, GeneralManager EMEA of SafetyCulture, explains why workplace safety is nowfirmly on the agenda for businesses ‘ no matter what sector they are operatingin.

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed our perception of what a hazardous job is. Now, every workplace is somewhere people could spread COVID-19, and every industry is high-risk.

Typical office practices like hotdesking and crowded meeting rooms are no longer viable, and most businesses returning to the office are having to do so with significantly reduced staff on site to enable social distancing.

Pubs and bars will have to ensure that customers adhere to the new 1m rule and move to table service with cashless payments, rather than taking orders at the bar. Retailers will likewise have to restrict the number of customers in their shops and have been forced to rethink their supply chain: reconfiguring layouts and measures in distribution centres and introducing ‘no contact’ deliveries to reduce risk of transmission.

Safety needs to be fully integrated into everyday practices and, in this area, businesses can learn a lot from industries like mining and construction, that have traditionally been considered more dangerous. These industries rely on rigorous safety procedures and now similar measures need to be adopted by all businesses to survive.

This new world and the increased health and safety responsibility for businesses demands a shift in how workplace safety is managed. Previously the responsibility of operational teams, it should now be top of the agenda for all business leaders.

It can be a bit of a minefield for businesses to navigate, which makes practical support critical. We launched the Safely Back to Business campaign to help business by providing a simple checklist and inspection app that anyone can use.

Here are our top three pieces of advice for organisations looking to make workplace safety their edge:

  1. Keep your business in business with the right technology

For many companies, safety and compliance checks in the past would be undertaken monthly, quarterly ‘ or in some cases ‘ only annually. In an environment with COVID-19, this is no longer enough. Health risks need to be identified and resolved quickly to protect employees and customers and to do this, checks need to be happening daily, if not multiple times a day. There is no doubt that the traditional approach to compliance has changed.

Employees also need to be empowered to take an active role in safety. Having the right tools that enable employees to be the eyes and ears of the organisation is key. Businesses should look to equip their workforce with simple, user-friendly and intuitive tools that allow them to identify breaches in safety and educate them on the correct response, whether that is fixing the problem or escalating it to senior staff ‘ leading to swift resolution of the issue.

We have developed an app that makes carrying out risk assessments and managing issues easy ‘ with simple checklists that any team member can use with no other equipment than a mobile device. The app ‘ iAuditor ‘ integrates government guidelines and industry standards on COVID-19, so teams can be confident they are complying with the latest regulations and advice.

iAuditor makes risk assessment and management much more efficient than traditional methods. It supported construction company William Hare to ensure that they could manage their operations safely during the pandemic without having to shut down site operations due to COVID-19.

To support pubs to re-open in line with government guidelines, we recently worked with the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) to digitise a list of protocols. The app is now the primary tool recommended by the BBPA for pubs to earn the new Visit Britain ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard.

The right technology can not only revolutionise the way businesses meet and maintain safety standards, but also contribute to business continuity.

  1. Shift your mindset about safety

It’s now time to stop thinking of workplace safety as an internal concern. In post-lockdown times, safety has become a customer facing value proposition.

For the retail and hospitality industry, safety has never been more important. Customers want to be assured that their safety is a top priority, and that when they enter a store or restaurant the safety measures in place meet ‘ or exceed ‘ government guidelines and requirements.

SA Brains ‘ the largest brewer and hospitality company in Wales ‘ has been ahead of the game with this, planning a series of stringent safety measures for its premises, including customer temperature checking, even before the government released its official guidelines for pubs and bars in England. Popular shoe chain Foot Asylum was likewise on the front foot, planning for re-opening early and rigorously; as a result, the company was fully ready to re-open its Trafford Centre store two weeks ahead of time.

Being transparent with customers on safety measures is key to building trust and consumer confidence. It is this trust and confidence that will bring customers back into stores and restaurants and help get the economy going.

But this isn’t just something that the service and retail industries should be thinking about. The safety of employees will also be crucial to maintaining brand loyalty for those businesses without a customer-facing premises. The pandemic has shone a light on safety in a way that nothing else has before. It has changed the way we think, feel and do, and customers, clients and investors all want reassurance that businesses are maintaining safety standards. It will be pivotal for business success in the future.

  1. Embrace learnings from countries opening up before the UK

Many countries are further down the line than the UK in implementing their reopening roadmaps, which creates the opportunity for UK businesses to learn from the success and failures of those in other countries.

Having avoided being as severely affected by the pandemic as the UK and easing restrictions a few weeks ago, Australia is now much further along in its roadmap. Businesses began reopening weeks ago and pubs and restaurants in New South Wales are allowed capacities of up to 50 people.

Adopting the key learnings from Australia will mean businesses throughout the UK can ensure they are safely reopening. Strategies such as establishing an early warning system using real time data so that company head offices have greater visibility and act quickly, has worked well to keep infections low. Upping the frequency of checks is a vital element of this, for example, affordable retail chain Kmart, which owns over 200 stores in Australia, is now doing safety checks three times a day in each of its stores across the country.

Empowering staff members by offering training sessions on how to deal with customers has also been key as time has gone on and customers have become more relaxed about Covid-19, with some less inclined to follow the safety rules. Recognising staff who are setting great safety standards is another way to ensure everyone is bought into measures too. Some companies have updated their employee rewards/recognition programmes to help encourage staff to be contentious.

Getting it right the first time with workplace safety is vital, as failure to do so could have a damaging effect on customer trust and a company’s reputation. Safely Back to Business is a global initiative to support companies in their efforts to keep customers and staff safe.

SafetyCulture has digitised COVID-19 guidance from governments and leading industry bodies into simple to use, and fully-customizable checklists. Already, more than 75,000 individuals worldwide are using SafetyCulture’s iAuditor app to complete daily COVID-19 risk assessments and inspections.

Dan Joyce
Dan Joyce

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