How safe are our offices?
As the latest easing of lockdown measures comes into force, are we potentially risking our lives by returning to the office? Recent research carried out by the TUC among 2,100 safety reps has found that nearly half of employers surveyed were either yet to carry out a Covid risk assessment or were operating under measures that were insufficient to prevent the spread of the virus and its variants.
With such a lack of preparation and preparedness comes the risk of possible strike action by employees who feel that their safety is not being taken seriously. The DVLA in Swansea, for example, has seen around 600 of its staff test positive for the virus, and there is now concern over the organisation’s readiness for the safe return to its offices.
The survey also revealed that around 50% of the reps questioned felt that social distancing was either not enforced at all or at best intermittently, while one third reported a lack of adequate PPE where it was required. In addition, three quarters of respondents had responded to Covid outbreaks, 60% of which were significant. Alarmingly, even though 4,500 coronavirus outbreaks had been reported, not a single employer had been prosecuted for Covid breaches.
Shops, leisure centres and outdoor attractions, along with other non-essential businesses, are on schedule to open up in April. There is, however, concern within the medical community that even if 90% of the UK population who are in priority groups receive their vaccinations, as many as one million people may still be vulnerable to the disease.
For Carol Chinn, Design Partner at The Workspace Consultants, the findings make significant reading. ‘Here at Workspace we have been monitoring the spread of the pandemic and the impact that it is having on office design,’ says Carol. ‘It is vitally important to embrace what is becoming the New Normal and to revisit the configuration of office space, reception areas and public areas to ensure that Covid compliance is maintained. Whether it’s reducing the number of desks, with groups of employees working from home, staggering shifts or alternating their in-office days, businesses need to plan the location and movement of their staff very carefully. Viral screens, sanitising stations and open windows can have a big impact on halting the spread, but we believe that the New Normal will involve redefining the look and feel of the office if not forever then certainly for years to come.’
The Workspace Consultants specialise in office design and project management in Cambridge and London, so why not contact us to discuss how we can help you achieved Covid compliancy for your returning staff?