WITH the prime minister expected to reveal the first steps towards easing ‘lockdown’ later this week, Made in Britain considers what a phased return to work will mean for manufacturers and factory owners.
Documents prepared by the cabinet minister Michael Gove and the business secretary Alok Sharma have been seen by Alex Wickham at the news website BuzzFeed and his article looks at the impact on all businesses. Made in Britain is mainly interested in the effects on factories and offices.
Proposed measures to reduce crowding at the workplace include staggering arrival and departure times and having separate entry and exit doors; regulating the use of corridors, lifts and staircases and using floor tape or paint will help maintain two metres of separation between individuals.
According to the draft papers, when people return to work: “It will not always be possible to keep a distance of two metres. In these circumstances, both employers and employees must do everything they reasonably can to reduce risk.”
Advice for factories includes the regular cleaning of equipment, tools and vehicles after each shift and after each use of shared equipment — for example, pallet trucks and forklift trucks.
Office staff should work from home if at all possible but employees in roles ‘critical for business’ can go in. Arrangements should be made for employees to work side-by-side or facing away from each other and screens should be used to create a physical barrier between people.
Limiting the use of high-touch items and shared office equipment is recommended, as is avoiding the use of hot desks and spaces. Meetings should be held in well-ventilated rooms, with hand sanitiser provided. For areas where regular meetings take place, floor signage should be used to help people maintain social distancing.
The recommendations also include monitoring the wellbeing of employees who are working from home by keeping in touch with off-site employees. Checks are to include their welfare, mental and physical health and personal security.
Businesses with more than five employees must produce a written risk assessment of working conditions for their staff if they wish to reopen during the pandemic but the documents seen by BuzzFeed do not contain any specific mentions of PPE other than the note “guidance to follow”.
Ministers are set to review the documents and consider the restrictions on Thursday (07/05/20) and the prime minister is expected to announce any changes on Sunday (10/05/20). According to the latest British Chambers of Commerce coronavirus weekly survey of firms, most companies believe they could be ready to restart business with just three weeks' notice.
Industry associations have said that returning to work could be difficult and delicate for many businesses and workers. There have been reports of isolated incidents in which some people who have returned to work have been subjected to abuse from others in their community who are scared workers could be bringing the virus back with them.
What do you think about the proposed measures to get back to work? Will your business be doing more to keep people safe? Tell us your views. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.