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Health and Safety: five areas to look at in 2021

December has finally indicated that the end of the year is upon us and what a ride 2020 has been.

With a national vaccination programme for COVID-19 being rolled out in stages soon, we can start planning for a post pandemic environment and move our mindset from crisis response into recovery.  However, we need to ensure we don’t let our guards down and continue to ensure that we operate a COVID-19 secure business moving in 2021. 

As an employer, you will need to remain up to date with the guidance coming from the Government and ensure that workplace control measures to mitigate transmission of the virus continue to be enforced and maintained.

The question in all our minds is if a vaccine will allow a return to normal working conditions. It is still undetermined how a large scale vaccination programme will pan out. With a staged approach based on risk groups, it could be months before vaccination of the working force will be established and even then employees cannot be forced to get vaccinated. This means that we need to keep doing what we have been doing: social distancing, mask wearing, hygiene and isolating when we are sick and keeping our COVID-19 risk assessment up to date.

However, we should look to emphasis our attention on the recovery process. At this point, due to the Governments requirement for business’s to have a COVID-19 risk assessment in place, the initial crisis response to managing the virus within the workplace has levelled out and a more balanced approach to health and safety management within the business needs to be addressed.

There may be other health and safety arrangements in your business that have played second best to controlling the virus and we should start picking up with what may have been missed when focussing on COVID-19 to  “get your house in order” so to speak.

COVID-19 polices, risk assessments and associated procedural documents may have been at the front of the line in regard to risk management within your business. However, monitoring and review of your business’s health and safety policy should be the at the forefront of your health and safety recovery process moving into the new year. 

1. Review your health and safety policy and risk assessments

A legal requirement under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for a business with more than 5 employees, your health and safety policy, should be reviewed at regular intervals. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide advice on this legal requirement and advise that health and safety performance in a business be reviewed on an annual basis. This can be done by monitoring and reviewing the arrangements in your H&S management system to ensure they are being appropriately managed.

From an operational performance point of view, there is an annual requirement to review risk assessments to ensure that they are still suitable and sufficient. This process may have fallen to the wayside during the pandemic.

Need help? Not a problem. Alcumus PSM have a team of experts who can help make sure you have everything in place to ensure you’re compliant and working to best practice. Get in touch here.

2. Book in training

Many businesses have struggled to get employee’s loaded onto training courses, both online and indeed physical classroom courses. Planning the training requirements for the year ahead and booking employees onto relevant courses can start to mend the training gaps that may have appeared throughout the year.

3. Maintain your equipment

Under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998, relevant work equipment should be scheduled in for routine maintenance and/or statutory inspections. There has been leeway over the pandemic in allowing extension for example to some statutory inspections, however businesses are required to maintain legal compliance under the relevant legislation. You will need to look at resources and plan in a robust equipment maintenance and inspection schedule for the New Year.

4. Conduct site inspections (where safe to do so)

Workplace site inspections and other forms of monitoring compliance with your business’s health and safety system can provide an indication of where the gaps lie in management and which arrangements in the business have become unmanaged due to COVID-19.

5. Establish responsibility

It is important to establish who is responsible for reviewing the policy, procedures, risk assessments etc. and ensuring that appropriate people are appointed for these tasks. As part of not only your commitment of monitoring and review of your management system, but a step forward into the recovery process for your business, rebooting and realigning your thinking with lessons learnt from COVID, the resilience you’ve mastered and just how positive it can be when a workplace hazard is actively managed the way COVID-19 has been.

If you have any questions about making sure you’ve got everything in place for 2021 or would like to know how Alcumus PSM can help you, please contact the Alcumus PSM H&S Consultancy team on psm.enquiries@alcumusgroup.com.

Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Written by Nicole Jackson, Health & Safety Consultant