IOSH urges caution as people return to workplaces

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has urged caution over the gradual return of staff to workplaces.

Speaking after the government confirmed that England would move to the final stage of its gradual easing of Covid-19 lockdown measures, IOSH’s Head of Advice and Practice, Duncan Spencer, warned: “Covid-19 still poses a significant threat, so we urge businesses to ensure they continue to do all they can to protect staff from contracting it.”

Ensure a healthy and safe return to work

As the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, spoke out to encourage workers to head back into the office and other workplaces, IOSH advised that businesses be guided by health and safety professionals.

Mr Smith said that risk assessments formed the “starting point” for a safe return to workplaces, “as they can help to identify proportionate controls to protect workers, clients, consumers and communities.”

Advocating continued caution, he added:

“With Covid risks, this might include a reasonable request for people to continue wearing face masks and observe social distancing measures.

“Employers might wish to emulate other socially conscious organisations by asking workers to test themselves regularly, including supplying them with lateral flow test kits.

“It is crucial that any preventative measures are communicated clearly, thereby empowering people to work safely while this disease remains a significant threat.”

Maintain control measures

The (HSE) has issued advice about workplace controls that businesses should maintain despite the removal of lockdown restrictions and social distancing guidance.

Britain’s health and safety watchdog says that organisations must still control the risks of Covid-19 transmission and should continue to review and update their risk assessment.

The following workplace control measures also remain unchanged:

Employers are also advised that communicating with workers and representatives about health and safety matters helps to reduce risks.

The HSE continues to conduct Covid-19 spot checks and inspections to ensure that businesses across the country are managing the risks.

Consider mental health and wellbeing

As a recent survey suggested that 40% of workers feel less resilient now than they did before the pandemic, and that over half feel under pressure to mask mental health challenges as they return to the workplace, transmission of Covid-19 is not the only risk that employers need to manage.

Indeed, Duncan Smith at IOSH agreed that “employers also need to consider the impact of returning to work on people’s mental health and wellbeing, with the possibility that staff may be deeply concerned about returning.”

He added:

“We advocate that open and non-stigmatised conversations are proactively arranged by line managers as part of a strong overall mental health and wellbeing strategy.

“Organisations need to be safe from Covid and safe from the mental health consequences of this pandemic and the impact it has on people’s lives.”

Further training and support for the workplace

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading, national training provider. They deliver over 7,000 courses each year in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care and other special focus topics.

Their diverse portfolio includes training awards in Infection Control, Lone Working, Risk Assessment, Managing and Supervising SafetyManaging Stress in the Workplace and Understanding Mental Health, among many others.

They also offer a portfolio of e-learning training courses, including COVID-19 Infection prevention, identification and control.

A trainer from FRT explains:

“Businesses must ensure they conduct a thorough Covid-19 risk assessment and have effective measures in place for cleaning, hygiene and handwashing, ventilation and protecting vulnerable workers. Continuing measures such as social distancing, working from home and wearing face coverings should also be considered where appropriate.”

For more information on the training that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300 or send an e-mail to