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

Delay to new school term will be ‘as short as possible’

The Education Secretary has said that the closure of schools in England due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic would be as “short as possible.”

Gavin Williamson defended the recently announced delay to the start of the new school term, saying that the government was “battling this hidden enemy” and that schools were being provided with £78 million worth of funding in order to get testing up and running.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is due to be delivered to schools next week and support is to be provided from the military.

In view of this, he said there was “absolutely no reason” that schools would not be ready to mass test pupils when they do reopen.

Teaching unions have said the measures do not go far enough, however, and one criticised the latest government actions as being another “last-minute mess.”

Many schools lack mental health support servicesThe start of the new school term has been delayed for an extra two weeks for secondary schools across most of England and primary schools in at-risk areas as figures show a surge in the number of coronavirus cases across the UK.

It comes as around 20 million more people in England found themselves in Tier 4 from midnight.

The newly created tier, which imposes the toughest restrictions, means that all non-essential retail and other businesses such as beauty salons and gyms must close and that people should remain at home unless they have a “reasonable excuse” to go out.

Changes were made after the UK recorded a further 50,023 new cases of Covid-19 and 981 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test result on Wednesday 30th December 2020.

These stark figures were more than double the total recorded the previous day.

The measures are largely in response to concern over a new variant of Covid-19 which appears to be more transmissible. During his Downing Street Press conference yesterday (Wednesday 30th December 2020), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the “sheer pace of spread of the new variant means we have to take tougher action in some areas.”

Speaking about the school closures, Mr. Williamson told BBC Breakfast that remote learning would be mandatory from the week commencing 11th January for all secondary school pupils, with the exception of years 11 and 13 who will be able to physically return to school on that date.

He said that more than 85% of primary schools were going ahead with the start of term on Monday 4th January 2021 as originally planned and that he wanted any closures to be short.

Meanwhile, plans to close primary schools in 22 London boroughs but not in 10 others have been criticised as containing “no logic.”

The headteacher of Wales High near Rotherham and Vice President of the Association of School and College Leavers, Pepe Di’lasio, commented: “We’ve all seen this coming and we would have preferred to have been able to plan for this before the end of last term so that parents can be made aware of it.”

In Northern Ireland, primary school pupils will receive remote teaching until 11th January, with post-primary pupils undergoing remote learning for the whole of January.

In Scotland, face-to-face learning will restart for pupils from 18th January, with remote learning taking place from 11th January, while in Wales pupils are due to return to school on a staggered basis.

First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider delivering courses in subjects such as health and safety, first aid, fire safety, manual handling, food hygiene, mental health, health and social care, safeguarding and more.

They work with a large number of early years and childcare providers like nursery in worsley , as well as schools, colleges, and children’s services. Their courses include Health and Safety for Child Carers, Paediatric First Aid and Safeguarding Children.

A trainer from FRT says: “We sincerely hope that measures to contain the growth in coronavirus cases are successful and that case rates come down quickly so that children and teachers are able to safely return to school and the UK in general can look to move towards some return to normality.”

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