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Securing new hygiene standards

28 January 2021

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented one of the greatest challenges to workplace health and safety of the modern era. While keeping employees physically safe from the virus is top priority, one of the ‘symptoms’ of the pandemic that employers also need to address is worker anxiety

STATISTICS HAVE shown that 32% of workers surveyed were anxious about catching or spreading COVID-19 in their normal workplace, with 21% also feeling dissatisfied with the health and safety measures employers were putting in place.

While HSE guidelines advise that a 2m social distance between employees (or 1m with other controls in place) should be a key part of workplace response to COVID, there are many sectors where this is not possible. Manufacturing, production line, warehousing, logistics and food production facilities may present challenging ‘choke points’ where employees may be unable to effectively socially distance. These facilities were not architecturally designed to permit a 2m distance between people, after all, but for the efficient use of internal space.

Arguably, one impact of the pandemic has been an increase in awareness around hygiene and sanitisation, and how a hygienic environment, whether in the home, public or workplace, can minimise potential health risks from viruses and other factors. Government health initiatives worldwide have focused on the importance of increased and best practices in, hand washing and other hygiene measures, and many of us now consider leaving our homes with a bottle of hand sanitiser and face mask ‘the new normal’.

one impact of the pandemic has been an increase in awareness around hygiene and sanitisation

An effective workplace hygiene and sanitisation programme addresses not only potential worker anxieties around what their employers are doing to keep them safe from COVID-19 while at work, but can also help ensure a greater degree of safety and compliance in workplaces, where social distancing presents a challenge and dovetails with increased awareness around good hygiene practices. It is vital that employers foster a hygiene-positive workplace culture to not only reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses, but to boost employee confidence in the safety of their environment, especially in those where complete social distancing may be challenging.

Best practice guide

The pandemic has shone a light on the essential work carried out in the manufacturing and facilities management sectors, with the need for consistent manufacture and supply of essential products, produced in well managed, COVID-secure workplaces. It has also created and a keen awareness of the need for us to come together to keep one another safe and healthy, sharing knowledge and approaches built from our experiences. Working alongside the UK government and advising on safer policy during the pandemic, Essity began working on a comprehensive, best practice guide for improved workplace hygiene, working in collaboration with trade unions, industry bodies and public health officials.

The Tork Site Safety Guide for Manufacturing aims to support workplaces in developing a go-forward strategy for resuming and maintaining operations in a way that mitigates infection spread and keeps workers, customers and the public safe. Including guidelines around how to effectively exercise social distancing within a confined manufacturing environment, navigate high-traffic areas and people flow, and achieve critical hygiene and surface cleaning protocols among employees. The guide also provides recommendations on properly training employees on key COVID-19 information, as it is employees who will be on every businesses ‘front line’ and will most directly benefit from these measures by being physically safer and more at-ease in a workplace environment where obvious increased hygiene methods are in place.

As there is a continued return to the workplace in earnest, it is with a greater awareness of the need for comprehensive health, safety and hygiene measures to keep workers safe, healthy and to reduce their anxieties. By employing resources such as the Tork Site Safety Guide for Manufacturing to address areas including social distancing, measures for high-traffic areas, correct use of PPE and signage, employee training and proper hand hygiene, businesses can ensure high levels of COVID-compliance and safety, however long the effects of the pandemic on the workplace may continue for. As facilities secure the new hygiene standard across the globe, these safeguards are integral to reinforce best practices and implement preventive measures to slow the spread of infection.

The complete Tork Site Safety Guide for Manufacturing can be downloaded, free of charge, at Tork.co.uk/CleanCareManufacturing