Tag Archives: COVID-19

Returning to work support: COVID-19

We’re starting to move towards a relaxation of the lockdown rules surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore many businesses are returning to work. At Amalgamate, we’ve been working to develop health, safety and wellbeing strategies for the reoccupation of workplaces across all different industries.

We have been working closely with our clients throughout the current outbreak to support them in managing the health, safety and wellbeing implications of COVID-19. Our team has built a recovery ready toolkit that allows our clients to fulfil their compliance needs and ensure they are protecting their employees.

These include:

  • Enhanced H&S Policy and arrangements;
  • Tailored COVID-19 secure and task specific risk assessments; 
  • Safe operating procedures for the reoccupation of construction sites, small and medium sized offices and large multi-location organisations;
  • Site inductions and toolbox talks for re-opening;
  • Online and blended learning courses for First Aid & Fire Safety
  • Developing audits and re-opening checklists; and 
  • Providing guidance and support

Our teams are also able to provide:

  • Updates to fire risk assessments to account for revised building operating models
  • Updates to First Aid risk assessments and systems
  • Legionella and asbestos surveys
  • Employee health and wellbeing programmes to ensure that you have a happy and healthy workforce

This a challenging and unique situation so if you need support in your business returning to work amidst COVID-19, please contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email us on info@amagamalgamate-safety.com

Our experienced consultants will be more than happy to discuss your needs and provide practical health, safety and well-being advice to ensure that your buildings are safe to re-open and it is safe for your employees to return.

We’re also able to provide environmental cleaning services through our network of specialist suppliers, for more information on this please click here.

For guidance published from the Government on reopening businesses safely, click here.

Working from Home Support

As we continue to move towards a relaxation of the current rules surrounding COVID-19, we start to consider what the ‘new normal’ might look like. We feel that a return to our previous routines may be a long way off, and home working will remain for the foreseeable future.

As an employer, we have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. Ensuring that our employees are safe, healthy and productive can feel like a significant challenge for many businesses.

Prior to the current pandemic, our teams have been supporting clients with employees working from home or classed as teleworkers for many years and developed a toolkit to support these needs. During the outbreak we’ve been working in collaboration with our clients to enhance that toolkit, providing ergonomic and wellbeing support.

Our services include:

  • Self-Assessment – An online risk assessment to be completed and submitted for review; 
  • Triage – Survey results are triaged by our DSE Assessors or Ergonomist to identify employees at risk or requiring further support;
  • Ergonomist Support – Ergonomists available to support employees. Local Ergo Support teams through Skype, bluejeans or zoom to provide advice and support on workstation set up, ergo risks and healthy work habits;
  • Online Training – Help your teams with ergo set up knowledge and provide advice and support. Delivered over Skype, bluejeans or zoom; and 
  • Ergo Cafe Drop-in Sessions – Online drop-in cafe sessions once or twice a week for 30-60 mins. Designed for people to call in and ask questions/request advice regarding any issues they are experiencing while working from home. Delivered over Skype, bluejeans or zoom.

As a consultancy, we see working from home playing a significant part in our work life for the foreseeable future. As a result we are investing in new technology to manage those risks and we’re also in the process of developing an integrated risk assessment, support and training App for businesses of all sizes.

For more information on our support packages or our Home Working App, please contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email us on info@amagamalgamate-safety.com.

We also have a few articles with some tips for working from home:

Creating an ergonomic workspace – Click here. 

Working from home during COVID-19 – Click here. 

Working from home: Physical and Mental Wellbeing – Click here. 

Statutory inspections: COVID-19

Introduction

We understand that due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many companies and businesses are facing restrictions or challenges to their normal operation including statutory inspections. This could involve the closing of premises and challenges associated with receiving support from contractors who normally carry out statutory inspections, examinations and tests of plant and equipment even if premises are open. 

We will detail guidance published by Barbour in relation to statutory inspections during COVID-19, including legal implications, facts to consider and advice on the best course of action in these exceptional circumstances.

Delays in statutory inspections, examinations and tests

Difficulty in getting support from contractors carrying out statutory inspections, examinations and test of plant and equipment or the need to close premises is to be expected in the current climate. However, failure to carry these out would be a breach of legislation which could lead to potential enforcement actions including prosecution.

As far as plant and equipment is concerned, you minimise your risk of prosecution and help to ensure the safety of your staff and others if additional steps are taken to mitigate risks arising from delays in inspection. It should also be considered to inform the HSE of your position and plan of action as you are less likely to be subjected to enforcement action if they have been informed of your situation and raise no issues with your proposal at the time.

However, there are some statutory requirements for thorough examination and inspection or testing of plant or machinery, including lifts, lifting equipment, pressure systems and local exhaust ventilation, which include a set time frame. These fall under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAH) (for scaffolding).  Failure to maintain some systems, in particular fire sprinkler and detection systems, may invalidate the insurance for the premises even if the premises are closed.

If taking plant out of use is putting vulnerable persons at risk, a careful decision would need to be made and it may be necessary to seek further advice from the HSE for these specific circumstances. This should only be considered when failure to keep plant and equipment operating poses a genuine risk, rather than an inconvenience, to vulnerable persons’ safety.

What mitigating steps should be considered

  • Assess which plant and equipment require statutory inspections and examinations and when these are due. 
  • Place any plant or equipment which has not had its mandatory inspection and is not essential, out of service until an inspection can be carried out.
  • Where, however, equipment is essential, a risk assessment of the equipment with input from engineers familiar with the equipment and those who operate it should be carried out to consider what might fail, the potential consequences that this poses, and focus on how that risk might be eliminated or managed.
  • Inform your insurance company if any planned inspection and testing is not being completed or if premises or part of the premises are closed. 
  • If closing premises for a period of time, and where it is decided to shut off the power to services such as electrical, gas, water and ventilation systems, plant shutdowns should be undertaken in accordance with manufacturer instructions to ensure that it is done safely. On subsequent restart manufacturer guidance should be followed to ensure that the plant is re-energised safely and to avoid potential damage. 
  • Follow Public Health England recommendations on hygiene and social distancing (maintain two metres between people). 
  • Additional checks with prescribed frequency e.g. daily or at the beginning of each shift.
  • Parts pro-actively replaced rather than reactively.

To conclude

Regardless of delays in statutory inspections during COVID-19 it is essential that all plant and equipment is maintained for the safety of workers. Equipment must only be used outside of its test regime if you can demonstrate that it is critical for essential work and that it can still be operated safely. If there are any identified faults with plant or equipment, which could lead to a risk from its operation, it should be taken out of use immediately and securely isolated to prevent further use until the necessary repairs have been completed. 

For the full article published by Barbour on statutory inspection’s during COVID-19, click here. Finch Consulting also have a great article on this subject, to read click here.

If you require any further information or have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: info@amalgamate-safety.com

Working from home during COVID-19

Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, lots more of us are finding ourselves working from home – some for the very first time. This is a new experience for all of us, in a state of lockdown, being confined to the house, potentially with partners and children adding to the stress of working from home. 

In light of this, our team has compiled some useful advice to help with focus, motivation and morale whilst working from home. 

Make a schedule

It might not be feasible to work your normal hours when working from home, so don’t force it. Prioritise your workload and arrange your day in a way that is manageable time wise, allowing you to remain focused. Explain to your manager why you feel it would be best to adjust your hours before hand to make sure that it’s ok to do so. Let your colleagues know what your working hours are so that you aren’t dealing with calls/emails when trying to get through the other things. If possible, use a shared calendar so that everyone’s hours are available to make this experience easier on everyone. 

When you have finished your day’s work close the laptop, step away from your workstation and relax. It can be difficult to find a balance between work-life and home-life in our current situation. Being caught up in work all the time is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable. 

Have an efficient workspace

A good, well set-up workspace is a must when trying to work from home. Ideally you want to have a space with minimal distractions – a separate room in the house from everyone else is recommended. Setting up a workstation on a dining table, if possible, is also a great way to get yourself in the right frame of mind for work – it can mimic the feeling of being at your desk in the office. If you have to be in a space shared by other people, let them know that you are working and would appreciate the least amount of interruptions as possible. Set time aside throughout the day for them so that they don’t feel ignored – especially if you have young children at home that don’t understand what working means. 

You should avoid working from your bed or your sofa if possible. While these places portray comfort and coziness, they won’t allow you to have the right mindset to get work done. You want to set up a desk space to avoid harming your back or neck as well as maintaining some normality. 

A great way to set up a temporary desk is depicted in the picture below provided by Ergonomic Trends. Split your workspace into three sections, where everything will have its own place and purpose, preventing clutter and making your work-day less stressful.

This infographic illustrates how to organise your workspace into zones, helping you to be more efficient when working from home during COVID-19.
This infographic from ErgonomicTrends illustrates how to organise your workspace into zones, helping you to work more efficiently. Click here for their full article.

Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks can improve your workday exponentially. It reduces eye strain from staring at your screen for too long, prevents body aches and pains, and actually helps with understanding and retaining information. There are lots of ways to ensure that you are taking breaks without lacking in work progress. One well known technique is the Pomodoro Technique. It’s based on setting a timer for 25 minutes of work followed by a short break (up to 5 minutes). Each 25 minutes of work is called a session and 4 of these results in a longer break (15-30 minutes). There are lots of apps available to download onto your computer or laptop that will keep count of your sessions. 

During these breaks, step away from your workstation, move around, interact with your family, check social media, stretch. These are all allowed, you’ve earned them. 

Communicate

Self-isolation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be in contact with each other virtually – just not physically. Set up a group chat with the people you work with to keep up to date on what they’ve been working on and for direction. Set up check-ins but keep in mind that they can also be distractions from what you are trying to achieve. Our team has a weekly video chat scheduled so we don’t forget what each other looks like!

But it’s not all about work even if it that’s how it may seem. Contact family during your breaks, find out how they are. Have a joke with your friends, group call the people you can’t see right now. Socialising is good for you and can boost your mood, which in turn will increase productivity and morale. 

Keep Active

Sitting for prolonged periods of time isn’t good for anyone and it’s something that we can become guilty of doing when working from home. Precautions should be taken on exposing ourselves to the outside world right now, but we still need fresh air. 

Try to go outside for exercise even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day. If you have a family, go out in the garden with them or go for a walk nearby. If you do see anyone, follow government advice and stay at least 2 metres apart. 

To Conclude

It’s a scary time right now but it’s important to support each other and try to make routines to manage our days and stay sane. It’s important that we recognise we should be a little less tough on ourselves during this time. We’re all trying our best to continue to work and take care of ourselves and others despite the situation. 

To read our article on the IES’s working from home wellbeing survey, please click here.

If you require any further information or support, please don’t hesitate to contact us on either t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: info@amalgamate-safety.com

Amalgamate’s approach towards COVID-19

Amalgamate’s approach towards COVID-19 is to ensure the health and safety of both our staff and our clients. We’re doing everything we can to continue providing our clients with the best services we can as safely as possible. As such, we have made the decision to transition to home working as per the government guidelines to minimise exposure risk. However, this hasn’t stopped our team from providing the essential services our clients require to the highest standard we can.

Precautions put in place

For our approach towards COVID-19, we have put a pause on all of our in-person meetings and training, including first aid training. First aid commitment terms have been extended by three months by the HSE – which you can read more about here. The UK Resuscitation Council has also made amendments on how to administer CPR. The changes are aimed at keeping the rescuer safe whilst still providing the emergency care needed for the casualty. We’re continuously monitoring updates from all relevant bodies with regards to first aid. This is so we can provide our clients with the best and most informed advice as possible.

This infographic provided by the UK Resuscitation Council details the scenarios and phases of providing CPR for COVID-19 patients.
This infographic provided by the UK Resuscitation Council details the scenarios and phases of providing CPR for COVID-19 patients. They also have a YouTube video with guidance on out of hospital cardiac arrest during COVID-19, click here to watch.

To Conclude

Our consultants are diligently working with our clients to ensure that they’re supported through this time of difficulty and uncertainty. Some of our clients are doing essential work and have to maintain operation as normally as possible and our prerogative is to ensure they can do this safely. We are monitoring releases from the Uk and Scottish government and aiding our clients in adhering to these.

As our core staff are all working from home, our office hours are as normal. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us for further information or any queries via t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: info@amalgamate-safety.com

First Aid training: COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, we have adapted our First Aid training courses as we are currently unable to carry out our usual face-to-face training courses. We understand that due to absence from work on account of illness, that sufficient cover may not be in place. For this reason, we’ve developed a blended learning course to enable people to be trained to ensure that all work places are fully compliant. It’s very important, now more than ever, that adequate First Aid cover is in place as ambulances may take longer.

The HSE has, however, issued a statement in regard to those who already hold a First Aid qualification. These will be now be valid for a further 6 months if their renewal date is from the 16th March 2020. This means that anyone due for renewal just now will still be able to carry out First Aid. For more information on this, please click here.

We have created 2 options of First Aid Training to choose from: Option A – EFAW course (Certificated Blended Learning) and Option B First Aid Learning Course (Online Theory).

Option A – EFAW course (Certificated Blended Learning)

Online Theory

Option A will cover all theory aspects of the Emergency First Aid at Work course with practical demonstrations given. The course will cover aspects of COVID-19 and how to safely treat anyone who may be suspected of having coronavirus. All candidates would be issued our standard workbook to be read prior to starting the course. The course will be delivered online by one of our accredited trainers.

The online section will last approximately 3 hours, covering all aspects of the EFAW Course including videos and demonstrations. As always, we would encourage lots of interaction from candidates.

Practical

This section will be carried out at the candidates place of work or another suitable venue, this has to be done face-to-face for the HSE to approve this qualification. This will last approximately an hour and a half with strict social distancing controls in place. Each session will be restricted to the number of people who can safely distance within the venue. Each candidate will be provided with their own mannequins and equipment to prevent risk of cross contamination. 

To maintain hygiene standards, we’ve enhanced our cleaning regimes and our equipment will undergo hospital grade sterilisation using Trionic wipes. For more information on how we’re making our courses safer, please click here.

We would ask that only candidates who are well and showing no symptoms such as sneezing, coughing etc., attend this part of the training.

Assessment 

This will be completed after the practical portion of the course and will be marked by the trainer at the time. Candidates who pass the assessment will be awarded with the Emergency First Aid at Work certificate, valid for 3 years.

Option B – First Aid Learning Course (Online Theory)

Online Theory

This will be delivered as per option A, stated above.

Assessment

Candidates will be issued an online assessment for completion which will be marked by the trainer. Successful completion of this would reward the candidate with a certificate in First Aid Learning. 

Joining the course

Candidates will be emailed a link and joining instructions for the course. The course will be streamed live and can be viewed from a suitable mobile phone, tablet, laptop or PC.

Candidates will be required to download our video meeting software prior to the course. This is quick and easy to do.

We are constantly monitoring the current situation and will continue to send updates where applicable. Further information can be found by visiting our website: www.amalgamate-safety.com

If any of these First Aid training course options are of interest to you during COVID-19, or you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our training team on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email: training@amalgamate-safety.com

Working from Home: Physical and Mental Wellbeing

Introduction

The Institute of Employment (IES) recently carried out a survey to evaluate the physical and mental wellbeing of employees working from home during the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of employees have been forced to work from home raising concerns around the possible impacts this might have. Employers will have to attempt to manage these impacts including deterioration in mental and physical wellbeing, work morale and motivation.

Their survey considers the following:

  • Whether employees feel trust with their employers
  • Whether they are worried about job security
  • Have employees lost sleep worrying about finance, family, health, work-life balance, etc, and is this affecting their work morale?

Launched in March 2020, the survey was designed for homeworkers to measure their wellbeing whilst working from home during COVID-19.

7 ways to get a better work-life balance to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
This infographic from WeAreTheCity illustrates and explains 7 ways to get a better work-life balance, aiding in well-being.

Physical Wellbeing

The survey asked homeworkers, ‘how often have you had this condition in the last 2 weeks compared to normal?’ More than half of respondents suffered from aches/pains in neck, shoulder and back, eye strain, headaches or migraines and loss of sleep from worry resulting in fatigue. Less than half experienced aches/pains in knees, hips, wrist/hand and elbow, heartburn or indigestion, leg cramps and chest pain. 

These results illustrate that working at home as a result of COVID-19 is having an affect on many components of employee physical health. It also illustrates that a good ergonomic set up plays a significant part in employee’s physical wellbeing at work.

Emotional Wellbeing

It’s clear that the current situation is also having a detrimental influence on the emotional wellbeing of homeworkers. A significant amount of employees stated that they don’t feel rested, calm or relaxed. In addition feeling inactive and having no interest in their day, was noted. Some respondents also felt anxious about the health of family members and friends. 

It was recorded that respondents were also worried about family finance and job security. Loneliness and isolation featured heavily in responses with many suggesting they don’t feel cheerful or in good spirits. 

Mental Wellbeing

The survey used the WHO-5 well-being index to determine the mental health of employees working from home. This suggested that those who are suffering most are:

  • looking after elderly relatives; 
  • living with parents or renting;  
  • new to home renting; 
  • working more than 10 hours longer than contracted per week; and 
  • in less frequent contact with their boss and younger workers.

These categories cover the vast majority of employees working at home. It’s clear this situation is having an impact on thousands of people’s mental wellbeing across the country. 

Other health concerns

It was noted that over almost half of respondents worried that they were exercising less, they did not have enough time to get their work done and were working long and irregular hours. 

A significant percentage of home-workers admitted they were under too much work pressure, their alcohol consumption had increased, they were eating less healthily and had continued working despite illness.

Action for employers

The overall findings from the survey suggest that there has been a significant decline in both the physical and mental wellbeing of employees working from home. Results show that musculoskeletal health, diet and exercise has declined in the majority of homeworkers. 

However, the effects aren’t just physical, increased emotional concerns over finance, isolation, energy, work-life balance and family health were also recorded from the respondents. 

It’s clear that many employees working from home are facing a challenging time and support from fellow employees and most importantly employers is crucial during this crisis to maintain wellbeing, work morale and motivation.

There are a number of simple steps that employers should consider taking, as well as the normal compliance requirements around ergonomic set up (Display Screen Equipment). We recommend supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of employees with regular check ups – informal messaging groups or virtual coffee mornings are a good place to start. Regular contact with bosses and colleagues, particularly those at ‘high risk’ is essential. In addition, access to an Employee Assistance Programme would be valuable. 

We would also recommend that performance targets and monitoring may need to be adjusted accordingly, this may involve the reallocation of tasks and priorities.

If you would like support developing strategies for managing the physical and mental wellbeing of your employees who are working from home please do not hesitate to contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or e: info@amalgamate-safety.com 

Environmental Cleaning: COVID-19

As a business ourselves, we are committed to helping other businesses maintain a safe, healthy and productive work environment during COVID-19 by offering environmental cleaning services. We understand that some SMEs providing essential business during this time may struggle to facilitate home-working and as a result need to enhance their housekeeping regimes by the addition of environmental cleaning.

Through our network of specialists suppliers, we are able to provide the following specialist environmental cleaning services during COVID-19:

1. Methodical deep-cleaning

  • Staged cleaning: an initial standard clean followed by a focused deep clean on ‘high touch points’. 
  • Focus on areas such as handles, light switches, keyboards and phones. 
  • Priority given to key circulation areas (e.g. kitchen, bathrooms, common areas).

2. Touch-less cleaning 

  • Application of fine-mist spray of water/chemical mixture to surfaces. 
  • Minimal air spray to eliminate spread of virus. 
  • Focus on ‘high touch points’. 
  • Reduced risk of cross-contamination.

3. Steam/dry heat cleaning 

  • Application of steam and/or dry heat to high risk surfaces. 
  • Key use on specific materials e.g. fabrics.
  • Should be conducted in combination with either one or both of the above services.

Once clean, however, a building can only remain as clean as the people entering it. 

We understand how important it is, especially during this time, to maintain a safe environment for businesses and hope that by offering these specialist cleaning services we can help to achieve that. Our consultants can provide a full suite of policies, procedures and hygiene equipment to ensure each area remains as safe as possible going forward.

For advice from the government on cleaning in non-healthcare settings during COVID-19, please click here.

If you would like further information on our environmental cleaning services or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us on t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email: info@amalgamate-safety.com

Mental Health in the Workplace

Introduction

Before COVID-19, there was a crisis in mental health in the workplace, costing the UK economy almost £35 billion. COVID-19 has highlighted these problems, with mental health collectively suffering and deteriorating across the UK. Here is what we think workplaces should be encouraging to help support their employees and colleagues.

How can you make wellbeing a priority?

Doing 2 of these 5 things each week is said to make a huge difference to mental wellbeing.

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Learn
  • Give

Developing a routine that works for you:

  • Plan how you will spend each day including when you will take breaks and finish working.
  • Try to get as much sunlight as possible, work with the window open, and spend some time each day outside if it’s safe to do so.
  • Keep active, build physical activity time into your routine.
  • Eat well and stay hydrated.
  • Keep taking any medication you’re on.
  • Don’t overload yourself with information, take breaks from the news and try to stick with reputable sources.

Understanding your mental wellbeing

What keeps you well? – Think what helps you to balance your day and lift your mood. Is there a particular way of working that makes things easier for you?

What are some triggers and early warning signs? – What things create a negative environment and how can you work around this? If you can think of things that trigger your mental health then you can begin to eliminate these from your day or work on how to manage these triggers better.

Impacts of mental wellbeing on performance – How is your mental health affecting your work life and personal life and are you able to separate these two?

Negative coping strategies – Are you using healthy coping strategies and if not, how can you change these strategies for the better?

It’s important that you’re asking yourself these questions but also relating this to the people you work with and discussing it. This way, you can better understand yourself and others, therefore helping to promote mental health wellbeing in the workplace. 

Resources

  • Here you can find more information on how to work well from home during lockdown. This can be used to develop your wellness strategy or as an individuals guide.
  • Here is a great source of information that gives advice for staying at home, looking after mental wellbeing, support for work and checklists for staying at home.
  • Do you and your employees/colleagues know what mindfulness is and how to use it to your collective advantage? Find out more about what mindfulness is here.
  • You can also read our other article on taking care of employee and colleague wellbeing here.

If you have any further questions or require any further support, please do not hesitate to contact us by t: +44 (0)141 244 0181 or email: info@amalgamate-safety.com

COVID-19: First Aid Training Update

As you will be aware, the UK Government have issued further advice for the public and workplaces in relation to COVID-19. The government has advised against ‘social gatherings’ and for people to work from home ‘where possible’. Also the advice for those who should self-isolate has been increased.

Our current advice is that first aid training is not a ‘social gathering’. It is essential training that is needed by workplaces, particularly when it is not possible for staff to work from home.

The government advice is changing on a daily basis but here are some things we as your training provider are doing as we stand right now:

  1. First aid training is essential training that is needed particularly by workplaces where it is not possible for staff to work from home, and particularly when there are severely extended ambulance response times due to the crisis. As such it is NOT a ‘social gathering’;
  2. Our class sizes can be reduced to minimise risk of infection. The main risk of infection in regard to COVID-19 is with people to people or people to surface contact rather than people to mannequin;
  3. We have implemented this 10 step plan to ensure hospital-grade infection prevention and control on our training courses. To view this plan please click here

We will also include the teaching of COVID-19 infection prevention and control at the beginning of our training courses.

At present our training team is operational. We will continue to support our clients with their essential training needs.

Amalgamate will continue to monitor all current developments and provide regular updates. If you would like any more information in regard to this, please do not hesitate to contact our training team on +44 (0)141 244 0181

Amalgamate Safety