Poor Office Hygiene: What Employers Must Do About It
Poor office hygiene is a risk factor for a Covid-19 outbreak. And although many of us will have been back in the office for a month or so, we still have to be careful. A lot has changed since the so-called Freedom Day on 19th July.
The ‘pingdemic’ caused nationwide chaos and many key workers were having to isolate until the government stepped in. And the rules have been gradually more and more relaxed. It means that double-jabbed people who come into close contact with someone who has tested positive won’t have to self-isolate.
However, this doesn’t let employers completely off the hook. Poor office hygiene is still an important consideration and your employers should be referring to the current government guidance.
Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, workplaces are already required by law to be clean and free from danger. As the name suggests, most of the current guidelines are just recommendations and not all of the recommended steps are written into law.
But here, we reveal the key things they should be doing to keep you safe and avoid poor office hygiene and whether they’re legally required or not:
LEGAL REQUIREMENT – Risk assessments
Businesses are legally required to carry out risk assessments anyway as part of health and safety laws. Part of this includes consulting workers. Failure to do these assessments could be a breach of health and safety law. Covid-19 is a workplace hazard and your employers should consult the Health & Safety Executive if they need anything clarifying.
LEGAL REQUIREMENT – Turn staff away
Like risk assessments, there are genuine legal considerations here. An employer that allows a member of staff to come to work when they have tested positive and/or are meant to be self-isolating is breaking the law. According to the recommendations, staff members (and customers) should self-isolate if they have Covid symptoms.
RECOMMENDATION – Air flow
Before Covid, it was already a legal requirement for companies to ensure their workspaces were properly ventilated. But now it is strongly recommended that they make sure they are opening as many doors and windows as possible. The guidelines state that employers should identify areas with poor ventilation and take steps to improve air flow.
RECOMMENDATION – Check ins
It’s no longer a legal requirement for a business to collect customer contact details. But displaying a QR code will help NHS Test and Trace. Employers do not have to ask people to check in or turn people away if they refuse. But if they do decide to keep going with the Test and Trace system, they can record contact details in a different way if customers don’t have the app.
RECOMMENDATION – Workspaces
Reducing social contact in the workplace should still be a big priority. Screens, barriers and cleaning stations are all suggestions laid out in the guidelines to help keep workers safe. The recommendations also state that screens will be the most helpful to colleagues likely to come into close contact with each other. Some workplaces might want staff to work in ‘fixed’ teams so they don’t mix with too many other people.
RECOMMENDATION – Signs, posters and masks
Posters and signs about hand washing, sneezing, coughing and toilet cleaning should be put up to guide staff. And face coverings are no longer required by law. But workers can choose to wear one too and workplaces have the right to encourage the use of them. And in the event of a case or an outbreak, employers should follow the laws and guidance in place at the time.