Up to 80% of businesses are not providing any PPE for staff
Tight bosses are leaving workers in the UK vulnerable
The big return to work could be hampered by a lack of even the most basic of protection for workers, it’s feared.
After weeks of working from home, many [area,fallback=] workers are preparing to go back to the daily grind as lockdown measures ease and everyday life slowly returns to normality.
However, health and safety software company Protecting.co.uk finds that up to 80% of businesses have not ordered PPE for staff, and are expecting staff to return to unprepared workplaces.
Company spokesman Mark Hall says “Businesses need to do more to protect their staff during these circumstances, as many are worried that their workplaces haven’t been adapted for their health and safety.
“Bosses need to make sure that staff feel that they will be safe and looked after if they come back to work,” he said.
Changing spaces and masks on faces
Due to the strict guidelines in place by the government, returning staff members should expect to see some big changes as they head back to work, such as one-way systems, spaced out desks and more deep-cleaning of equipment.
Mark Hall from protecting.co.uk “In an ideal world, many workers will see that government guidelines have been considered, but we are hearing of places where they fear business as usual with open-plan workspaces and no distancing between desks”.
Protecting.co.uk spoke to over 200 companies and found that – for various reasons – 80% of them haven’t provided any PPE for staff members, and that 35% aren’t sure that the changes they have made to put in place social distancing measures will be effective.
Reasons include not thinking PPE was necessary and being unable to source gear from suppliers at the right price point.
This comes as the Health and Safety Executive in Northern Ireland (HSENI) has already received complaints about 480 firms so far during the lockdown, for not providing safe workspaces and plenty of PPE for staff.
One key worker spoke to Protecting.co.uk and said that when they returned to the office, it was totally unprepared with no masks, no screens between desks and no tape on the floor to indicate social distancing.
“Offices are the worst for not adhering to best safety practices but having staff in close proximity and sharing facilities such as the kitchen can pose a risk to health,” says Hall.
“Just by providing basic PPE, employers can eliminate any contamination whilst people use the canteen to make their morning cup of tea.”
But unfortunately, unless workers are employed in an environment where they will come into contact with others, then bosses legally do not have to provide PPE as long as other criteria such as social distancing is met.
“We advise that in working conditions where it is difficult to socially distance, such as construction sites and in healthcare positions, that wearing a mask is absolutely essential.”
However, staff may still not be protected even if businesses have managed to provide PPE.
A rise in amateur manufacturers has resulted in the British Standards Institute reporting an influx of unsafe PPE without safety certification being sold, as face masks and goggles need to have a CE mark to verify they meet test standards.
Should I be concerned about heading back to work?
Being asked to return to the workplace is creating a sense of anxiety for many workers after months of being told they can only leave the home for daily exercise and essential shopping.
In fact, two in five workers admit they are anxious about the prospects of returning to work due to worries of being in close proximity to others, and potentially catching and spreading Covid-19.
“There is a general feeling of apprehension about going back to work, especially considering how restrictive the lockdown measures were,” says spokesman Mark Hall.
“By not having enough PPE for staff members, it will be difficult for bosses to show to their staff that they have really considered their health and safety in order to rebuild their trust.”
Protecting.co.uk recommends that bosses openly communicate with their staff about any new safety measures to ease their worries, so that if any issues arise they can be sorted.
The government has required all businesses to have created a risk assessment for working during these conditions, which should be accessible to staff members so they can learn about any additions or changes to existing health and safety procedures.
Hall: “If you still feel there are inadequate levels of PPE at your workplace which your boss isn’t addressing, then you can talk to Public Health about your concerns.”