The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work in many ways.
Government guidance for well over a year has advised that those who can work from home, should work from home. However, despite the pandemic, life still has to go on – and with this comes the need for in-home workers, such as maintenance staff and support workers.
As an employer, you are just as responsible for staff members who have to visit other homes to do their jobs, and you must assess and protect them from any risks they may face. Whilst this may seem to be a daunting and near-impossible task, there are ways to protect in-home workers from Covid.
Perform a risk assessment
Like in any workplace, a risk assessment has to be performed to analyse where hazards may lie and detail how these will be mitigated.
Employers must think about the risks in-home workers face due to Covid-19 as well as any other risks that may be present in their environment.
Use the guidance provided by the risk assessment to inform any decisions and control measures you should put in place. Above all else, it is important to speak to your staff to ask what they think will be more effective. After all, they will know their working environments better than anyone else.
Follow the guidelines
There are many different guidelines in place to help make areas Covid-secure.
Firstly, be sure that where possible staff can follow social distancing regulations. Ideally, keep 2 metres distance between colleagues and the residents of the home they are visiting, but where this is not possible it should be no less than 1 metre.
Increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, and equip your staff to do so. Be sure they wear the appropriate PPE, which should be provided by the employer.
Be clear on restrictions
Unless it is a severe emergency, no work should be carried out in a household which is self-isolating because one or more residents has symptoms.
If someone is shielding, no work should be carried out unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household or public safety.
When working in a household where someone is clinically vulnerable but is not technically shielding, such as someone over 70, prior arrangements should be made to avoid any face-to-face contact.
This will not only protect in-home workers, but the people they are assisting too.
Make your own rules
To protect in-home workers effectively, you should create your own policy detailing how best staff can stay safe from Covid-19. For example, you should put activity timelines in place to ensure that staff members are not in a home for too long – hwoever, remember this needs to be done within reason, and that jobs with potentially dangerous processes should never be rushed.
Where possible, form teams within your staff to minimise the number of people that each individual is working with – such as using a fixed pairing system if workers often do jobs that require two people to work together in close proximity.
This should also extend to travel. Journeys should be made with the same people in the same vehicles where possible. Journeys themselves should be as short as they can; assign staff members to jobs as near to their homes as possible.
Engage in good practices whilst at work
Before turning up at a house to complete a task, discuss with the residents in order to arrange social distance measures. For example, ask any residents to stay in a room away from the maintenance.
When working in a home, be sure to ask someone to open the windows of the room you are working in to allow for better ventilation. Additionally, you should request where appropriate that any internal doors are left open to minimise how frequently handles and the like are touched.
Identify any busier areas in the home where people travel to, from and through, such as stairs and corridors. Then, minimise movement within these areas if you can.
Bring your own food and drink and have any breaks outside. And, where multiple jobs will need to be performed across a few days, be sure to allocate the same workers to minimise the amount of contact.
Importance of personal hygiene
Trying to maintain good distancing is a great way of protecting in-home workers from Covid, but this will only get you so far.
Reinforce the importance of frequent handwashing amongst your employees, and equip them with everything they might need whilst at work. Supply them with hand sanitiser – even just a handy spray will sanitise both hands and surfaces.
Provide them with anti-bacterial wipes; these can be used for employee vehicles and when they are inside the home. Lastly, don’t forget to provide your employees with PPE, for their own protection and to protect those around them.