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Architect Hugh Wallace’s advice for businesses on creating a safe post Covid-19 work environment

Architect Hugh Wallace’s advice for businesses on creating a safe post Covid-19 work environment

Hugh Wallace

As the Government’s roadmap to re-opening Ireland has begun, Hugh Wallace, Architect and Director of Douglas Wallace Consultants is already working with clients on their approach to re-opening their offices.

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In accordance with NSAI and Government issued protocols, here are some key aspects to be considered when devising a Covid-19 response plan:

  • Ensuring your workplace is Covid-19 prepared requires an initial comprehensive risk assessment of the current office environment in terms of its likeliness to spread Covid-19 and how easy or difficult it would be to implement necessary changes
  • The application of physical distancing is crucial, but clearly this has to be weighed up with the practicalities of the workplace environment
  • Circulation protocols in offices will be essential to protect staff from Covid-19
  • Desks must be shared as little as possible with a rigid cleaning protocol introduced to ensure that each workstation is fully cleaned and sanitized prior to and directly after use
  • Staggering of the workforce is likely to become the new normal, but this is a complex task as it requires evaluation of the staff and team resources, ways of working and  the recording and logging of staff attendances
  • All of these new systems need to ensure that the operating protocols have been implemented, adhered to and recorded
  • Staff induction will be necessary to the re-opening of the work environment. They will need to have a full understanding of the new ways of working, the new systems in place and the new hygiene procedures to be followed
  • Employees need to have confidence in re-entering their work environment with access to new procedure guidelines - and most importantly who to ask if in doubt

Hugh Wallace said: “There’s no doubt the way we do business is changing but the health of all employees is key to the continuation of productive working environments. This does not automatically mean the spending of already tight cash flows on costly fixtures and fittings. Clear signage, proper hygiene and cleaning practices, as well as a very practical and pragmatic approach will all help to sustain the fight against Covid-19. With the majority of people returning to work by August, now is the time to plan.

"While glass screens are useful, people will still need to maintain a two-metre social distance. Perhaps where there were four in an office, there can only be two.”

There also needs to be thought placed on what happens if a case of Covid-19 occurs.

  • Businesses will need a practical procedure to deal with an outbreak including how to isolate the suspected case (creation of specific isolation space), how to provide the personal support and how to establish contact tracing
  • As well as how to re-engage the procedures and functions of the business after the suspected case, it's about ensuring companies have a pathway to follow.

Wallace concluded: “Devising a Covid-19 response plan that complies with Government issued requirements and recommendations is key - both as a vehicle to establish a way forward and also a way of documenting key Safety & Health protocols for record. It will require the full engagement of the employers and employees.”

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