The current COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the way people live and work.
As the pandemic impacted different regions, many countries faced a sudden ‘lockdown’. With populations confined to their own homes, organizations of all types had to change the way they operated or shut down entirely, with little or no time to prepare. Following the initial global crisis, a cycle is emerging: outbreaks are controlled and restrictions are eased, new clusters of cases emerge and restrictions need to be reintroduced.
This means a rethink of what was previously considered normal, and ensuring plans are in place to respond rapidly if restrictions are introduced, changed or eased at short notice.
Capturing the lessons learned as we progress through the phases of the pandemic is crucial. Whilst economic considerations are important, the fundamental principle of protecting human life underpins all economic recovery.
All organizations face questions from their customers, suppliers, investors and the general public. The most important stakeholders for the success of an organization, however, are the workers. Planning how to mitigate the effects of the pandemic is therefore crucial in order to protect workers, provide reassurance to other interested parties and to protect the organization’s reputation.
Building on, and complementing, formal guidance issued by governments and other trusted sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO), BSI has developed this set of guidelines to assist organizations as they adjust the way they work, and to protect workers, and the people they come into contact through work, from the ongoing risks.
The Guidelines are a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased risk this disease presents to the health, safety and well-being of people in all settings, including whilst working and in the workplace.
Governments, regulators and other professional bodies across the world have published guidance on working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This document aims to provide a single generic set of guidelines that complement this information and support the principle that workers should not be required to work unless all reasonable measures have been taken to manage work-related COVID-19 risks.
The Guidelines includes practical recommendations to organizations and workers on how to manage these risks and is suitable for organizations resuming operations, those that have been operational throughout the pandemic, and those that are starting operations.
These Guidelines have been produced by BSI with input from experts from a broad range of sectors. They provide a general framework for safe working during the pandemic, to protect people from work-related risks from COVID-19. The guidelines were produced using an iterative and dynamic process, in line with our new flexible route to standardization, called BSI Flex.
Benefits of using these guidelines
- Provides a single source of agreed good practice and accurate advice, based on current knowledge.
- Supports comprehensive risk assessment.
- Provides practical examples for ways of managing risks.
- Enables organizations to plan in a similar way across multiple sites and for multiple types of workers performing different activities and roles.
- Helps organizations to manage the risk of communicable diseases and can reduce sickness absence due to seasonal and other illness (e.g. common colds, influenza, gastric illness).
- Assists organizations in developing a response plan to enable rapid adjustments if risk levels or operating restrictions change at short notice.
Key points applicable to all organizations
- Enhancing hygiene and enabling physical distancing are the most effective controls against communicable disease.
- Minimizing the number of people in a physical workplace, and physical interaction between people, reduces the risks to workers, customers and the community.
- Involving workers in decisions about managing risks leads to better engagement and performance.
- Facilitating and supporting remote working enables organizations to better manage the risks to people who need to be on-site.
- Managing the psychological health and well-being of workers is as important as protecting physical health and safety.
- Managing the health and safety of people working remotely is critical to mitigate the impacts of ergonomic, psychosocial and other risks.
- Providing effective and regular communication to workers and other relevant people is critical for success.
- Ensuring ongoing planning, monitoring and adaptation of safety measures enables organizations to avoid the risk of transmission rising due to complacency or familiarity.
- Maintaining and retaining accurate records of people who work closely together and customers in relevant sectors (e.g. restaurants, pubs) enables effective contact tracing.
- Providing effective leadership and developing a transparent, supportive and open culture helps organizations to manage the risks related to COVID-19 and enhances an organization’s ability to continue operations without severe disruption.