fbpx

News & Updates

Broadcast October 2020

Welcome to this month’s Broadcast, where our team members from all parts of the business cover topics such as training courses, including our Face Fit Testing Open Day, the affects of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing, the correct disposal of COVID-19 contaminated waste, and the need for Legionella risk assessments.

As ever, should you have any questions surrounding any of the issues raised, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01427 678 660 or email admin@skaltd.co.uk , and one of the team will be happy to help.


HR UPDATE: The correlation between COVID-19, mental wellbeing and employee engagement

The current Coronavirus pandemic is having a significant impact on people’s mental wellbeing.  Following lockdown guidelines and containment measures, it is also predicted to have a long-lasting impact on the economy, businesses and working lives. 

Organisations have had to make rapid changes to how they operate, as well as planning for, or returning staff to work safely. Workers in turn, must embrace new ways of working, as well as adapting to changing circumstances in their own personal lives. 

Many people are now facing uncertainty at work, changes to their income and job security, as the economic downturn continues to take effect.  Ongoing studies by the HSE and CIPD have shown that mental health issues have a significant impact on employee wellbeing and, as well as sickness absence, poor mental health at work can lead to increased staff turnover, reduced engagement and high presenteeism (working while sick).

Many people with existing health conditions have had these worsened by the pandemic. A recent CIPD study reported that, in June 2020, 61% of those with anxiety said the pandemic had exacerbated their condition and, 56% of people with existing mental health issues prior to lockdown said the pandemic had worsened their mental health.

Mental health related absence is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces. Stress related absence in particular has increased; the HSE 2019 report on sickness absence in the workplace stated that work-related stress, depression, or anxiety accounted for 44% of work-related ill health and 54% of working days lost. We can expect these figures to rise in 2020 as early indications suggest that the pandemic, the measures taken by government to control it and the effects on business, are having a significant impact upon the mental health of employees. Worryingly, it is very possible that these mental health implications will have a long-lasting effect on many people’s overall wellbeing.

So, what can you do as an employer to protect your employees, safeguard against mental health absences and the associated affects on productivity and engagement?  

Aside from your duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of your employees; which includes mental health and wellbeing, you need to ensure that you engage with employees and adopt an environment where they feel supported, and able to discuss their wellbeing and the possible struggles they are suffering as a result of the pandemic (or otherwise).  

Effective communication with your workforce is now more important than ever.  Supporting employees by; addressing fears about returns to the workplace, keeping them informed about how things are going, what effects they can expect on them and on the business going forward, what mechanisms you have for weathering the storm and how you recognise the effects on them; will cement good working relationships, increase employee engagement and positively impact their overall wellbeing.

Employees who have a mental health condition may be classed as disabled as defined by the Equality Act 2010 and will therefore be protected from discrimination during their employment regardless of length of service. 

When an employee presents with mental health problems consider what reasonable adjustments you can make to keep them at work / to facilitate a return to work; for example, if an employee is anxious about attending the workplace despite containment measures you have put in place, can you move their working location?, can you amend their hours to eradicate contact concerns?  What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the circumstances, the nature of the disability and your resources.

Our resilience to cope with challenges differs from person to person and as such the mental health and wellbeing implications of our current challenges will vary from employee to employee.  It is important to support not only the employees in work, but not to forget those working from home in isolation.  Some employees will be working longer and irregular hours to complete their workload, whilst possibly juggling home-schooling or caring responsibilities.  People are sociable by nature and we work better in collaboration with our team members; for some people being in isolation and working on their own, leads to disengagement and demotivation.

Studies also suggest that there are increases in other health problems associated with lockdown, indicating findings of increased fatigue, musculoskeletal conditions, reduced exercise, and increased alcohol consumption. 

In sum, employee wellbeing and employee engagement are closely correlated.  When an employee is happy in their job this positively impacts their mental wellbeing. A physically and mentally well employee will be engaged and productive at work. 

If your business is suffering any impact from the effects on mental health, or seeing a rise in absences, or a decrease in employee motivation and engagement; there are strategies that you can put in place to help.  Please contact your Advisor as usual or HR on 01427 678 660 or hr@skaltd.co.uk to find out more.


TRAINING UPDATE

It’s still vitally important that your training is kept up-to-date, so we’ve listed the Open Courses that are available for booking at the moment.

In addition to these, we’re also putting on a Face Fit Testing Open Day, which is particularly important at the moment (attendees will need to confirm the make and model of their mask prior to being allocated a slot, and they must bring their own mask).

FACE FIT TESTING OPEN DAY
Friday 13 November, Gainsborough £45pp + VAT Book

FIRE WARDEN TRAINING
Wednesday 18 November, Gainsborough £75pp + VAT Book

MANUAL HANDLING
Tuesday1 December, Gainsborough £75pp + VAT Book

WORKING AT HEIGHT
Tuesday1 December, Gainsborough £75pp + VAT Book

EMERGENCY FIRST AID AT WORK
Wednesday 9 December, Gainsborough £95pp + VAT Book

Remember, we are still delivering a wide variety of courses throughout the UK via socially distanced face to face teaching, using virtual classrooms and online, so please contact Training on 01427 678 660 or training@skaltd.co.uk to discuss your needs.


H&S UPDATE: COVID-19 contaminated waste – are you compliant? 

With the ongoing pandemic and associated control measures, businesses across all sectors are being advised to review their waste streams, with a greater consideration to the correct procedures for COVID-19 PPE that may be infected by users.

In a recent presentation by MAKE UK for the HSE, it was discussed what steps businesses must take to protect themselves, waste processing workers, and the environment. Ultimately, getting definitive answers are proving difficult as even the Environmental Agency (EA) are unable to confirm (further details below).

However, the main points to consider are:

  • Most of the COVID-19 PPE is not recyclable
  • How to safely segregate COVID-19 waste and COVID-19 PPE 
  • To ensure the business’ waste contractors / collectors are aware of the COVID-19 waste – waste contractors are, mostly, willing to remove the waste from sites providing specific conditions are met 
  • To start thinking about the business’ annual waste returns to ensure it includes and reflects the new COVID-19 based waste stream

Below are two scenarios regarding effective waste stream management. Please note, in both scenarios the business must contact the waste contractor / collector:

Scenario 1: COVID-19 PPE items that may be infected by users placed in general waste streams

  • This is normally on the proviso that businesses have suitable receptacles (bins with lids and bags that can be removed) where employees place all COVID-19 PPE waste with general waste
  • All waste bags must be tied off and segregated safely (where the bags can’t rip or be ripped open) for a minimum of 72 hours before transported by your waste contractor or collector
  • Waste returns (quarterly or annually) completed by the company must define the COVID-19 waste as general domestic waste, continuing to use the European Waste Code (EWC) 20 03 01. However, there may be a possibility that the Environment Agency (EA) will follow up with questions to clarify your processes at a later date. If you have not followed the correct waste stream protective procedures, there is a possibility of enforcement and sanction actions depending on the:
    • considered risk posed to people and the environment
    • seriousness of the breach of the law
    • impact on the environment, people, and legitimate business
    • cost of taking enforcement action against the benefit of being fined
    • impact on economic growth

Scenario 2: COVID-19 PPE items that may be infected by users placed in separate waste streams

  • As with scenario 1, the business must have suitable receptacles (bins with lids and bags that can be removed) where employees only place COVID-19 PPE waste whether infected by users or not. The difference with the first point, in this scenario, is that the receptacles are only used for COVID-19 waste
  • Again, the waste must be segregated for 72 hours. However, as it will be specified as COVID-19 waste that may be infected by users, it must be double bagged
  • This waste EWC 18 01 03 – “Wastes whose collection and disposal is subject to special requirements in order to prevent infection”, must now be added to the business’ waste returns (quarterly or annually) and reflected on the Pollution Inventory Electronic Data Capture (PIEDC) to show the business identifies and controls the waste stream effectively.

So, which one is right?

There were several questions raised during the presentation, one of which being “which one is right?”. As mentioned above, and probably unsurprisingly, there is no definitive answer from any of the regulators. There are two reasons noted for this:

  1. The EA and Local Authorities (LA) have not planned for a global pandemic so don’t have a definitive answer
  2. Nobody has defined how this ‘new’ waste stream should be dealt with

For those businesses that have not been separating their waste streams to date (as with scenario 1), it is recommended to undertake a mass balance to determine what items of PPE have been transported off site as general waste. This can then be added to your end of year returns if you need to present them to the EA or LA. Remember, make sure the COVID-19 PPE is not placed in recycling waste as most of it isn’t recyclable – we have all seen the pictures of the face coverings in the sea.

What is next? 

As with the latest government advice, businesses should ensure:

  • That they provide extra waste bins for staff and customers to throw their face coverings / PPE etc
  • That nobody is using recycling bins for PPE as they cannot yet be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
  • Bins are emptied more often to ensure they do not overflow
  • That if you separate COVID-19 waste, that the correct EWC is used
  • Ask the waste contractor or collector if there is anything else the business needs to do, or if there is anything they can do

All of which should be covered in the business’ COVID-19 risk assessment, amongst other mitigating control measures.

Further information can be obtained on https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-disposing-of-waste

If you need further help, visit our Back in Business page where you can download free advice and a wide variety of risk assessments. Alternatively, contact your Advisor as usual or call Health & Safety on 01427 678 660 and one of the team will be happy to help.

Source: MAKE UK


COMPLIANCE UPDATE: Why you need a Legionella Risk Assessment

Tim, our resident Legionella oracle, explains why it’s important that business owners and landlords should consider a Legionella Risk Assessment.

Since its discovery in 1976, Legionella bacteria has quietly gone about its business in hot- and cold-water systems throughout the country and the world. 

The problem facing us now is that between lockdowns, local restrictions and more and more people working from home, building water systems are not being used as they were designed to be. Precautions need to be taken to ensure Legionella bacteria is not given a home in your water systems.

If you are an employer or someone in control of premises (including landlords), you must take appropriate steps to identify the risk of exposure to Legionella and remove or reduce the risk as far as is reasonably practicable. This is a legal requirement.

How to minimise the risk to your employees and premises

Some of things you can do to help minimise the risk are:

  • Carry out a Legionella risk assessment and remedy any identified issues
  • Implement a written scheme of control on the back of the risk assessment
  • If you plan to shut the building for a period of more than a week, ensure the water system is drained and/or disinfect it prior to re-opening
  • Ensure that staff have received appropriate Legionella awareness training
  • Flush little used outlets once a week for a period of 1-2 minutes and record it
  • Contact a specialist, like Stallard Kane, who can advise you on any Legionella queries, undertake risk assessments and help develop written schemes

Legionella infection can present numerous pneumonia-like symptoms including:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches

In addition, keep an eye out for nausea, diarrhoea, and confusion. Symptoms usually begin 2-10 days after exposure.

However you manage your properties during the current crisis, Stallard Kane can offer a pragmatic and cost effective service to ensure that your properties stay in compliance with the law and that your people are safe when they return to work. Please contact Compliance on 01427 678 660 or email compliance@skaltd.co.uk, and one of the team will be happy to help.