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Going beyond 'Covid-safe' guidance in the workplace

By Chris Potts, ANT Telecom

March 3 2021 - Despite the announcement that lockdown will begin to ease, it is clear there will continue to be guidelines and regulations in place for Covid-secure work places. But, in order for employees to return to work at the physical office without being concerned about the virus spreading, organisations need to consider introducing further protocols to ensure a safe workplace.

The HSE has defined certain guidelines for 'Covid-safe' work spaces, including straightforward solutions such as social distancing and hand washing, but do they go far enough to adequately protect staff? Technology can help businesses to do more than the basic requirements in order to further limit the spread of the virus and associated business closures, should there be an outbreak.

With the roll out of the vaccine programme, there is hope that things will get back to normal (whatever normal will be) as soon as late June ' with far fewer (if any) restrictions in place at all. By then, it is predicted that the entire UK adult population will have some immunity against the virus so you would expect normal life to proceed.

Nonetheless, it would be wise for companies and employees not to relax completely, as there is always the ongoing threat of different strains of the virus ' ones that the vaccines in use now provide less protection against. Of course, vaccines will be amended to fight new strains but there will be a time between discovery and immunity, where the virus can spread more quickly and there will be a greater chance of exposure.

Nobody wants to return to full lockdowns or even a tiered system where countless businesses are closed and office staff are told to work from home. This means establishing new procedures and perhaps using current technology to help limit the rate of transmission in order to keep the virus suppressed.

Preventing outbreaks

With many companies staying open throughout lockdown, social distancing measures are a critical barrier against spreading infection, and organisations need to make certain that they have the tools in place to protect their staff. It is vital for businesses to have increased visibility in order to stay open and stay safe in the knowledge they are doing all they can to safeguard their employees. Warehouses and factories, for example, simply cannot afford to close down because a couple of employees have tested positive for the virus.

The NHS test and trace app has unfortunately had only a 'marginal impact' and has not been very successful in limiting the spread, but a more targeted approach could have an incredibly helpful role in keeping these businesses open. A private test and trace system implemented by an organisation offers a way of narrowing the outbreak identified in the workplace and containing it. By wearing tags that connect with each other and automatically identify when they come near, contact tracing records the history of these contacts in a database. The tags relay their contacts to cloud software platforms over existing wireless networks, meaning if someone has coronavirus, they can easily identify who they have been near. They also assist in maintaining a distance of six feet by alerting the wearer if they get too near another tag.

Companies can therefore control an outbreak rather than the situation spiralling out of control because they cannot identify who could have the virus, thus having little choice but to temporarily shut the entire organisation down, resulting in potentially significant revenue loss.

Supporting social distancing

In order to further promote Covid-safe workplaces, staff may need to work at a limited capacity. This means that there will be a higher chance of lone workers and companies need to consider ways to protect these workers as they may no longer have colleagues around them to raise alarms, should something happen. Additionally, due to social distancing measures, employees are less likely to talk face-to-face, so organisations need to look at different ways to help teams work together.

Preferably, companies need a way to address both factors together to support safe working conditions. Businesses are able to add this into one multifunctional device which allows workers to communicate with their team and raise alarms in the event of an emergency if they are working alone.

Integrating these functions into one streamlined device means that workers don't need to carry different devices on them throughout the working day. Panic buttons, tilt and no-motion sensors, push to talk (PTT) technology and other comprehensive communication and lone worker protection functions can be combined into one tailored device. Based on Digital Radio or smartphone technology, devices can be compact and robust and able to reliably transmit communications and alerts over private radio or 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi networks.

These communications methods accessible on the one device can protect staff working alone due to social distancing requirements and can be fine-tuned to suit a business' needs. This is critical to ensure that the solution focuses on the individual requirements of a company, especially during a time when everyone is adjusting to the new-normal.

Temperature Checks

Temperature monitoring provides a solution that could help companies looking to enforce safer practices which go beyond Covid-safe government guidelines. This solution works by providing companies with a clearer picture of whether or not an employee or customer has a raised temperature, helping them to avoid potentially unwell people entering the workplace and transmitting the virus

Temperature monitoring offers early detection of Covid-19 which is critical to restricting the spread of the virus. Thermal imaging can be used to frequently assess temperature, while also being discreet where needed. Those with high temperatures can then take the proactive steps to use the government's testing system and self-isolate if required to avoid any potential escalation.

In areas where numerous personnel temperatures need to be monitored at one time, cameras can be calibrated accordingly. Screening terminals are plug and play and can be swiftly and simply installed, even without the need for third-party installation on site ' providing immediate reassurance for staff and preventing unnecessary outside contact. Systems can also offer facemask detection and can even be expanded to allow remote camera viewing for those entrances that cannot be occupied all the time, ensuring a more Covid-secure work environment

Going beyond government guidelines

Organisations can protect their employees and go above and beyond government recommendations to promote a more Covid-safe workplace by using these solutions. Lone worker solutions will enable safer practices for those who can no longer work closely with colleagues due to social distancing. Through implementing a private test and trace system, workers will have confidence knowing that the spread of the virus is being carefully monitored at their workplace. Moreover, employees will feel safer with frequent temperature checks using thermal imaging devices. While technology can support businesses from a commercial angle, it can also provide a practical and effective barrier against the spread of the virus in the workplace, something which will continue to be a requirement for some time to come.

Chris Potts

Chris Potts



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