Alan Tungate, Logical Safety Solutions and Sophie Davenport, SFE Services join Rob Walley, Controlled Events as expert guests again this month, sharing new information to consider as COVID restrictions ease and reopening phases continue to progress.
All are committed to implementing COVID-secure arrangements within their own organisations, as well as advising clients. Logical Safety Solutions provide competent, practical health and safety solutions, primarily for the events, TV & Film industries. SFE Services provide air conditioning, refrigeration & ventilation equipment installation, breakdown repair and routine maintenance services. Controlled Events provide resilience, readiness, control and communications solutions including business continuity, crisis management, Crown Services approved ECR Log platform and COVID response services. Together these companies have been assisting organisations to keep their sites compliant and COVID-secure, providing insights and expert advice to inform each tailored risk assessment and process implementation.
With the first 3 phases of the Governments ‘Roadmap out of Lockdown’ having moved forward as planned and the national vaccine programme accelerating beyond expectations, now is the time to start planning for a more permanent ‘New Normal’.
Alan : “The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) makes it a legal requirement that every business must have a policy for managing health and safety. It is an absolute requirement, and many businesses will think they are legally compliant, however a key element of the policy requires that it is updated for significant changes, with those changes brought to the attention of the workforce. COVID represents a significant change of circumstance and therefore needs to be reflected in company policy and training, especially as guidance evolves and compliance and engagement may wane.”
As with any risk assessment, competence is key and specialist advice should always be sought. ‘COVID-secure’ status can be claimed if companies are up to date with scientific-based, published guidance and have implemented proportionate measures to protect the health of staff, contractors and the public. As can be seen from published bulletins, the Local Authorities and Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are extremely proactive in undertaking spot checks on businesses utilising the full range of interventions available to them in Law. These range from warnings and prohibition notices to prosecutions.
Key advice for COVID security from Alan includes:
- Safe access to toilets and washing facilities, hand sanitiser stations at key locations.
- Clear signage that identifies one waysystems, walking routes and room capacities.
- Staggering of work timings to limit mass arrivals and departures.
- Safety inductions, health briefings and effective supervision.
- Redesign of the working area, workspaces and desks realigned to encourage distancing
- An enhanced cleaning regime alongside good ventilation/air circulation.
- Further HSE advice is available here: HSE – COVID-secure
Rob: Having now been able to support some in person events, for the first time in over a year, we are beginning to see new trends in requirements, with a surge of demand for equipment, suppliers and to receive the correct advice and guidance to ensure continued compliance. The easing of restrictions may suggest the removal of all compliance requirements in the near future, however our research suggests that many of the new hygiene and safety measures will be maintained long beyond that June 21st deadline we are all striving towards, particularly given the long standing medical premise that COVID-19 variants will continue to impact society for the foreseeable.
Key advice for safe reopening from Rob includes:
- Plan your reopening early – with customers, managers and staff will help
- Obtain expert advice –ensure that you have taken a proportionate and scalable approach, documenting it at every stage
- Communicate your plan widely – staff, customers, suppliers, and stakeholders all need to have confidence in your future operating arrangements.
- Plan for concurrent risks: cyber-attacks, market changes, severe weather – whatever the assessed risks are for your site(s) and sector, time invested in scenario planning and exercising is worth itsweight in gold when you are responding under pressure.
Sophie: What to consider if you have an air conditioning / ventilation system when planning your reopening:
If you have pre-existing system, the most important thing to do prior to reopening is to have the equipment serviced. We are hearing many clients say, “the system hasn’t been used in months, so it won’t need a service”. This is incorrect! Dust, debris, bacteria, and potential viruses can still build up in /on the units and like many mechanical systems, if not used for a long time can present faults when switched back on – a service visit from an experienced / qualified engineer will fully clean & decontaminate equipment, check for faults & leaks and set the systems to operate efficiently and safely during operating hours.
All of this will help to improve air quality, flow, increase energy efficiency and save you money long term. For most commercial premises we advise a minimum of two service visits per year, but this does depend on several factors.
The new guidance from HSE advises that recirculated air conditioning can be used providing there is ventilation, whether that’s natural ventilation (opening windows & doors) or via mechanical ventilation.
If client’s have a mechanical ventilation system, it is suggested that settings are adjusted to reduce the recirculation of air and maximise fresh air supply (ideally 12-15 litres per second / per person). You should also extend the running time by having the system on 2 hours before the area is occupied and 2 hours after.
What to consider if you are yet to install air conditioning / ventilation systems on site
For clients with no air conditioning or ventilation systems installed, they are going to be solely reliant on natural ventilation (windows and doors being open). While this is necessary it is not an ideal solution and is unlikely to provide adequate supply of fresh air to the entire premises.
A mechanical ventilation system will provide optimum supply and extraction of fresh air and if accompanied with an air conditioning system optimum temperature control.
Clients should contact their local air conditioning companies to discuss the options available. A good company will offer to survey the building to confirm a solution that suits your individual business needs. There are a range of options to suit most requirements and budgets and these systems can provide greater energy efficiency, control, security, and safety.
There is also lots of information on our website about maintenance and the systems we provide.
Key advice for effective use of air conditioning from Sophie includes:
- Ensure maintenance is in place for your mechanical ventilation e.a fresh air system or heat recovery system.
- If you are currently reliant on natural ventilation, you may want to consider installing mechanical ventilation.
- For companies with existing mechanical ventilation, we advise having an assessment carried out to see if the required fresh air supply standards are being met or are achievable with the current system installed.
- For most commercial premises we advise a minimum of two service visits per yearas standard
- Adjust settings to reduce the recirculation of air and maximise fresh air supply (ideally 12-15 litres per second / per person).
- Extend the running time by having the system on 2 hours before the area is occupied and 2 hours after