If my heating and cooling requirements are increased how can I control the impact costs?
Many of the methods recommended to prevent contamination and infection are likely to increase energy usage and carbon emissions. To help offset this, energy and equipment operations should be reviewed to identify any low/no cost energy saving initiatives that can be introduced as well as considering smart solutions which will also assist with energy cost control.
- An energy review could entail adjusting the equipment schedules to reflect occupancy numbers and operational hours
- Reviewing energy supply contracts against the market to see if more competitive rates are available
- Smart solutions could provide monitoring intel on office space to track occupancy rates in specific rooms areas and control the temperature and pressure remotely. There are also applications available for location specific reminders e.g. 'wash your hands', clean your desk, etc
- Smart sensors and controls could be introduced to automate and control temperature and pressure control zones (heating/cooling)
- Remote monitoring of building services which can reduce the number of site visits and call-outs by an engineers.
It is sensible that employers consult with their employees about any return into the workplace. This should be part of a broader re-induction process that takes on board any adjustments or on-going support that people may need following lockdown. Employee engagement will help identify support and ensure teams feel more confident about returning. Where relevant employers should also seek union input for any measures.
Employers should undertake risk assessments which will need to be reviewed as government advice changes. You may wish to refer to the Health and Safety Executive website for more information. A risk assessment has a crucial role in ensuring a safe return to the workplace process. The end goal is to adopt appropriate control measures which reduce or remove the risks of contracting Covid-19 when returning to work. The risks around visitors entering the workplace, such as customers should be assessed too as there is also a legal obligation to ensure their health and safety.
Health and safety duties
Employers have a contractual duty to take care of employees’ health and safety and other statutory duties including:
- Implied duty to protect the health and safety, of all employees
- Duty to look after the mental health, as well as physical health, of employees
- Duty to protect members of the public, clients, customers and contractors
- Duty to manage the health and safety risks from the workplace itself including equipment such as hand driers and air conditioning systems which may circulate viruses although there has been little research on this. Other workplace issues include cleanliness and washing facilities
- Information and training (including reminding employees of their responsibilities in meeting health and safety requirements).
Employers’ health and safety duties extend to mental health and well-being as well as physical infection control measures. Risk assessments should cover managing mental health and well-being aspects too. You may wish to refer to the Health and Safety Executive stress risk assessment tools. Employees with new working arrangements in the workplace and working from home can suffer from stress or mental health issues, ensure you maintain contact and look for signs of problems. Employees who have been furloughed should be included. As well as implementing or reviewing policies and procedures and proactively monitoring and keeping in contact with staff, employers should point them to other support that is available. Managers may need fresh training in recognising the symptoms of poor mental health so they can signpost to early intervention and expert support such as occupational health, an employee assistance helpline. If an employer becomes aware that particular employees are struggling with their mental health, they should conduct individual risk assessments for both home and workplace workers.
Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities towards those working from home as for any other workers, including physical mental health.
This webinar and Q&A document reflects our professional opinion of the factors impacting workplace transition in the context of our role as workplace specialists. It does not constitute formal advice and we recommend engagement with specialists, including your own internal or external health and safety advisors, if you are transitioning your workplace to a 'Covid secure' standard. Please also note that the Q&A contains responses to specific questions which therefore may not be appropriate for all types of businesses or workspaces. The spread of COVID-19 and the containment policies being introduced are changing rapidly, and some of the views expressed herein may not reflect the latest opinion of Avison Young. We strongly recommend that you continue to monitor the relevant UK Government advice, and any supplementary local advice. These sources provide regularly updated information on the COVID-19 outbreak: World Health Organization, Government of Canada, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UK Government, Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Case Tracker.