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Allaying employee fears surrounding Covid-19

01 April 2021

A guide to ensuring employee safety, in relation to the challenges that Covid-19 poses in food production environments, has been produced by Tork. Find out more... 

The ongoing pandemic has presented a challenge for workplace health and safety of the modern era. While keeping employees physically safe from the virus is a top priority, one of the ‘symptoms’ of the pandemic that employers also need to address is worker anxiety. Statistics have shown that 32% of workers surveyed were anxious about catching or spreading Covid-19 in their normal workplace, with 21% also feeling dissatisfied with the health and safety measures employers were putting in place.  

The food manufacturing and production industry was subject to great scrutiny through 2020 as a result of reporting on outbreaks in factories and manufacturing facilities in England and Wales, with over 450 workers reportedly testing positive for Coronavirus across four different facilities. Many aspects of working in food production that are unique to the industry have been discussed as potential explanations as to why infection rates were so disproportionate among food sector workers, including refrigerated work spaces, communal welfare areas and workers having to raise voices to be heard over loud machinery.

While HSE guidelines advise a 2m social distance between employees (or 1m with other controls in place) should be a key part of workplace response to Covid, the governmental guidelines specific to the food manufacturing and production industry admit that ‘it will not always be possible to keep a distance of two metres. In these circumstances both employers and employees must do everything they reasonably can to reduce risk.’

An effective workplace hygiene and sanitisation programme addresses not only potential worker anxieties around being safe from Covid-19 while at work but can also help ensure a greater degree of safety and compliance in workplaces where social distancing presents challenges. It is vital that employers foster a hygiene-positive workplace culture to boost employee confidence in the safety of their environment and reduce potential risks.

Advising the UK Government on safer policy during the pandemic, Essity began working on a best practice guide for improved workplace hygiene, working in collaboration with trade unions, industry bodies and public health officials. 

The Tork Site Safety Guide for Manufacturing was developed using knowledge and first-hand experience gained working alongside the UK government advising on safety policy during the pandemic. It supports workplaces in developing a strategy for resuming and maintaining operations in a way that mitigates infection spread and keeps workers safe. Including guidelines around how to effectively exercise social distancing within a confined environment, navigate high-traffic areas and people flow, and achieve critical hygiene and surface cleaning protocols among employees. The guide also provides recommendations on training employees on key Covid-19 information. 

As people start to return to the workplace, it is with a greater awareness of the need for health, safety and hygiene measures. By employing resources such as the Tork Site Safety Guide for Manufacturing to address areas including social distancing, measures for high-traffic areas, correct use of PPE and signage, employee training and proper hand hygiene, businesses can ensure high levels of Covid-compliance and safety. As facilities secure the new hygiene standard across the globe, these safeguards are integral to reinforce best practices and implement preventive measures to slow the spread of infection.

The complete Tork Site Safety Guide for Manufacturing can be downloaded from: 

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