COVID-19: Planning a Safe Return to Work

By Mark A. Doyle, Founder & Principal Consultant - IntSaf

All organisations have a duty to provide a safe workplace. When preparing to re-open for work after lock-down, please consider the following recommendations.

Occupational Health & Safety risk management plans should consider:

■ Allowing workers to work from home whenever possible;

■ Protecting workers who are at higher-risk, for example those with pre-existing health conditions;

■ Self-isolation for anyone exhibiting symptoms;

■ Training all workers on the risks of COVID-19 and how to effectively reduce transmission;

■ Maintaining 2m social distancing wherever possible, including travel to and from work;

■ Controls to reduce transmission when social distancing is not possible;

■ Reducing the number of people each person/team interacts with;

■ Keeping the workplace clean


Working from Home

Consider the minimum number of people required on site to complete the work safely. Is remote supervision possible using IT solutions? Ensure regular communication with remote workers to enquire after their welfare.

Protecting Workers who are Higher Risk

Advise workers that anyone with pre-existing health conditions should consult their doctor on the risks involved before returning to work. Provide a confidential method of communication for workers to talk to you about any concerns. Modified duties which limit interaction with others should be considered for anyone in a higher risk group.

Additional changes to work systems or processes may also be required such as installing screens, ensuring no face-to-face work or using tools to aid in distancing. PPE can be considered if no other practical solution is available.

Self-Isolation for Anyone Exhibiting Symptoms

If someone becomes ill with COVID-19 symptoms at work, isolate them by placing them in a room or an area away from others. Arrange for the person to be sent home or access medical assistance. If a worker is confirmed to have COVID-19, inform co-workers about possible exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 but maintain confidentiality. Advise workers to seek immediate medical advice if they develop symptoms or are concerned about their health.

Training All Workers on the Risks of COVID-19

Ensure all workers are aware of the risks associated with contracting sars-cov-2 and what actions they can take to keep themselves and others safe from infection. Consider deploying an online-learning solution that workers can complete before arriving onsite. Place posters around the site and conduct toolbox talks (with social distancing). There are lots of resources available on ​​, and your government’s department of health website.

Social Distancing

Make it a general rule onsite to maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, including travel to and from work. Consider installing screens in common areas and limiting the number of people who can gather. Stagger shift start times and limit interaction between teams.

When Social Distancing is Not Possible

Consider whether that particular activity needs to be conducted. If it does need to be conducted, then assess how the work methodology can be changed to reduce the number of workers and/interactions. Use PPE if no other solutions are practicable. Workers should wash their hands before any work where social distancing is compromised.

Keeping the Workplace Clean

Keep the workplace clean and hygienic. Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces such as door handles and workstations helps prevent contamination. The WHO says: “In non-healthcare settings, sodium hypochlorite (bleach / chlorine) may be used at a recommended concentration of 0.1% or 1,000ppm (1 part of 5% strength household bleach to 49 parts of water). Alcohol at 70-90% can also be used for surface disinfection. Surfaces must be cleaned with water and soap or a detergent first to remove dirt, followed by disinfection. Cleaning should always start from the least soiled (cleanest) area to the most soiled (dirtiest) area in order to not spread the dirt to areas that are less soiled.”

Provide hand washing facilities (soap & water & tissues) and make sure these are kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order. Provide hand sanitiser if available & cleaning supplies. Promote good hygiene practices, e.g. display hand hygiene ​posters. Consider providing shower and change facilities so that workers can travel to/from work in clean clothes.

DO NOT SPRAY DISINFECTANT​ on people or in the environment. It’s not effective and can be harmful to people’s health and the environment.


Please consult local legislation in addition to the items listed on this guidance. If you would like to talk to us about your safe return to work, please reach out to IntSaf. You can visit IntSaf (International Safety)'s Facebook page here