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COVID-19 Contingency Planning Guide For Facilities Managers

COVID-19 Contingency Planning Guide for Facilities Managers
03 March 2020 | Updated 07 April 2020
 

After the government unveiled its Coronavirus action plan, following a growing number of cases in the UK, it’s more important than ever that the FM sector continues to step up its contingency planning.

Speaking at 10 Downing Street on 3 March, Boris Johnson joined England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance to announce the UK’s COVID-19 plan.

Mr Johnson said: "I fully understand public concern about the global spread of the virus and it is highly likely we will see a growing number of UK cases. Keeping the UK safe is the government’s overriding priority.

"We must not forget what we can do to prevent this virus, wash your hands with soap and hot water for the length of time it takes to sing happy birthday twice."

Aside from practising good hand hygiene, what else can our sector do to plan for a potential pandemic?

 

Rethink your disaster recovery plan

 

Today the government revealed that it’s planning for a range of outcomes, from low to a severe and prolonged pandemic, and businesses are being asked to exercise the same caution.

Identifying business-critical groups of employees (be it payroll, shipping or manufacturing) and considering what would be needed to cover these roles, means businesses can be better prepared for severe consequences.

 

“Evaluate what will be required to continue, in terms of services, procedures and products – and consider how this can be done with a limited number of employees and how the business will continue to function, without the use of a physical office."

– Jackie Furey

Director, Where Workplace Works

 

Jackie Furey, Director of Where Workplace Works, who provides workplace consultancy, advises evaluating what would be needed for a business to operate in a worst-case scenario:

“Evaluate what will be required to continue, in terms of services, procedures and products- and consider how this can be done with a limited number of employees and how the business will continue to function, without the use of a physical office.

“The plan should include a list of alternative plans, outcomes and instructions for all aspects of the business. Preparations that address how employees communicate and expectations during such a change in process will be paramount in such times of crisis.”

 

Ask your sick employees to stay at home – and pay them

 

Furey continues: 

“Employers need to have responsible measures in place to ensure their workers are encouraged to stay away when they are ill. This means allowing people time when they are unwell. Bosses also need to ensure that working conditions are not environments that aid the spread of illness.”

ThisWeekinFM previously reported that the GMB union stated if people feel forced to work in hospitals – or any other workplace – while ill, Coronavirus will become a national health crisis,

The GMB has demanded that NHS Trusts ensure cleaners, porters, security and catering staff get sick pay in suspected COVID-19 cases.

 

“Play fair with staff who need to self-isolate, because this is crucial to avoid spreading contagion.” 

–Luis De Souza

CEO, NFS Technology Group

 

Luis De Souza, CEO of workspace software providers NFS Technology Group, said the Coronavirus situation is forcing employers to think harder than ever before about the wellbeing of their workforce.

“Each workplace should appoint a leader with responsibility to support staff, and to share ideas that will work in the company, such as encouraging staff to use hand gels.”

De Souza maintains the importance of supporting employees who cannot attend the office due to self-isolation

"Play fair with staff who need to self-isolate, because this is crucial to avoid spreading contagion.

“If you don’t already have a work-from-home policy in place, sort out the practicalities now. Make sure anyone isolated but not showing symptoms has everything they need to conduct their daily work without coming into the office.”

 

Is routine cleaning enough at the moment?

 

At present, no additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended. Public Health England advises that if a person becomes ill in a shared space, these should be cleaned using disposable cloths and household detergents.

But what does ‘routine cleaning’ constitute? 

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says:

 

  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label
  • Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use

The experts advise specialist, deep cleaning

 

Steve Broughton, Group Managing Director at SafeGroup, a provider of emergency soft facilities management services, told ThisWeekinFM that stringent hygiene practices are essential once exposed staff have been sent home:

“Unfortunately by the time someone in an office looks or feels ill, they are likely to have left the virus on hard surfaces in the office, akin to shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

“For this reason, we are advising businesses to act quickly once an employee is off sick, to have the touch point areas in the office deep cleaned to reduce other staff getting sick and to maintain business continuity.

“These include desks, keyboards, toilet and washroom areas, canteen, photocopier and water coolers which are all high-risk transmission points.”

 

“Unfortunately by the time someone in an office looks or feels ill, they are likely to have left the virus on hard surfaces in the office, akin to shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.”

– Steve Broughton

Group Managing Director, SafeGroup

 

Rethink the handshake?

 

Technology trade show Data Centre World has reported that some of their attendees and exhibitors may wish to implement “handshake bans”:

“Physical contact has been shown to aid the transmission of Coronavirus. Several of our larger international clients have issued “handshake bans” within their organisations. Please do not be offended if somebody refuses to shake hands with you – they are taking sensible precautions and are likely to be following their own corporate guidelines.” states the dedicated web page.

However today Mr Johnson told reporters he continues to shake hands with people.

He said: "I am shaking hands, I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were Coronavirus patients and I was shaking hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.

Picture: After the government unveiled its Coronavirus action plan, following a growing number of cases in the UK, it’s more important than ever that the FM sector continues to step up its contingency planning.

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 03 March 2020

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