Keep your distance and go with the flow

A year into Covid and a return to “normal” may be in sight, but it’s too soon to drop your guard. Check out the latest advice from the BMF and their H&S experts, Southalls

IT’S APRIL AND groups of six can finally meet once again and enjoy a drink or a meal together, albeit outside. But even as we celebrate with friends and family, we can’t afford to drop our guard. As we move through each phase in the Government’s roadmap to more normal times, COVID-19 remains part of our lives and we must all take steps to keep ourselves and others safe and comply with COVID-secure guidelines that remain in place.

Good social distancing has become one of the most important ways to fight the spread of Coronavirus and control the risk of transmission. To help ensure social distancing, businesses have put various measures into place, including the use of one-way systems, additional signage, updating the layout of retail areas and introducing maximum occupancies to different areas, all of which are outlined in the BMF’s Branch Operating Guidelines developed in association with the Construction Leadership Council together with merchant and H&S advisors.

However, during audits we have come across a number of examples where social distancing falls down. We want to use this article to bring these to your attention and provide a list of key things to watch out for at your site(s). The key here is to maintain 2-metre – or 1 metre plus - distances wherever possible and prevent ‘close contacts’ between members of staff and with customers or visitors. Ensuring there are no close contacts between colleagues, customers and visitor, is the best way to prevent your branch being associated with a potential


Southalls provide regular “Safety Memos” for BMF members and also provides the BMF Safety Plus service for those requiring tailored health and safety support.

any symptoms - before they are in contact with colleagues. In the next major push for the Government’s workplace testing programme, all businesses with over 10 employees are able to offer their employees free, rapid and regular testing that can be taken at home.

outbreak, which may end up with Public Health England and the local authority being involved. It’s important to understand what a ‘close contact’ is, so that you know what should be avoided. There are two main examples provided by the NHS: • Having close face-to-face contact (under 1 meter) with a person for any length of time - including talking to them or being coughed on.

• Being within 1 or 2 meters of each other for more than 15 minutes.

During audits, Southalls have come across:

• Staff sitting together in their cars while taking breaks or eating their lunch.

• Staff congregating around forklift trucks, or coming right up to the operator because they can’t hear each other over the noise of the engine. • Staff congregating within smoking areas.

• Staff bumping fists and shaking hands with customers. • Not adhering to maximum occupancies for communal rooms,

such as kitchens/canteens and meeting rooms.

• Not sanitising frequent touch points, including forklift truck controls, workstations and door handles.

For social distancing to be effective and well maintained, those responsible should make sure to complete regular site checks and speak to staff where they identify issues. Even after a year or restrictions, simple errors can be down to lack of understanding or a mistaken belief that the branch is a safe bubble. Staff should be regularly reminded of keeping a safe distance from each other, which can be bolstered by displaying clear signage around the site. A robust social distancing strategy should be coupled with continual reminders for staff to wash hands regularly and cleaning of contact surfaces to reduce the spread of the virus. Another way to reduce outbreaks at work, is to identify anyone with the virus – including the one in three people with coronavirus who do not show

The self test kits, which are designed to be given to employees to use at home, come with clear instructions and deliver the result in 30 minutes. Swift detection of cases means those who test positive can isolate immediately, and in doing so, break chains of transmission and supress the virus.

Home-testing builds on the existing workplace testing offer, available for those employing 50 or more people. Both schemes will continue until the end of June, but businesses must register their interest by 12 April to access the free tests at get-workplace-coronavirus-tests It should be noted that

workplace testing is likely to only be effective if all staff ‘buy into it’ and needs to be accompanied with a suitable policy. However, making home testing mandatory is currently unlikely to be enforceable and as such should be carefully considered by each business. BMJ

For more information about BMF membership visit or contact April 2021

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