Coronavirus: Questions over PPE as draft post-lockdown workplace rules revealed

Businesses are still waiting to be told whether personal protective equipment (PPE) will be required for employees who are unable to maintain a two-metre distance when they return to the workplace.

Draft government guidance for safe working was circulated to around 180 employers, unions and business groups on Sunday, setting out the requirements in seven workplace settings, including factories, hospitality, for those working in people’s homes and in vehicles, and outdoors.

The guidelines are part of a staged process to ease lockdown measures and try and help restart the economy in the coming months as the COVID-19 health emergency eases.

It includes requirements to:

  • Maintain the “safe” social distance of two metres, demarcating office space with tape on floors and desks, and restricting access to lifts.
  • Where maintaining a two-metre gap is not possible however the guidelines say that the use of PPE should be considered, along with extra cleaning measures, and the use of screens as is the case in supermarkets.
  • Reduce congestion in offices – shifts are likely to be staggered and many staff who can work from home will be required to continue to do so for many months to come.
  • The guidelines set out requirements to improve hygiene and sanitation but do not stipulate what products should be used.

For all seven work environments, however, the section for PPE says only that more detail will follow.

The concern for employers is that they may struggle to source sufficient supplies given the soaring global demand, and could find themselves in competition with health and social care providers.

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