Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still with us, and will remain with us for the medium term at least. This means facilities managers need to create processes and systems to operate safely, on an ongoing basis and avoid becoming overburdened.
One effective approach is to create a COVID Safety Toolkit; a package of tools to help you keep track of the changes and the ever-increasing regulation and actions you need to stay on top of the situation. For example, Thomson Screening has developed a toolkit* to help managers work through what’s needed and what action to take. It provides a checklist, training and sample documentation. The activities required aren’t new. What’s different now, is that each action needs a specific “COVID flavoured” version to ensure every one of your premises are managed appropriately.
WHAT SHOULD A TOOLKIT CONTAIN?
Rather than creating individual processes and lots of standalone documents, you bring together, all in one place, every item you will need to respond to COVID.
- Governance framework
- Risk management including individual and group risk assessments
- Action plans
- Communications plans
- Review and update plan
Let’s look at each of these:
You need to decide who is in charge: Who has oversight of all your COVID related activities; where does the buck stop? Several months into COVID, this has probably been done ages ago, so you might as well put it into your COVID Policy and make sure everyone knows it.
This is all the changes, adaptations and new ways of working you put in place in response to COVID, and hopefully you shouldn’t need to do them over again. If these are risk assessment based and clearly documented (a simple excel sheet will do, the key is clarity, not length), you can quickly check what needs updating if there is a local or national change in guidelines. Most of your arrangements can probably stay as they are, but do you know which ones need to change and how? If your original assessment is at hand, in an easy-to-access document, you can revise it very quickly.
You may need to assess an individual person’s risks as well. For example, a member of staff who has recently had COVID will need different kinds of support than someone who has never had it, or someone who lives with an elderly relative. Our general understanding of risks relating to specific groups: young people, healthcare workers, etc. is constantly improving. You might want to fine-tune your risk groups at regular intervals. Again, this is where having a central document will save you time.
This goes hand in hand with your risk assessment changes. If there’s been no change then no action is needed. If there has been a specific change in risk, then you’ll need to change the mitigation that helps reduce that risk.
If you do this by modules or sections for each area of your university, each building or physical space, you will be able to make the changes much faster and you can also check that you haven’t missed anything.
This is where COVID specific planning pays a lot of dividends. It is worth dedicating some time to this as it’s the area that is likely to change most often. Here are the key points to consider:
- Understand your audience
- Listen to them actively
- Be clear about what you want to say (and say it simply)
- Use the appropriate channel(s)
- Make sure your communication is timely
You also need to use trusted sources of information. There is so much conflicting, confusing or out of date information circulating, it’s always best to check the government websites first.
Use templates as much as possible to save time and keep the communications consistent. Ensure anyone involved in any form of comms (from PR to social media, from web editor to marketing, from poster designs to advertising) knows what your university’s COVID-19 messaging is and when and how to include it.
Review and update
You simply need to check at regular intervals what the current regulations are, and what you, your staff and those working in a building you manage are required to do. You’ll also likely to need to have evidence that you are carrying out your duties as an employer.
TOOLS TO HELP YOU
These will be familiar and in COVID-19 related activities they are essential:
- In electronic communications (websites, newsletters, chats, etc.) use links directly to the relevant government websites
- Used shared file systems (e.g. Google Drive, One Drive or Dropbox) for templates and drafts
- Have a log of where these templates are kept and where they are used, to make sure you don’t miss one of them
- It takes time to get everything in one place, but it will pay dividends when you suddenly need to change something
It’s easy to get COVID-weariness and when that happens, we sometimes take our eye off the ball – it’s just natural human response. However, it’s also a reason why a Toolkit is essential. As facilities managers, with so much on your plate, you want to avoid extra work. Having a toolkit means you don’t have to repeat work, or ‘reinvent the wheel’ or worry that everything is up to date. This means less burden and a significant reduction in stress.
• Ethnicity and mortality rates up to 15th May 2020 in England and Wales: https://bit.ly/3vEwkML
• Finding your local Health Protection Team: https://www.gov.uk/health-protection-team
• Moderate and high-risk factors: https://bit.ly/2ZHQkQ0