The government published its roadmap to lift restrictions step-by-step yesterday (11 May) followed by guidance from BEIS on how to work safely in different types of working environment, from offices to factories and shops.
Print bosses welcomed the publication as providing further clarity around how firms should operate.
Dr Adrian Steele, managing director of Burntwood-based Mercian Labels, said the guidance reflected the widespread measures his company – which has BRC accreditation and prints for food and medical customers – had been implementing itself since February.
“The most important thing is not making up your own rules, but following government guidance,” he said.
“One of the interesting parts in the new guidance is about publishing your own company risk assessment for Covid-19 and all the various infection controls. It’s voluntary but I can see a lot of people doing that.”
Steele said the measures taken at Mercian Labels included temperature measurement for staff members coming into work, and part-way through the working day; strict separation of teams so that core functions can continue should a person at one part of the business become infected; adherence to social distancing; additional cleaning regimes and materials; and banning visitors unless absolutely unavoidable.
The firm has continued to operate 24/5 throughout.
“We have not shut for a single day. Customers have been very loyal and we have seen surges in some types of work. Equally some business that we expected to bring on board hasn’t happened.”
The new government advice also recommends wearing a face covering “in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet”, such as on public transport or in some shops. It also notes that clothes should be washed regularly.
Steele said he would now be reviewing the new advice on clothing, and would be purchasing face coverings in case specific circumstances caused the need for people to come closer than 2 metres, for example during an unavoidable equipment maintenance situation.
Paul Hulley, chief executive of Bungay-based book printer Clays, who had experienced a social media backlash for remaining open after the UK lockdown was announced, commented: “I like the Working Safely document released yesterday. It sets the principles out clearly.
“Aside from all the obvious practical stuff, for us the key has been communication and co-operation. Defining the shared goals of safety and livelihoods, and then management and union/other nominated representatives working closely together to achieve them, with regular meetings and dialogue,” he said.
“We started that process well before the government’s lockdown. Regular business updates to everyone – including those furloughed – have been fundamentally important, perhaps especially for those working from home or furloughed who would otherwise start to feel a sense of detachment from the business. Management presence, discretion and common sense also matter a great deal.”
Hulley said that social distancing was “at the crux of it all”.
“Keep practising it, communicating it, demonstrating it and policing it – all the time. And similarly, cleaning.”
Speaking during a Ricoh webinar this morning, BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold said that the key aspect to the new guidance for the print sector was managing Health & Safety aspects “particularly around risk assessments”.
“Staff and their families and those they are connections understandably have significant concerns. But there is a balance to strike. Staff have to be looked after and their concerns have to be listened to, but we do need to get the economy opened up again," he said.
“They [the guidelines] look fairly sensible as things stand. We’ll continue to work with government as a sector to clarify any ambiguities,” Jarrold added.
The key dates in the government’s three-step roadmap are:
Step One: applies from Wednesday 13 May
Workers should continue to work from home if possible. All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.
Step Two: no earlier than 1 June
A phased return for early years settings and schools. Opening non-essential retail when and where it is safe to do so. Permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors. Re-opening more local public transport in urban areas, subject to strict measures to limit the risk of infection.
Step Three: no earlier than 4 July
The ambition is to open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (eg hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (eg places of worship) and leisure facilities (eg cinemas).