Helping to switch the lights back on

Our guide to getting COVID-secure for SMEs, care homes, retail outlets, manufacturers and caterers

Well, what can we say, the past two months have represented uncharted territory for all of us, and for anyone in business or providing services, a very stressful and uncertain time.

The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been far-reaching, whether you’re a worker who’s been furloughed or a business forced to find new ways of operating.

And now, following the Government’s announcement of its plans to gradually ease lockdown restrictions and get the wheels of commerce turning again, we face the added challenge of being able to play our parts safely – either as an organisation or as an individual working for one.

We’re acutely conscious, from customer feedback, that those who hold the responsibility for ensuring safe workplaces have many unanswered questions, and in many cases a sense of rising panic about how exactly they are going to achieve this seemingly monumental task.

Which is why we’ve created this document, to provide a little help and reassurance from our many years of experience. If the above description sounds like you, you’ll find we’ve captured many of the questions you may have, and answers to them, below.We hope this will help give you ways and means and instil a fresh sense of calm but, above all, please get in touch if we can be of any assistance, via or (01482) 327580.

We saw this coming

With clients in sectors from care to manufacturing, our concern started to spike way back in very early January. Experience told us that what appeared, back then, to be just a troublesome bug affecting a city several thousand miles away in Asia, spelled wider trouble, and we started looking at our supply chains to make sure we had everything in place that we possibly could to ensure our established clients’ needs were well catered for. This included personal protective equipment (PPE), virucidal cleaners and hand sanitiser. It wasn’t perfect, given the circumstances and the fact a severe frontline NHS shortage prompted the Government to snap up goods in transit, but, on the whole, we provided everyone with what they needed through a mixture of rationing certain products and prioritising existing clients in the first instance. I’m sure many organisations  reading this will empathise when we say that this has been the hardest few months our family business has ever gone through – we’ve lived and breathed our response to this crisis, and we’ve cried along the way, too.

However, we’ve emerged stronger. We’ve invested significantly in securing stock via our robust supply chain and bringing PPE into the country by the container load, via new supply routes.  With the support of our national buying group, we’ve sourced new and alternative manufacturers where necessary for the chemicals our customers need. As a result, we now have a warehouse which is well stocked with all the required items and more.

It’s in our DNA as a family business to be agile and respond proactively, and this has been an extreme example of our ability to – quite literally – deliver the goods. We’ve had tremendously positive feedback from our established customers about our efforts, which means everything to us. After all, they’re not just an account number or postcode, we build long-lasting personal relationships as an extension of their management teams, and they get to know every member of our team, as we do members of theirs who we deal with on a regular basis.

Importantly, having developed that strategy for maintaining supplies to our customer base – which spans the full range of sectors – there is no type of organisation we’re now not able to help. We have a warehouse full of stock which we’ve adapted to meet the COVID-secure requirements, safeguarded by an ongoing replenishment plan. This is sufficient for our existing customer base and we’ve now also scaled up our operation to ensure we’re also ready and prepared to help anyone else who needs us, with anything from advice to supplying valuable PPE and the full range of safety and hygiene chemicals and equipment, including mobile hand washing stations, hand sanitiser and dispensers, signage, visors, face masks, aprons, gloves and virucidal cleaners. We’re ready and prepared to help keep your organisation, staff and customers safe from this terrible virus.

What questions are we being asked?

What does COVID-secure mean? How can I achieve it? Where do I start? What if my premises are too small to allow for two-metre distancing? Do my team need to wear PPE and, if so, can I get hold of any? What works and what doesn’t, when it comes to protective equipment and cleaning and sanitising chemicals? Do I need to pay an expensive consultant to tell me what to do and make sure I don’t fall foul of health and safety guidelines? How can I keep my environment safe?

These are just some examples of the things we’re being asked every day, which is what prompted us to pull together this guide to help demystify the situation and provide you with a clear and simple road map towards getting up and running again.

The overarching answer to all of the above is ‘don’t panic, everything is possible with the right advice and a trusted helping hand. And no, you don’t need to pay thousands of pounds for appropriate help – have a go yourself in the first instance’. Start by reading the Government’s guide to getting COVID-secure which gives help  and guidance for different business sectors.

Then start to consider what it means for your business; download the free template risk assessment form from the Government’s website and start to fill it in, then, when you’ve started to piece together a proper picture of the gaps you think you have, get in touch with a trusted supplier like us for help in getting your organisation up to spec.

We’re genuinely concerned that people will end up wasting large amounts of time and money, unnecessarily, by sourcing items that aren’t up to the job and paying expensive consultants when they don’t need to, out of fear. If you’re on the brink of doing just that, stop, breathe and read on to discover how you can avoid such pitfalls with a few, simple steps.

Our simple-to-follow, five-point plan

Above all, good hygiene needs to be front and centre in everything you do going forward. This is our mantra even in the good times, as adhering to a proper strategy and processes, backed by the right equipment and chemicals – can significantly reduce expensive downtime as a result of the usual, seasonal flu. However, against the backdrop of COVID-19, it’s literally a matter of life or death. Don’t be scared by that statement though – with the right help, it’s easy to achieve. Things you need to take a fresh look at include the processes you have, your cleaning schedules, where your touch points are and how you can control cross-contamination, and, once you have the right things in place, avoiding complacency within your team which, in this situation, could spell heightened danger.

Here’s our simple, five-step guide to getting it right

  1. Visit the Government and HSE websites and ensure you read the COVID-secure guidelines. Highlight anything that concerns you, and start there.
  2. Walk the walk – literally walk through your environment, listing areas that are a potential risk for you, your team and your customers – as well as things you feel you have covered, and kick off the process of drawing up some practical plans. You run a business, you know how to build a plan, it’s not a science or a mystery, it’s about just plotting out what you need to do to adapt to this new environment we’re now working in. Among other steps, prepare to put a cleaning schedule in place. We build cleaning schedules for all our clients who we work closely with, to ensure things are done properly and consistently, and this can ensure all the touch points within your organisation are safe – from the security pad at your front door to desks, computers and phones.  Visit the HSE website for more useful hints and tips for managing risk.
  3. Compile your own risk assessment in the  first instance – you can do it: it needs to be logical and based on a traffic light system of red (for the things your biggest, most urgent issues) amber (moderate risks) and green (things that are OK). You’ll see some of your reds – for example, not being able to maintain a two-metre distance – can be easily changed, through steps like moving your workers back-to-back facing the wall instead of facing each other. You can access a risk assessment template from the Government’s website.
  4. Consider, specifically, what equipment, paper wipes, cloths and PPE you have in place and what you’re going to need to help turn your ‘reds’ green.
  5. Once you’ve got everything ship-shape, keep revisiting and repeating the process to assess what might have changed. It’s good practice to swap things around  on a regular basis, so that your team don’t get complacent and you keep the good hygiene message front of mind, rather than it potentially becoming ‘wallpaper’.

To help you capture your thoughts, we’ve created this helpful ‘walk your walk’ action plan template for you to fill in, to get you started. Above all, don’t worry, we can help you get COVID-secure – talk to us.

Getting the right advice is key

Although there are some consistencies between sectors, the specific cleaning products and equipment you need will depend on the unique status of your organisation and, here at Elliott’s, we’re genuinely concerned that many businesses might end up buying wrongly because they’ve not taken advice or, worse still, been given bad advice. There are a multitude of products out there but it’s very easy to choose something that’s overpriced or ineffective, or unnecessarily bad for the environment.

We work with organisations in the care sector, food manufacture and industry, ‘HORECA’ (hospitality and catering) sectors, garden centres, schools, colleges and academies,  as well as food and retail outlets and offices, so we have a plan already for all those different types of organisations we work with. With a little modification, we can bespoke this to the needs of any organisation, to help you get back to work despite COVID-19. Here are some basic rules of thumb when it comes to picking the right products:

  • You need a virucidal cleaner – one that is proven to kill the likes of the coronavirus, and to strict standards, passing EN 14476, anything less cut won’t cut it!
  • Hand sanitiser – having it is essential but only if it has an alcohol content above 60 per cent. There are many ‘emerging brands’ which are capitalising on scarcity to manufacture products which – although reflecting the recipe published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – are unregulated and untried and tested. However, with established, reputable brands now able to meet demand again, we highly recommend using those, and can supply proven products to ensure your organisation is properly protected.
  • Hands sanitisers should be positioned in suitable, contactless, wall-mounted ‘auto-dispense’ machines or smaller individual bottles for individuals’ ‘self-use’.  The regulated EN 14476 brands also contain specific ingredients to ensure they don’t strip users’ hands of their natural oils but instead condition as they treat.
  • Paper roll is preferable to the constant reusing cloths for cleaning any touchpoints like desks, touchpads and monitors, because it can be disposed of easily and hygienically – minimising the very real potential of cross contamination.

The key risks to look out for with COVID-19 are transferring germs by touch, droplets being passed from one person to another when someone coughs or sneezes, and being in close proximity with others for any length of time.

Good hygiene is, categorically, the best way of mitigating risk. Because COVID-19 is what is known as an ‘enveloped virus’, it is susceptible to detergents and handwashing and – where that’s not possible – using hand sanitiser instead.

As a family-run business, hygiene has been our passion for over three decades now and we’re committed to helping you get it right when it’s so easy to do so, but equally easy to get it wrong without the right guidance.

You’re probably going to have additional costs to bear and you need to factor this into your future plans because the world has certainly changed. However, you can ensure these don’t get out of hand, and you get maximum value for your spend, by seeking the right advice.

You can chat to us about your needs via our contact us page.

Should you be scared of all this?

A lot of organisations we deal with have asked me ‘Janette, what does the future hold?’. In reality, it really needn’t be that scary or insurmountable. If we stick to the guidance the Government and HSE have given us, we can achieve a safe working environment and capture as new sense of normality.

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