Innovative ‘Return to Work’ protocol at EPC-UK
Tailored COVID-19 solution helps firm deliver reassurance to its most vulnerable employees
UNDER Government guidelines to protect the most vulnerable people from COVID-19, those considered most at risk have been asked to shield from society for 12–14 weeks. As these weeks draw to an end, advice on whether it is safe for these people to return to work – if they are unable to work from home – has been unclear.
Commercial explosives and blasting specialists EPC-UK have 30 employees who are considered ‘high risk’ and have been self-isolating for 12 weeks to protect themselves, their families, and their colleagues.
Deciding when, and if, these team members should return to work was not a decision EPC-UK were prepared to make, as Julie Wootton, head of HR and IT at EPC-UK, explained: ‘Ensuring the ongoing health and safety of our employees is our highest priority. As such, we believed that determining which of our most vulnerable employees should return to work was not a judgement we should take. That decision should be based solely on an employee’s state of health and made by an appropriate professional.
‘Comprehensive return-to-work protocols and risk assessments have already been implemented across EPC-UK, but a more stringent, in-depth procedure was required to protect our most at-risk employees. This is when we approached RPS, our occupational health provider, for guidance.’
RPS have partnered EPC-UK for more than 15 years, working closely together to create intrinsic strategies and processes to maintain and improve employee well-being. To ensure the ongoing welfare of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, RPS have created a tailored ‘COVID-19 Solution’, a specialist referral scheme for employees returning to work.
The scheme involves conducting a one-to-one 45-minute consultation, during which the employee is asked a series of questions about their medical history and medication, current state of health – both physical and mental – and their job role and responsibilities.
From this conversation and the answers provided, RPS create a comprehensive report which recommends whether an employee is fit to return to work or not. The report also contains guidance on any specific precautions that should be implemented for the safety of the employee and their colleagues.
‘The Risk Assessments created by EPC-UK are the best we have seen and the provisions they have employed to protect their staff are comprehensive and extensive,’ explained Jane Hardy, senior account manager at RPS. ‘However, when it came to ensuring the health of its most at-risk members of staff, EPC-UK wanted a more in-depth procedure in place.
‘The RPS ‘COVID-19 Solution’ is the perfect fit. The process not only determines the health of the employee returning to work, but also reiterates the obligation of the company to protect the health, safety and well-being of its people – a duty which is already inherent in EPC-UK culture.
‘EPC-UK also strongly believe that employees at every level of the business need to be properly supported on their return to work after the pandemic, a belief that is central to our new solution. Our initial trial has been extremely positive and well received by both EPC-UK and their employees, and we look forward to helping even more members of the team get back to work safely,’ added Ms Hardy.
Stephen Moore, a master driller with EPC-UK for more than 10 years, was the first person to go through this new process: ‘Returning to work after 12 weeks of shielding was a daunting prospect. However, following my consultation I was reassured that maintaining my health was EPC-UK’s main priority,’ he said. ‘The process was very straightforward, but extremely comprehensive, and I felt all my concerns were listened to and my questions answered.
‘I was deemed fit to resume work and have been working safely ‘in the field’ since the end of June. I have been extremely impressed with the way EPC-UK have managed my return, making me feel valued and safe every step of the way. I am glad to be back at work and I know that the procedures that have been put in place will keep both me and my colleagues safe’
Ben Williams, managing director of EPC-UK, concluded: ‘Working closely with RPS, we have created a system that is specifically designed to protect our most vulnerable members of staff, whilst helping them to get back into the working environment. It is also a demonstration of EPC-UK’s ongoing commitment to the health and safety of its team and we hope it will provide reassurance to those returning to work, that we are doing everything we can to mitigate risk and keep everyone safe.’