Azra Rajwani

Returning to Work Safely During COVID

Returning to Work Safely
I think it’s safe to say that returning to work is going to look very different in a post-pandemic life. Or what we are now calling the ‘new normal’. Many of us are now used to working in our pajamas and rolling right out of bed into our desk, but we will eventually have to get back into the office. How can we do that safely, without the lingering fear of the ever-lurking COVID-19 virus?


ISO PAS 45005:  Occupational health and safety management- General guidelines for safe working during the COVID-19 Pandemic (December 2020) provides recommendations to organizations for managing COVID-19 related risks to:

  • Take effective action to protect workers and interested parties
  • Demonstrate it is addressing risks using a systematic approach
  • Develop a framework to enable adaptation to the changing situation

Intertek, BSI and TÜV have put together documents and programmes to assist organizations in getting back to work safely.

TÜV developed a one-time checklist audit to assist in assessing an organizations’ status quo, and similar to Intertek, they offer remote audits. To date, TÜV has conducted 5000 remote audits and intend to offer remote audits as an option to clients post COVID.

BSI published a general guideline for organizations on ‘Safe Working during the COVID-19 pandemic’. This guidance document is based off a formal guidance document issued by the UK government, with additional information to assist organizations in adjusting to safely working during the current COVID-19 pandemic.  This guidance document is intended to inform organizations on how to:

  • Put in place a framework to enable them to adapt to the constantly changing situations
  • Demonstrate that it is using a systematic approach in addressing risks related to COVID-19, and
  • Understand what needs to be done to protect workers and all other parties involved

BSI follows the PDCA (Plan- Do- Check- Act) approach.

Plan: This is where the organization plans what needs to be done in order to ensure workers safety (Clause 4 to 6)

Do: This is where the organization implements what they have planned (Clause 7 to 9)

Check: This is where the organization checks to ensure that what they have laid out is working effectively (Clause 10)

Act:  This is where the organization fixes any issues, and works towards bettering already implemented solutions (Clause 11)

Intertek recently hosted a webinar on Preparing for a Post-Pandemic Workplace, sharing survey results and a three level program using PDCA.

Intertek surveyed over 500 companies that operate in Europe and North America:

  • 71% of employees do not want to return to their workplace unless ‘authenticated health and safety practices are in place’
  • Over half of senior managers believe that ‘they will struggle to provide an acceptable health and safety standard for employees’ when they do return to the workplace
  • 95% of respondents would find it reassuring if there was ‘a universal quality standard adopted by companies to ensure the highest health and safety standards to prevent infection of COVID-19’

In response to this, Intertek has put together an end-to-end Health, Safety and Wellbeing Assurance Programme. This programme is based on decades of Intertek industry experience and follows the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), and is based on Intertek’s POSI-Check (Prevent the Spread of Infection) solution. It covers all key facilities, ranging from the factory floor and eating areas to restrooms and high touch surfaces. Intertek also offers a Health and Hygiene Certification Program consisting of 3 Levels of checks that they can integrate into a company’s’ annual audit.

Level 1: This 2-hour audit can be integrated into the regular management audit. It is intended for companies that would like to assess their processes to the minimum requirement. A Level 1 audit can be done once, or yearly. Upon successful completion of this audit, the organization receives a Certificate of Compliance.

Level 2: A 3-hour audit builds on Level 1, including training and communication with staff, management of suspected infectious personnel, access to Intertek’s internal Infection Control Team, amongst several other benefits. Similar to Level 1, this audit can be integrated into the regular management audit and either be done once or yearly. Upon successful completion, the organization receives a Certificate of Compliance, similar to the Level 1 CoC.

Level 3: Intended for companies that would like a complete health and hygiene certificate with swab sampling to verify effectiveness, this 4-hour audit contains a swab sample, Intertek recommends it be conducted as an on-site audit. A remote audit is possible with Intertek providing the main point of contact with the swab kit and instructions for use. A 4-hour audit can be integrated into the regular management audit with the swab test performed every 2 months (including immediate results). Upon successful completion, the organization receives a valid certificate along with Level 3 stickers available to post on doors, lanyards and marketing material.

While COVID-19 has changed how many of us perform our day-to-day functions, the eventual return to office space and ‘normal’ life is slowly being brought back and it’s reassuring to see organizations like Intertek, BSI and TÜV provide certifiable options that management can provide to employees for peace of mind.

Photo: 185005941 / Covid © Jakub Jirsák |

Azra Rajwani is a StarFish Medical QA/RA Specialist. A graduate of the UVIC Biomedical Mechanical Engineering Program and former member of our biotechnology team, some of Azra’s work projects include water quality and neural networks.


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