Best practice questions answered by Evelyn Rodrigues, VCTH Training and Best Practice Manager.
Q: Now that most mandatory government restrictions are being lifted, what should we do to keep our volunteers safe?
A: Although legal restrictions have been lifted since 19 July, rates of COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations continue to remain high in Tower Hamlets. Therefore the risk to volunteers and service users is still significant, even when they are fully vaccinated. Organisations have a duty to protect people from harm, so will need to make judgements on the risks and which measures to keep in place.
You should update your risk assessments to manage the risk of coronavirus. The HSE has some useful guidance on this.
People are no longer required to volunteer from home but, if you want your volunteers to return to a workspace, you should plan a gradual return over the summer. Consult with volunteers on the planned measures, and be aware be aware that not everyone will want close contact with others. If possible, offer options such as continuing volunteering from home, maintaining social distancing, or volunteering outdoors. This is particularly relevant to volunteers who are clinically vulnerable.
By law, volunteers must not leave home to volunteer if they test positive for COVID-19, have been asked to isolate by the Test and Trace service or the NHS COVID app, or are self-isolating following an overseas visit. Make sure you have back up plans if volunteers have to withdraw at short notice in order to isolate, such as ‘standby’ volunteers or staff cover.
Although no longer a legal requirement, organisations are encouraged to display QR codes so volunteers and visitors can check in using the NHS COVID-19 app. You might also keep a record of all volunteers who come onto the premises, including their shift times on a given day and their contact details, to help with Test and Trace.
Volunteers and staff should be encouraged to:
• wash their hands regularly and for 20 seconds
• make sure indoor spaces are well ventilated with fresh air
• consider wearing a face covering in enclosed and crowded spaces, and on public transport
• take regular rapid lateral flow tests, even if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms get vaccinated
• minimise the number of contacts they have with people from outside their household meet with others outdoors
Other measures include regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, using barriers or screens between people, staggering times people come into a work space or go home, organising meal or other breaks to avoid crowding, asking people to work side-by-side rather than face-to-face, grouping work teams so they consistently work together, and using one-way systems through buildings. Read more on this.