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With the number of COVID cases continuing to fall across most of the UK and Ireland, companies are starting to see more and more staff return to work. It will not have gone unnoticed that keeping employees safe while onsite is more straightforward in certain areas compared to others.

As the virus spreads through droplets in the air, it has been advised to try to stay 2 metres away from people you are not living with, or more than 1 metre where this is not possible. This means that the use of lifts within your buildings requires much more thought than it previously did.

Here are some pointers on how to make using lifts safer in regards to the COVID outbreak.

Deciding on the usage of lifts

While it is much safer and easier to use one-way stairs or escalators, this is not practical for all situations. Consider limiting lift usage to those who need it most, such as those with accessibility needs and cumbersome or heavy deliveries. Using the stairs is healthier in both regards, as it is a form of exercise and removes the need for close proximately to others – promoting this benefit to employees is encouraged.

Check your lift is compliant

It is a good idea to check that the paperwork is up to date and legal requirements are met. Those who operate or work with lifts must comply with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER). The main purpose of this is to make sure the lifting equipment being used is safe. If the outbreak of COVID has delayed the mandatory inspection or testing of your lift, this must be completed before any equipment is put back into use.

Assess performance and equipment

If your lift was switched off or has not been used for a while, it might not be as reliable, or fully functional when needed. Arrange for it to be turned back on by an engineer or look to organise an inspection before employees return to the site. Safety checks, even if your lift remained operational, will minimise the chance of the lift being out of service just when it is needed most.

Book maintenance in early

Were any upgrades or repairs planned? If so, addressing those sooner, by booking maintenance, rather than later will help keep things running smoothly. Lifts with reduced capacity are bound to make more journeys adding to wear and tear. Having one or more lifts out of action will increase demand on the others and make regulating the safe usage of them trickier.

Plan ahead

Decide which lifts will have restricted usage and which will be available to all well in advance and if possible, make this a permanent feature until the next review. Circulate this information clearly to all staff ahead of their return to the site, allowing them to familiarise themselves with the plan and raise any queries they may have. If the building is managed by landlords, liaise with them as well as other building occupants to ensure that the same social distancing guidance is being implemented across the board. It is worth considering placing clear instructions for safe lift usage very close to the queuing area to inform those who may not be aware or have read the new protocols.

Identify peak times

Certain times of the day will inevitably see increased usage of lifts. Consider staggering start, finish, and break times to reduce the demand for lifts at any one time. If employees are working with limited time frames or running late, having to wait patiently for single-use lifts could result in frustration which may make them less likely to adhere to social distancing and the new lift-usage guidelines.

Remove guesswork

Help maintain social distancing by placing floor stickers so that employees know where to stand whilst queuing for the lift. Clearly label how many colleagues are permitted to ride at one time – this will be significantly less than the maximum capacity stated. Where more than one person can ride in a lift at any one time (at least a 13 or 17 person car), use floor signage again to regulate the direction of travel, as facing away from others or standing side by side is less risky.

Give clear directions

Make sure the disembarking area is clear and employees can move away quickly without having to navigate obstacles. Separating this area from those queueing to board is essential as meeting face-to-face should be avoided. Ideally, a solid barrier would be placed between these two areas, however, the available space will determine if that is possible.

Arrange additional cleaning

Hard surfaces such as buttons, handrails and controls can be an infection point for COVID. It is essential that these areas are not just cleaned thoroughly but at an increased frequency too. Every surface that could transfer the virus will need to be disinfected regularly. Employees can be encouraged to wear gloves or use elbows when pressing buttons, but this is an additional measure and does not replace the need for deep cleaning.

Increase airflow

It is less risky to be closer to someone when in a well-ventilated place. CARe, our lift car active sanitisation system, is suitable for any existing lift. It features air and light technologies and can sanitise a car in a matter of minutes.

Offer extra protection

COVID lives on the skin, so encourage employees to sanitise or wash their hands regularly. Hand sanitiser dispensers could be installed at the start of the lift queue, however, it is important to keep these refilled. Wearing a mask or face covering also reduces risk. If possible, make these available to all staff when onsite. Arranging temperature checks at each entrance helps reduce the risk even further as it helps identify those who are infected with the virus.

Reassure staff

If someone gets too close, ask them politely to step back when they can. Employees should not be made to feel bad about doing this as they should take care of their personal space and safety.

We hope this blog was helpful. If you have any unanswered questions or want to find out more information, feel free to get in touch.