Less than a month from the rumoured reopening date and health clubs and leisure centres are planning ahead and strategising ways to recoup some of the losses they’ve suffered as a result of the pandemic.
We’re offering them our free COVID-19 Health and Safety Remobilisation Plan and Checklist which provides a framework to help businesses to reopen with confidence, based around the ‘Four S’s’: spacing, sanitising, signage and smiling.
We’d recommend operators consider appointing a dedicated COVID-19 officer to oversee the writing of plans and risk assessments and ensure staff are appropriately trained and carrying out any changes to their roles effectively.
• It’s important to consider how you’ll get people in, around and out of your buildings while ensuring social distancing is maintained. If we do nothing else, we need to keep people apart. It’s the key control measure. Every building is different, and each one will have a bespoke approach; that might mean a barrier at the main door, a new exit route, one-way systems around a facility or dots on the floor.
• Walk the building as if you were a customer. Start at reception and walk the route to each activity area. Look at where there may be bottlenecks and consider how you can stop that happening. Ensure you do this with someone that doesn’t know the building as well – they’ll see things from a different perspective.
• The number of people in the building at any one time needs to be carefully managed, so ensure customers book online and limit the length of their session so there’s adequate time between sessions. If you have a sports hall you can use for classes which involve more movement, such as circuits, make arrangements to expand into this space. Consider holding classes outside to enable more people to take part.
• Provide hand sanitiser or hand washing stations before significant touch points, for example activity areas and stairwells. If your members’ hands are clean they won’t be transferring any virus on to the equipment. Have someone at the door giving out hand sanitiser, explaining the new rules and reassuring members.
• Cleaning programmes should be reviewed to ensure touch point areas, such as lockers, door handles, handrails, benches, staffroom microwaves and kettles, are cleaned regularly and thoroughly. Don’t worry so much about less frequented areas, there isn’t a bottomless pit to pay for cleaning, so if your regime was to disinfect the bottom of the bins every week, just clean the top more often instead.
• To boost customer confidence, consider bringing in additional staff from areas that won’t be open straight away to help with touch point cleaning. Look at which staff would be good at cleaning – for instance the creche team, who have to be vigilant in their normal work with young children.
• Door handles are a hot spot for touching, so think about installing gadgets such as door pulls to enable doors to be opened with feet, to reduce this threat.
• Use clear, simple signage. There’s nothing wrong with a sign on the toilet door that says ‘now wash your hands’. But don’t overcomplicate it with dozens of signs, or no one will read them.
• First impressions are key. The minute it goes wrong, social media comments will be circulating. From the car park to the activity, does your facility appear to be taking the virus seriously? Members will be more understanding if the odd individual is not obeying the rules if your facility as a whole is seen to be well prepared.
• Train your staff to look after themselves and your customers. Training can be done while they’re furloughed. Make sure they know what they need to do if they, or anyone they live with, have symptoms.
• What should they do if they come across people coughing or not obeying the rules? What if their job has changed? For example, do instructors need to put out kit before a class starts and do first aiders know the changes which have been made to the CPR rules as a result of COVID-19? What about staff taking on cleaning tasks? What do they need to do differently now?
• This will be your customers’ first time back into the centre that they may have missed – let’s welcome them. They’re probably apprehensive and possibly worried they may catch COVID-19 in your facility. If it’s obvious you feel safe to be there, they probably will too.
• Let’s also keep customers safe by staff being vigilant and supervising customers, with a smile, to ensure the new standards and rules are being adhered to.
Now’s the time to start doing walkabouts, writing risk assessments and action plans, to allow sufficient time for staff training and for any purchases, such as signs, stickers, door pulls and sanitiser station equipment.