In accordance with UK government guidelines, LifeArc switched to virtual working on 16 March, A risk assessment was completed shortly afterwards and is reviewed regularly. We are currently carrying out a phased return to work for laboratory-based teams only. Our return to site policy is driven by our LifeArc Risk Assessment; the key principles of that return to site policy are set out below. Our experience of returning small project teams to site enables us to review and update our risk assessment, fine-tuning controls and processes to ensure our risk levels remain within tolerance.

Taken together, our risk assessment and return to site policies set the framework for maintaining a safe working environment for all colleagues.

Lifearc return to site policy – key principles

Return to site policies are in place for each site where employees are currently in scope to return. Any breach of these policies could result in the withdrawal of permission to work and/or disciplinary action. These rules are necessary because:

  • The health and safety of employees, contractors, site visitors and their families is of primary importance
  • Government guidance, to be effective, needs to be applied to the specifics of LifeArc’s working environment
  • While LifeArc has put social distancing measures in place, provided PPE and ensured the presence of duty managers at each open site, the safety of each employee is to a degree dependent on the engagement and compliance of his or her colleagues

Restrictions on on-site working

All colleagues whose job can be done from home will continue to work from home until further notice. Laboratory-based employees have been contacted to understand their circumstances and identify those in a position to return. Laboratory-based projects have been prioritised and resourced from within the eligible population.

Workplace safety measures 

Workplace safety measures include the following:

  • Social distancing measures and markings are in place in each of our sites where employees are allowed to return to work
  • There is a single point of entry to each site
  • Staff returning to sites are given an induction before they are allowed to return to their work areas
  • PPE is normally available for laboratory workers, and has been enhanced with face coverings, sanitisation kit and a personal thermometer
  • A maximum occupancy has been set for each site and colleagues are required to sign in when they arrive
  • Communal areas are subject to restrictions and meeting rooms are being repurposed for single occupancy

Protocols in case of potential COVID infection

Processes in place include the following:

  • Any employee or contractor who is in the same household as somebody showing symptoms, or who has been contacted by the government under the test and trace or test and protect scheme, will immediately be told to self-isolate for 14 days
  • Anyone who notices symptoms is told to stay home and self-isolate for seven days or until symptoms fully cease
  • Anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms while on site will be immediately told to self-isolate
  • Testing will be made available

In each of the above cases, colleagues who have been working closely with an affected individual will also be told to self-isolate as a precaution.

Travelling to and from sites

Travel to and from site is a key source of risk. Staff have been advised to use their own transport going to and from work where possible, and the ability to do so is currently one of the criteria for returning to site. Where employees are obliged to use public transport, they are required to wear a face covering. We are advising staff to use their own judgement and avoid trains or buses if they appear too crowded. They are asked to discuss any concerns with their managers and agree alternative arrangements, such as avoiding peak hour travel.