Workers’ fears over building safety and lack of training

71% of UK workers feel unsafe in their buildings and almost two-thirds have not received any safety training, according to a survey on workers’ perceptions and feeling on health and safety in their workplace.

The research, conducted for Honeywell by Wakefield Research, surveyed 500 workers who typically work in buildings with 500 or more employees. The findings show that a majority of the UK workforce (71%) does not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. This number is even higher for remote workers (78%), who are especially sceptical about the safety of work sites. Almost a quarter of remote workers globally (23%) would look for a new job rather than return to a site that did not implement necessary safety measures. In addition, only 35% of workers in the UK have received safety training from building management, compared to 41% globally.

Vimal Kapur, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Building Technologies, said: “Workers are keenly attuned to the steps employers are taking to make their workspaces safer and healthier, especially when it comes to air quality and adherence to safety guidelines, which wasn’t previously a concern for some people. Air quality, for example, is not something that will be dismissed once we’re on the other side of this pandemic. It will be essential to the occupant experience, and good air quality will help make workers feel more comfortable as they return back to their offices.”

The survey found that workers in the UK are equally concerned about COVID-19 transmission through the air (49%) and through contact with a surface (51%). Their level of concern for surface transfer is significantly higher than that of workers globally (44%). In terms of what poses a bigger threat to their safety, 62% point to co-workers not following safety guidelines and 38% note outdated ventilation systems.

Over half (62%) of surveyed UK workers believe that building management is more likely to make short-term changes in response to COVID-19 rather than make long-term investments in building systems needed to keep them safe. Surveyed workers are most worried that building management will not consistently enforce health and safety guidelines (43%), while 28% worry that they will not consistently invest in new technology to make working in-person safer.

“Many facilities have made changes to their procedures but have not invested in the building itself – and their occupants have noticed,” added Kapur. “Workers are going to demand more from buildings in the future, and we’re even seeing with these survey results that creating a healthier and safer environment will be a differentiator for staff retention and recruiting, and it may also impact long-term real estate value.”

To return to work and feel safer, UK surveyed workers view health safety protocols such as social distancing or mandatory masks as most critical (51%), yet only 55% of those working on-site have seen such updates happen. Other top health and safety measures that surveyed workers want include protocols such as temperature checks (45%), enhanced cleaning procedures (41%), touchless door entries (33%), updated air quality systems (28%) and technology for contact tracing (23%).

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