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Guidance to manage workspace social distancing

A guide to help business owners plan safe working spaces that enable social distancing has been published by two trade bodies, the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) and the Finishes and Interior Sector (FIS).

The guide, “How Business Owners Can Use Partitioning and Ironmongery to Help Manage Social Distancing”, calls for changes to the style and layout of traditional open plan offices and other workspaces as a result of the pandemic. It covers considerations when adapting workplaces; and DIY screens that all too often fail to perform properly and can have unforeseen consequences with lighting, ventilation and even escape routes.

The GAI and FIS call the process re-cellularisation – the opposite to creating open plan spaces – and is intended to provide cellular space where social distancing can be provided, where teams can collaborate, and where individuals can find safe concentrated spaces when they are in the office.

Douglas Masterson, technical manager at the GAI, pictured, said: “Within less than a year, Covid-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives. We’ve already seen big changes to the way that buildings operate, such as one way systems, and workplaces will need to continue to be responsive as new Government advice is released. Businesses need to protect staff, adhere to social distancing and maintain high standards of hygiene without compromising safety and security.

“This guide will be useful to employers who are looking for proactive solutions. It will help them to identify where measures should be implemented and the types of products that can deliver a safe and secure working environment.”

Implementing cellularisation using partitioning raises questions about what building owners need to consider when choosing and installing partitioning, besides ironmongery products.

Performance, including fire resistance of the partitioning and doors, reducing sound transmission and privacy, must also be considered along with the need for increased ventilation which has an impact on reducing viral infections between occupants. The guide also shows ways in which new partitions can look; by using solid, glazed, part glazed and double glazed elevations, and adding blinds or manifestation which can reinforce a corporate identity or add images of outdoor landscapes to the space.

Joe Cilia, technical director at FIS, added, “We wanted to produce an accessible and useful guide that can be used by any business to understand how to approach the issue. The flow chart that we produced with the GAI is easy to follow and ensures that any unknown unknowns are dealt with.”

The guide discusses all aspects of partitioning and how employers can sub-divide working space to protect staff, including using the right ironmongery and how to reduce infection via touch points.

The guide can be downloaded from www.gai.org.uk/IndustryUpdates or www.thefis.org.


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