The following guidance is correct as of writing (4th June 2020).

With some businesses returning to work and others awaiting more news from the 15th June announcement about the next phase of relaxation of lockdown, we are getting a lot of questions from our clients on how to prepare for the return to business.  

Employers and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people will need to put a lot of emphasis on thinking about Health and Safety at the moment. 

As an employer, especially, you must protect your employees from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. 

Over time, it is likely that you will have to adapt and change your plans for working safely during the coronavirus outbreak. But you need to make sure you have measures in place to update people as they are adapted and changed.

We’ve asked Andrew Price from Lighthouse Safety some questions about how you can protect your employees from coronavirus in your workplace and the considerations you need to make.

Health and Safety FAQs

It is always best practice to refer to the very latest issued government guidance.

Staff that are re-entering the workplace are entitled to a COVID-19 test.

Currently, there are 8 published guides to assist businesses with planning to ensure that their work environment is and remains a safe place. Following these guides, along with following the 5 Steps to Working Safely, will ensure that you fulfil your duty of care.

The 5 steps of working safely are:

1.Carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment: Before restarting work, you should ensure the safety of the workplace by:

  • carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance
  • consulting with your workers or trade unions
  • sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website

2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures: You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:

  • encouraging people to follow the guidance on hand washing and hygiene
  • providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms
  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
  • enhancing cleaning for busy areas
  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets
  • providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers

3. Help people to work from home: You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:

  • discussing home working arrangements
  • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems
  • including them in all necessary communications
  • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing

4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible. Where possible, you should maintain 2m between people by:

  • putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance
  • avoid sharing workstations
  • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
  • arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible
  • switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible

5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk. Where it is not possible for people to be 2m apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk by:

  • considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
  • staggering arrival and departure times
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’

Generic Risk Assessment advice is provided by HSE guidance, however the construction industry has developed further guidance and prompts to assist:

In simplistic terms, a Covid-19 risk assessment should follow ‘5 Step to Risk Assessment’ approach of:

  1. Identify the Hazard (i.e. Covid)
  2. Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus. Consider high risk groups:
    1. Elderly or Pregnant Workers
    2. Shielded or clinically vulnerable categories
    3. Ethnicity
  1. Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
  2. Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this is not possible, control the risk
  3. Record your findings, communicate them, and revise as appropriate

Follow the 5 Steps to Working Safely as mentioned above, however we would also advise employers to consider:

  • Organise a rota for the office and/or site, using working from home options, if possible
  • Consider your employees in decision making and listen to their concerns
  • Induct staff on return to work on special measures adopted, revising them when requirements change
  • Conduct regular temperature checks, logging these for 7 days before destroying in the interest of GDPR
  • Ensure social distancing is carried out:
    • Where possible develop one-way routes (even on sites) with floor markers if necessary
    • Provide extra welfare provision
    • Closing down of some seating/desks to prevent close contact, the same for urinals
    • Stagger start times
    • Provide extra signage to encourage covid-19 safe behaviours
    • Limit visitors and meetings being held indoors – consider outside options, or hold virtual meetings
  • Develop a buddy system for travelling to and from work if vehicle sharing is required
  • Develop a reporting system and procedures for staff that need to self-isolate
  • Where necessary, ensure there is an ample supply of PPE & RPE
  • Provide soaps and paper towels / electrical dryers and remove all normal towels and tea cloths
  • Arrange a covid-19 daily cleaning schedule of all surfaces, door handles and areas where touch free working has not been possible
  • Try not to share tools and equipment – where this is not possible, develop procedures for cleaning
  • Encourage good hygiene including asking staff to disinfect areas they have touched and provide hand sanitisers for regular use. Preferably place these throughout the workplace or provide personal issue sanitiser for each staff member
  • Understand and communicate the current guidance for administering first aid and seek permissions. Some websites for guidance:
  • Establish controls for work that requires contact with others
  • Develop suspected case procedures and support e.g. establish how people who are symptomatic return home / any added cleaning required
  • Encourage staff, where possible, to avoid the use of public transport

This is an educational matter. Employers and employees have a legal and moral duty of care to look after themselves and the others they effect. Re-educate where necessary and where staff become disengaged, are in denial or refuse to comply then the HR disciplinary route may be the final option.

It is ill advised for employers to ignore this requirement, not only can this increase the chance of transmission of, what for some, can be a fatal disease but also to avoid HSE enforcement.

Where HSE identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, e.g. employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance or ensure workers in the shielded category can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for the period specified, we will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks.

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff:

1. Eliminate:

  • Workers who are unwell with symptoms of Coronavirus should not travel to or attend the workplace
  • Rearrange tasks to enable them to be done by one person, or by maintaining social distancing measures
  • Avoid skin to skin and face to face contact
  • Stairs should be used in preference to lifts or hoists and consider one-way systems
  • Consider alternative or additional mechanical aids to reduce worker interface

2. Reduce (where social distancing measures cannot be applied):

  • Minimise the frequency and time workers are within 2 metres of each other
  • Minimise the number of workers involved in these tasks
  • Workers should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face
  • Lower the worker capacity of lifts and hoists, to reduce congestion and contact at all times
  • Regularly clean common touchpoints, doors, buttons, handles, vehicle cabs, tools, equipment etc.
  • Increase ventilation in enclosed spaces
  • Workers should wash their hands before and after using any equipment

3. Isolate (keep groups of workers):

  • Together in teams e.g. do not change workers within teams
  • As small as possible
  • Away from other workers where possible

4. Control:

  • Consider introducing an enhanced authorisation process
  • Provide additional supervision to monitor and manage compliance

5. PPE:

  • Sites should not use RPE for Coronavirus (Covid-19) where the two metre social distancing guidelines are met.

Should a member of your team fall ill, they should be asked to return home immediately and follow the social distancing rules (see below). All surfaces and equipment that may have been touched should be disinfected, along with the advice for cleaning workplaces.

If a team member does fall ill, ACAS’s advice outlines:

An individual should not go to the workplace if they:

  • are unwell with coronavirus symptoms
  • are told to self-isolate by a government test and trace service, because they have been in close contact with someone who’s testing positive
  • need to self-isolate because someone in their household has symptoms

If they are already at work, they should:

  • tell their employer immediately and go home
  • avoid touching anything, and wash their hands regularly
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
  • use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
  • avoid using public transport to travel home, if possible

If someone with coronavirus comes to work

  • If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close, but they should follow cleaning advice.

Supporting staff who need to self-isolate

If someone needs to self-isolate, it is good practice for employers to:

Depending on someone’s circumstances, they might have to self-isolate more than once during the coronavirus pandemic. Employers should support them in the same way each time.

For workplace advice about the government test and trace services in England see NHS Test and Trace workplace guidance on GOV.UK

The Health, Safety and Wellbeing (HSW) of your staff should always be a high priority for employers, for not just legal reasons but also for moral and financial reasons.

Employers should provide suitable and sufficient information, training and supervision to their staff to enable them to conduct all their work activities confidently and competently, specifically with Covid-19 in mind. You should:

  • Develop, document and publish a COVID-19 Policy
  • Publish your Covid-19 policy on the company website, especially if you employ more than 50 employees
  • Commit to the ‘5 Steps’ by completing and publishing the 5 Steps poster
  • Hold regular discussions with your staff, listening to their opinions and concerns
  • Make maximum use of newsletters, emails and poster campaigns to support a sound understanding of the requirements
  • Provide mental health support

Lighthouse Safety can assist employers to develop systems, policies and procedures and aide implementation if required. They are not however an authoritative source but remain abreast of the current situation to be able to advise their clients in an effective and timely manner. Call 01634 260 631 or email info@lighthousesafety.co.uk to get in touch.

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