Frequently Asked Questions - COVID-19

by Brad Davies on May 14, 2020

What is a Covid-19 Risk Assessment?

    The government has stated that all employers must undertake a Covid-19 risk assessment as soon as possible to identify the necessary measures required to minimise the risks that their employees face in the workplace. This risk assessment should be undertaken in consultation with employees and a health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union. If a health and safety representative is not available, then employees should put forward a representative of their choice. For further information on best practice regarding risk assessments, please visit the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website here. On completion, employers should share the results of their risk assessment with their workforce and publish the results on their website. They should also display a five-point government notice stating that they have complied with the government’s guidance on managing the risk of Covid-19. 

    The HSE and other enforcement authorities can take a number of measures against employers who are not taking the necessary action to comply with public health risks and improve control of workplace risks. This includes the provision of specific advice to employers to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.


    Who should go to work?

      Businesses should ensure that any employees who able to work from home continue to do so and that they have access to the necessary equipment to carry out their work safely and effectively. Employers should maintain contact with offsite workers and check in regularly to discuss their mental health and wellbeing. For those unable to work from home, they should return to work where possible but businesses are encouraged to plan for the minimum number of people on-site to be able to operate safely and effectively.

      It is important that businesses protect employees who are at higher risk of severe illness such as those with pre-existing health conditions. These individuals should be helped to work from home in their current role or found an alternative role (if necessary) which would enable them to do so. Employers should also ensure that workers who need to self-isolate under existing government guidelines do not return to work. This also applies to employees who are living with people who have symptoms.  

      Employers should also be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals and consider whether they need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of their duties and responsibilities under the equalities legislation.


      How can I reduce the risk to my staff and clients?

        Employers can reduce risk in the workplace by maintaining social distancing guidelines keeping workers and customers 2 metres apart at all times where possible. Businesses can help their employers and customers keep to a 2m distance by using floor tape, signage or putting down paint to mark areas and/or other physical changes to the layout of the premises.

        If a particular activity cannot be completed in full by adhering to social distancing guidelines, then employers should consider whether the activity is essential for the business to operate and if so, take any further mitigating actions to reduce the risk of transmission. In these situations, it is imperative that employers avoid face-to-face working wherever possible, increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning, use screens or barriers to separate staff (from colleagues and customers) and ensure that the time it takes to complete the activity is as short as possible.

        It is important that businesses apply social distancing measures across the premises and account for all areas including entrances and exits, break rooms and canteens as well as workstations. Employers should stagger arrival, departure and break times to ease congestion and provide additional parking or bike-racks where possible. Employers should also avoid using in-person face to face staff meetings and work to reduce and discourage non-essential trips within buildings and across sites where possible. In an emergency situation such as a fire, social distancing measures will not need to be maintained if it would be unsafe to do so. Those sharing facilities will also need to cooperate with other tenants to maintain safety.


        How can I manage customers, visitors and contractors

          It is imperative that businesses revise their visitor arrangements and provide clear guidance on arrival to visitors and customers on what is expected of them in order to maintain social distancing measures and hygiene. Businesses should limit the number of customers allowed in their premises at any one time and assess potential pinch points and busy areas. They should also suspend and reduce any customer services that cannot be undertaken in adherence to social distancing guidelines.

          Businesses should also work to limit the number of unnecessary visits to their premises and arrange for essential services and contractor visits to stagger their hours (overnight work) where possible to minimise contact with staff.


          Should I clean the workplace more than normal?

            Before reopening, businesses need to undertake an assessment of any site or location that has been closed or partially operated to make sure that it is clean and safe to return to.

            Once the workplace has reopened, businesses will need to ensure that work areas and surfaces (that are touched on a regular basis) such as door handles and keypads are cleaned on a regular basis to reduce transmission. Businesses should also use signs and posters throughout the workplace to build awareness of good hygiene practices and to act as a reminder to staff and customers throughout the day. Hand sanitiser should also be placed in multiple locations (in additions to washrooms) across the premises including at entry and exit points and businesses should endeavour to provide enhanced cleaning for shared equipment and busy areas including changing rooms and shower facilities.   


            What Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings will be required

              If an employee is already required to use PPE in their work activity then they should continue to do so. However, it is not necessary nor beneficial for employees to use additional PPE beyond what they usually wear and employers should not encourage it unless responding to a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19. If the risk assessment undertaken shows that PPE is required then businesses must provide this for their workers who need it free of charge and ensure that it fits them properly. Employees may also wish to wear a face covering as a precaution but this is optional and not required by law. If an employee chooses to wear one then an employer should support them in using them safely.


              Should I manage my workforce differently?

              Businesses should look to identify ways in which they can remove direct contact between workers. If direct contact is unavoidable, employers should ensure that any teams or groups of shift workers are kept the same (as far as possible) when undertaking work. This will reduce the risk by ensuring that direct contact takes place between the same people each time.

              It is also important for workers to avoid unnecessary work travel. For certain industries that rely on work-related travel, it is imperative that employers mitigate any risk by minimising the number of people that travel together in one vehicle, using fixed travel partners and cleaning shared vehicles between shifts. If overnight accommodation is needed then employers should ensure that it meets social distancing guidelines.

              Businesses should issue clear guidance to workers (prior to returning to the site) to ensure that they understand the safety procedures that have been put in place to mitigate the risk of Covid-19. Any changes to working arrangements should be discussed with and agreed to by workers (or their representatives). The safety measures put in place should be monitored on a continuous basis and employers should engage with workers on an ongoing basis. Any changes in operational procedures should be communicated to suppliers or customers to help with the adoption of the measures.


              How do I manage Inbound and outbound goods?

              Businesses should also work to ensure that they maintain social distancing measures and minimise unnecessary contact where possible when handling inbound and outbound deliveries. Employers should consider implementing a number of potential measures including reducing frequency of deliveries by ordering larger quantities and revising pick-up and drop off collection points, scheduling and procedures. Where possible employers should use single workers to load and unload vehicles without interacting with the driver. Businesses should also put in place procedures to help their employees making deliveries to homes and other sites by minimising direct contact during the payment process and exchange of documentation. 

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