Although it is not yet clear when lockdown restrictions will be lifted in the UK, we are starting to see other countries around the world, such as China and Spain, phase back into some semblance of normalcy which could indicate that we may be following suit very soon.
As much as a relief as this will be for many employers, when the time does come it will not be as simple as re-opening the workplace and getting back to it, coronavirus will still exist and there will need to be strict control measures in place to protect workers and visitors.
We have put together some guidance for employers on how to manage COVID-19 once we can return to workplaces based on advice from the Public Health England and Government.
Please note that advice and guidance is always changing and being updated, but this is the information that we have been provided at the time of writing this article (30th April 2020).
Make sure that you are using the most up to date advice by calling us directly to speak with one of our Health and Safety Consultants on 0845 2626 260
Risk Assessment for COVID-19
As with any risks within the workplace there is a requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, as a minimum to:
• Identify what could cause injury or illness in your business (hazards).
• Decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk).
• Take action to eliminate the hazard, or if this is not possible, control the risk.
This will now also be the case for COVID-19.
Once lockdown restrictions have been lifted and you begin to bring your employees back into the workplace, you will need to assess the risks and put appropriate control measures to keep your employees safe.
The risk assessment for COVID-19 should be the same as any other risk assessment, following the five key steps:
1. Identify the hazards including who might be at high risk of becoming ill
2. Assess the risk
3. Control the risk
4. Record the findings
5. Review the effectiveness of the controls
What control measures can you put in place to protect employees from COVID-19?
Once you have conducted the risk assessment, you will need to put appropriate and reasonable control measures in place to protect yourself and your workers.
Some of the more common and practical measures are as follows:
Thorough and regular handwashing
The importance of personal hygiene has never been more apparent than over the last couple of months and it’s something that should continue to be encouraged as the threat of coronavirus remains.
Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from coronavirus, and other illnesses, as it instantly kills germs and bacteria that we carry around on our hands.
As an employer, you have a duty to provide your employees with the facilities they need to wash their hands effectively, including access to clean water, soaps/handwashing products and even, hand gel, where possible.
You should also look at investing in signs/posters around the workplace to act as a gentle reminder to employees that they must wash their hands regularly, not just when they go to the bathroom.
Over the last few weeks, all employees can work remotely have been asked to work from home in keeping with the social distancing measures that are in place.
As a result, many workplaces have had to introduce a homeworking policy and find ways to manage their staff effectively without being in the office.
For some, this has been a challenge that they will be happy to see the end of; however, for many, this might now be the new normal and could prove to be a great asset to their business.
It is highly likely that homeworking will be encouraged, where possible, for the foreseeable future to limit how many people are travelling to and from work until widespread testing or vaccines become available.
With that being said, you must conduct a homeworking risk assessment for all of your employees to ensure that their remote working space is safe and enables them access to all essential facilities such as light, heat and ventilation.
If you require any support with this, then we have Homeworking Risk Assessment Templates available
Public Health England have introduced ‘social distancing’ as a key measure to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID 19 coronavirus. The Health and Safety Executive are in support of the measure and are urging businesses wherever able to organise work and workplaces in a such a way the 2 metre social distancing rule can be applied.
Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to an activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.
If you decide the work should continue, staff should work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face if possible.
Social interaction should be limited, consider staggered break times.
Every workplace should have a policy written up and communicated with their employees when it comes to any health and safety issues that require certain procedures to be followed.
A health and safety policy, specific to pandemic outbreaks, will help employers understand their duty of care in relation to the spread of viruses and it will clearly communicate safety measures to employees. This, in turn, should reduce the risk of infection and help ease any panic as it will show your staff that the business is being proactive and that you are aware of the dangers in the workplace.
Your Pandemic Policy should include:
– Information on screening
– Specific guidance on COVID-19
– Preventing the spread of infection
– Guidance on face masks
– What to do when an employee gets infected
– Absence from work
– Cleaning work spaces
– Rubbish disposal
We can provide you with a bespoke Pandemic Policy for your workplace, written by one of qualified consultants, if required.
RIDDOR Reporting of COVID-19
Under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) employers/businesses are expected to report cases of COVID-19 to the HSE, as they would any other disease or illness that an employee has been exposed to in the workplace.
A few weeks ago, the HSE issued an update/clarification on when cases of COVID-19 should be reported to them.
You must only make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when:
- An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence
- A worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease
- A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus
Most importantly, you must keep yourself informed and aware as and when guidance and advice changes as this is an ongoing and ever-changing issue.
As part of our consultancy service, we provide clients with comprehensive guidance documents across a range of HR and Health and Safety issues including our most recent guide on COVID-19 Workplace Controls.
If you would like access to this document, along with any advice or support from one of our qualified consultants, then call us today on 0845 2626 260 and we will discuss your business needs and the bespoke packages of support that we have available to you.