If you are confused about what to do and what not to do during the COVID 19 pandemic when it comes to your workplace, you are not alone.
Even amongst the Occupational Safety and Health profession, debate continues to rage on. Of course, this isn’t the time for conflicting opinions – we have to follow the official UK COVID 19 guidance to help open up our businesses and protect employees (or other applicable guidance for your location!).
We’ve crunched the latest guidance down for you, to save you some time. (last updated 20 May 2020)
You will need to interpret the guidance as it applies to your particular business, before creating a plan of action. To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment.
Just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. This risk assessment must be done in consultation with workers, unions or other relevant representatives.
COVID 19 Risk Assessment Template
Managing COVID-19 Risk
When confronting the challenge of getting your workplace back up and running during the COVID 19 pandemic, there are a few basics principles that should form the foundation of your approach.
All workplaces should aim to implement the following where practicable –
- Increasing handwashing and surface cleaning
- Work from home where it isn’t essential to be at the workplace
- Social distancing implemented where possible – 2m (current UK guidance)
- If within 2m – increasing washing, cleaning, use of physical barriers, arrangement of seating etc., restricting inter-mixing of teams
- Consider if people affected are high-risk/vulnerable
Sharing your COVID 19 Risk Assessment
Of course, you should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce.
If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website or similar channels (and the UK govt. expects all employers with over 50 workers to do so).
The UK government have produced a ‘COVID-19 Secure’ notice for businesses to display in the workplace to illustrate that you have followed the latest guidance.
The reason for this notice is to encourage open communication with your employees and customers – letting them know the risks have been assessed and that reasonable steps have been taken to protect them.
Who should go to Work?
Protecting the vulnerable
- To protect vulnerable and ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ individuals (those that have received a letter or advised by GP)
- ‘Clinically vulnerable’ should take extra care with distancing and/or be offered roles with minimal interaction
- Mental health support may also be required – consider in-person advice or phone support
People who need to self-isolate
- Important to ensure employees follow guidance on isolating if showing symptoms according to government guidance
- Employers should be aware of guidance of statutory sick pay – liaise with HR representative
Equality in workplace
- Ensure all employees continue to be treating as fairly as possible – considering the individual impact of the mitigation measures
- Make reasonable adjustments for disabled, expectant mothers etc. as normal – be cognisant of any unintentional impacts – ensure there is a feedback loo
COVID 19: Social Distancing at Work
Objective: Aim to maintain social distancing wherever possible, including commuting & travelling during work.
Currently in the UK, the social distancing guidelines are recommending to maintain 2m between people where possible.
If social distancing is not possible, use Hierarchy of Control approach. Use mitigation measures as per ‘Managing Risk’ section if necessary.
Note: Applies to all areas of the business i.e. entrances/exits, meeting rooms, canteens etc.
Coming to work and leaving work
- Enable hygiene measures on arrival/departure
- Use markings & limit congestion e.g. 2m distance markers, one-way systems
- Remove processes that require touching surfaces
Moving around premises
- Maintain social distancing as far as possible on pedestrian traffic routes
- Max. occupancy or restricted access to confined spaces e.g. lifts, meeting rooms etc.
- Provision of hand sanitiser in areas where touch-based operation is necessary
- One-way flow used wherever feasible to reduce crossover of pedestrians
Workspaces and workstations
- Workstations should allow people to maintain distancing
- Restrict use to one person where possible
- Where they can’t be separated sufficiently, mitigation is to considered
- Use ‘pairing’ systems for tasks and encourage contactless payments
Using Common Areas
Maintaining social distancing in common areas
- Stagger break time, use outside areas, extend usable space
- Reduce face-to-face interactions
- Reduce cooking/preparing food on site
- Use marker systems and/or implement usage limits in toilets, change rooms etc.
You might finally have that excuse not to have so many low value meetings 🙂
- Reduce transmission due to face-to-face meetings
- Use remote tech/tools where possible
- Maintain SD where participants are together
- Avoid sharing objects e.g. pens, clickers etc.
It is important, once again, to take a risk-based approach to dealing with workplace accidents or incidents.
- Prioritise physical safety during incidents according to risk level
- Provide hygiene equipment/PPE for responders
Objective: To minimise the contact resulting from visits to stores, offices, outlets etc. Some key elements to think about are:
- Define how many people can be in store/shop/outlet at one time to maintain distancing
- Consider pinch points, flow of people, potential congestion areas etc.
- Provide suitable areas with markings for queuing where necessary
- Signage and visual aids at entry/exit points
- Monitor compliance regularly or on ongoing basis – designate those responsible – integrate with existing systems
- Communications should be appropriate to audience – employees, customers, public etc.
Learn Risk Assessment with Us
We’ve created an Approved Trainer-led, online video course for Risk Assessment. We take you on a step-by-step, interactive tutorial PLUS a 1-to-1 coaching session to help you ace your Risk Assessment. Try out the FREE Module here.
Hygiene & Cleaning the Workplace
Objective: Making sure any work location that has been closed is clean and ready for restart.
Before reopening Review the specifics existing cleaning schedules and provision of hygiene products e.g. sanitiser.
Ensure ventilation (HVAC) systems are in good order and optimised
Keeping the workplace clean
Review cleaning regimes to ensure frequent cleaning of surfaces, and objects that are touched
Special guidance for ‘post-case’ cleaning – check specific guidance here
Liaise with cleaning team and with employees to agree appropriate strategy
Hygiene – handwashing, sanitation & toilets
Objective is to maintain good hygiene throughout operational hours
- Use signage to advise on hygiene facilities and to encourage correct behaviours
- Provide hand sanitiser and other materials where appropriate
- Enhance cleaning regime and consider frequency of waste removal
- Consider distancing in toilets/limiting number of users
Handling goods, merchandise and other materials
Reducing transmission by minimising contact with objects
- Limiting customer handling and interaction with employees
- Organising collection times to reduce build-up of people
- Encouraging contactless transactions
- Provision of mechanical aids for large items – as opposed to 2-person lift etc.
PPE - COVID 19 Approach
Due to the nature of COVID-19, the use of PPE as a wholesale mitigation measure is generally not justified outside or sufficiently beneficial outside of clinical settings.
In other words, unless you are in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high, the costs will likely outweigh the benefit (risk reduction).
Also, if you are issuing PPE such as masks, they must be fitted properly for the user (face fit testing), otherwise any benefit is quickly eliminated.
If an employee feels that a face covering is necessary or beneficial for them personally, they should generally be supported in that decision.
Note: Guidance on this aspect may change rapidly relative to government guidance and advice in a particular jurisdiction.
Managing your Workforce
Objective: To adapt the way work is managed to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each worker has.
Think about the way work is organised, how workers interact currently and how the frequency of contact can be safely minimised. e.g. where contact is unavoidable, fix the group or teams to contain the contact between the same people.
- Minimising non-essential travel and maximising use of remote alternatives where possible.
- Vehicle cleaning regime should be reviewed, and same principles for social distancing used for vehicles, as far as practicable
- Consider keeping records of vehicle and people movements in case tracing is required
Deliveries – minimise person-to-person contact during process, keep pairs consistent where 2 people are required
Communications & Training
- Make sure to communicate in a simple, clear way – use imagery/visuals or even a podcast to help embed behaviours
- Provide opportunity for employees to raise concerns easily – how are you currently doing this?
If your business needs any direct or remote support for COVID 19 Risk Assessment, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via the contact options below.
NOTE: Please check latest guidance for your location &/or jurisdiction before implementing any of the above recommendations.
COVID 19 Support - how can Safeti help?
The type of direct support that we provide currently comes in 3 basic forms:
- Competent Person We provide flexible competent person support from a Chartered HSE professional*, working at a high level as your Health, Safety & Environmental representative.
- Partnering We can provide a range of HSE & Media support services that compliment your existing resources and that can be tailored to your business objectives.