Working safely during Covid-19: further guidance

Working safely during Covid-19: further guidance

Employers must carry out a Coronavirus risk assessment to assess the risks of Covid-19 and do everything reasonably practicable to manage and minimise them.

However, it is recognised that it is not possible to completely eliminate them.

Below we have summarised the Government guidance that employers should consider when carrying out their risk assessment. To read the first part of this article on the risk assessment steps, click here.

Who can go to work?

It is very clear that everyone who can, should work from home. Employers are advised to consider planning for a minimum number of essential people on site, the wellbeing of home workers and making sure they keep in touch and that they have provided equipment for home working.

Employees who are most vulnerable to Covid-19 should be able to work from home, either in their current role or an alternative. If these individuals cannot work from home they should be offered the safest of:

  • An alternative available on-site role, enabling them to stay 2m away from others, or;
  • If they have to spend time within 2m of others, you should carefully assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

Employers should also ensure that individuals who are self-isolating e.g. those with Covid-19 or someone who is living with someone with Covid-19, are able to stay at home.

In carrying out their risk assessment, employers should be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers to avoid discriminating, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability. Employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees under the Equality Act 2010 and should consider what if any, measures or adjustments can or should be made to minimise the negative impact of Covid-19 on some groups compared to others.

Social distancing at work

Employers should consider implementing the following measures to ensure a 2m social distancing is maintained wherever possible:

  • Staggering arrival and departure time.
  • Providing additional parking facilities or bike racks to help people avoid public transport.
  • Provide more storage for worker clothes and belongings.
  • Introduce a one-way system.
  • Provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitizer at entry/exit points.
  • Reducing movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites.
  • Reducing job and location rotation.
  • Regulating use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts turnstiles and walkways to maintain social distancing.
  • Using remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings.
  • Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible.
  • Working with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites/buildings to ensure consistency across common areas, for example, receptions and staircases.
  • Staggering break times to reduce pressure on break rooms or canteens.
  • Encouraging workers to bring their own food.
  • Installing screens to protect staff in reception or similar areas.
  • Encouraging staff to remain on-site and, when not possible, maintaining social distancing while off-site.
  • Regulating use of locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas to reduce concurrent usage.
  • Allowing people to work further apart from each other.
  • Using tape to mark out 2m distances.
  • Where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, arranging people to work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face. Alternatively using screens to separate people.

Employers must also do what they can to minimise the number of unnecessary visits to the offices.  When it is not possible to avoid a face-to-face meeting, those that do attend the office must be made aware of what they need to do to maintain their safety e.g. by providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on or before arrival.

Cleaning the work place

Employers should make sure the workplace is frequently cleaned and waste and personal belongings are removed at the end of a shift, to prevent the risk of transmission by touching contaminated surfaces. Employees should also be encouraged to keep good hygiene throughout the day e.g. by placing information and awareness posters around the office.

If you regularly handle goods, merchandise or other materials, it is encouraged to set up a cleaning procedure for these goods, as well as introducing greater handwashing facilities for workers handling goods and merchandise.

Personal Protective equipment (PPE)

PPE protects the user against health or safety risks at work. However, Government advice clearly advocates that Covid-19 should be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE, other than in -clinical settings. Employers in non-clinical settings should not encourage the precautionary use of  PPE, unless it is standard for non-Covid-19 risks, (e.g. for hygiene reasons in catering).

There are however, some circumstances where wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial, not in protecting the individual wearing it, but by protecting those around them. Therefore employers should not rely on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.

Workforce management

Employers should follow the guidance on organising their workforce to reduce transmission between workers. For example, organising shift groups so that when contact is unavoidable, the contact remains between the same people. Management should also ensure that all employees understand the Covid-19 safety procedures and are kept up to date with how the measures are being implemented and updated.

Unnecessary work travel should be avoided where possible and where not possible, employees should be kept safe by minimising the number of people travelling together in any one vehicle, using fixed travel partners and avoiding sitting face-to-face.

Inbound and outbound goods

When receiving and sending goods you must still be able to maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission. This can be done by revising pick-up and drop-off collection points, procedures, signage and markings, minimising unnecessary contact at certain locations or considering methods to reduce the frequency of deliveries.

Complying with Government guidance

If the HSE or local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the guidance to control public health risks, then they will consider taking a range of actions to improve the control of workplace risks. For example, if an employer is not taking appropriate action to ensure adequate hygiene in their workplace, where possible, the HSE can take action, including issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.

How Blaser Mills Law can help?

The above article is a summary of the Governments recent guidance, for the full information please visit the Government website here. If you would like further advice on how to comply with the Government guidance or how to keep your business Covid-19 compliant, please contact our employment team on 020 3814 2020, or email James Simpson at jfs@blasermills.co.uk or Debbie Sadler on djs@blasermills.co.uk.