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Imminently, Covid-19 specific risk assessments will be making their way into UK legislation with the Scottish government already issuing guidance on the matter. This is following the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Welsh government’s legislation to ensure workplaces and shops are safer.

In the UK employers face prosecution under statute law and potential litigation from the injured parties under common law if a business is found not having done sufficient risk assessments and preventative measures. “It’s described as flexible, but we know full well how courts will treat it – they will treat it as rules and laws to be complied with.” Said by Simon Antrobus QC of Crown Office Chambers, at a Covid-19 guidance enforcement seminar.

If it is not already, risk management is going to become a serious skill to brush up on. Covid-19 risk awareness is already non-specifically required as per the current health and safety legislation:

“As an employer, you’re required by law to protect your employees, and others, from harm.”

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum you must do is:

  • 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 isn’t possible, (control the risk).

Assessing risk is just one part of the overall process used to control risks in your workplace. https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/index.htm

Some key points to consider in your coronavirus risk assessment are:

  • Ways the virus could be transmitted/spread.
  • Identify activities and locations where transmission is more likely.
  • Apply the hierarchy of control to develop a control strategy.

Signs should be visible in all areas of the workplace, highlighting social distancing rules and hygiene practices.

For example, if you have a storage room that will need to be re-stocked, make sure anyone entering stays 2m apart at all times.

In order to manage the day-to-day business you can;

Make sure you record any visits to shared workspaces or offices on a log sheet, this helps trace any instances of infection.

Where possible, restrict or stop all visits to the workplace that are unnecessary – Zoom meetings have become the norm, try and keep to them to avoid human contact altogether.

Install barriers or floor markings to ensure social distancing while waiting to enter/exit the workplace or store. This can be as simple as a rope barrier or adhesive floor tiles.

If it is necessary to be public facing, plastic screens should be used to avoid face to face contact – if drivers and technicians need to share vehicles, drop-down screens can be fitted to protect the occupants.

The items that will require vigorous cleaning are the most used services in your workplace, for example;

  • Vehicles
  • Handrails on stairs
  • Door handles
  • PCs
  • Printers
  • Telephones
  • Shared Utilities

Keeping yourself self-sanitised and healthy does not guarantee you will not be exposed to the virus, to mitigate the risk of exposure please ensure you have PPE available. Depending on your level of contact you may require a face mask, gloves, and safety glasses. During these times we recommend wearing your PPE whenever reasonably practicable. Should you choose to wear washable PPE please ensure you follow the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines on product lifespan, cleaning and storage.

Additionally to add confidence to your customers, advise all staff they must be wearing PPE on arrival at a customer’s premises. State this in your method statement for the customer’s information.

PPE is not to be used as a substitute for good hygiene practices, you must continue to wash your hands and wipe down surfaces.

Single-use PPE is to be disposed of following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Please note, single-use PPE when disposed of is classed as clinical waste.

How do I know when it is okay to bring employees back to work?

To ensure mental and physical wellbeing, the CIPD suggests that businesses should pass three tests before bringing their people back to work.

Is it essential?

Employers should engage with their employees to understand if returning to the workplace is essential for productivity or wellbeing. If a return is essential, the employer should give clear guidance. Where possible, in keeping with the latest government advice, the employer should continue to support working from home – in the short term while significant health risks and legitimate concerns for safety remain, and in the longer term as part of more flexible ways of working for the future.

Is it sufficiently safe?

Employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to. This could include reconfiguring workspaces and common areas to allow appropriate social distancing, possible changes to working hours, and increased workplace cleaning and sanitation measures. Employers should take their time with gradual returns to work to test these measures in practice and ensure they can work with larger numbers before encouraging more of their workforce back.

Is it mutually agreed?

CIPD research found that four in ten people are anxious about returning to work. It’s vital that there is a clear dialogue between employers and employees so concerns (i.e. workplace safety, commuting, work-life balance) can be raised and individual needs and worries are taken into account. To manage some of these issues, there will need to be flexibility on both sides to accommodate different working times or schedules.

The CIPD has developed a returning to work planner to find out the answers to the above questions, the planner can be found here:

https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/employees/covid-19-workplace-return-planner

Part of answering these questions must be in your risk assessment – especially ‘Is it sufficiently safe?’ with documented evidence of what is being done and how you are ensuring the work environment is as safe as possible and that you can clearly and definitively answer this question with a ‘Yes!’.

SOM, along with CIPD, Mind, Acas, and BITC, has produced a toolkit (below) to help you ascertain what you need to do in order to accommodate this new environment.

For support in completing or updating your COVID risk assessment and ensuring your workplace is secure and meeting best practice standards, please give us a call on 01375 676779

Call us for a no obligation assessment of your requirements – 01375 676779

Alternatively, request a callback or complete the customer enquiry form

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