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03 July 2020

COVID-19 health and safety – Top tips for employers

Plan for a phased return to work

  • Review and revise your Health and Safety and other policies and work practices.
  • Consider whether updates to your sickness, health and safety and disciplinary policies are required.
  • Consult your employee representatives and explain your proposals in advance of auctioning them.

Plan to ‘manage the risk’ of COVID-19 within the workplace

  • By producing a COVID-19 specific Risk Assessment. This is a legal requirement and the risks must be assessed by a ‘competent person’ and be written down if there are five or more workers. Employers should identify the risks to employees (including travel to work) and others and identify sensible measures to control the risks of COVID-19 within the workplace.
  • Organisations with more than 50 employees are expected to publish the results of the Risk Assessment on their website.
  • Employers should ensure that both workers and intended visitors who feel unwell, or display symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and do not attend the premises. As an employer, you may wish to consider conducting temperature checks to satisfy this requirement.
  • If anybody becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 they must be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance and seek medical advice if required.
  • If advised that anybody has developed COVID-19 and were recently on the premises they should be closed for cleaning and the Public Health Authority contacted.

Facilitate remote working

  • Employers are responsible for those employees working from home and they should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home where possible.
  • This can include issuing guidance, discussing home working arrangements and ensuring employees have the right equipment to work remotely, for example remote access to work systems.
  • Employers should include employees working from home in all necessary communications and ensure that they look after employee’s physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Arrange homeworking, DSE risk assessments and appropriate training for long-term home workers.

Increase the frequency surface cleaning in the workplace

  • UK Government guidance has advised that cleaning products with an alcohol content of at least 60% will kill the virus, if frequently used.
  • Employers should ensure frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly including door handles, keyboards, work areas and equipment.
  • Employers should also make sure there are adequate disposal arrangements for cleaning products.
  • Change work practice and habits to limit or restrict the use of high-touch items and equipment, such as printers or whiteboards.

Increase hygiene practices: handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets

  • Using advisory signs and posters will build awareness and provide regular reminders amongst employees and visitors of good handwashing practices, the need to increase handwashing frequency and avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is disposed of safely.
  • Employers may wish to provide hand sanitiser in multiple locations in addition to washrooms and dependent upon the size and structure of the workplace, to provide more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.
  • Ensure toilets and cleaning stations are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible.

Social distancing

  • Ensure workers maintain social distancing following the current government guidelines. The two metre distance is desirable but where it is not viable, the distance maintained should be one metre with risk mitigation, including while travelling to work, arriving at and departing from the workplace and when at the workplace, including during breaks.
  • In order to satisfy this requirement, employers may wish to stagger arrival and departure times to reduce crowding, provide additional parking or facilities such as bike racks to facilitate peoples commute to work without the need for public transport.
  • Employers may also wish to review the layouts of the workplace and mark areas to help people comply with social distancing and reduce congestion by having more entrances/exits to and from the workplace.

Where social distancing is not possible, ensure that you mitigate the risk of transmission

  • Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, employers should continue whether that activity is essential for the business to operate. If it is, employers should take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission of infection between its employees.
  • Mitigating actions include, but are not limited to: further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Where PPE is used in the workplace or for employees traveling to work to protect against non-Covid risks, it should continue to be used. However, additional PPE beyond what is usually worn will not be beneficial unless used in clinical settings, like a hospital or care home settings.
  • The UK Government have advised that employers should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE outside clinical settings.
  • However, if your risk assessment shows that PPE is required, employers must provide this free of charge to workers who need it and be trained in its use. Further, PPE must be checked that it fits correctly.
  • Deliveries to and from the workplace
  • Revise pick-up and drop-off collection points, procedures, signage and markings and consider methods to reduce the frequency of deliveries.
  • Where possible and safe, have single workers load or unload vehicles.
  • Where more than one person is required, use the same pairs of people.
  • Employers should also encourage delivery drivers to stay in their vehicles where this does not compromise their safety and existing safe working practice.

How we can help

  • Drafting Health and Safety policies and statements.
  • Providing advice and assistance with workplace Risk Assessments.
  • Reviewing Health and Safety compliance in work practices.
  • Providing industry specific advice.
  • Providing advice and representing clients in Health and Safety investigation.
  • Defending civil claims for damages.
  • Advising on insurance cover and disputes.

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