The Government and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have released guidance on how businesses can start to get people back to work, where they cannot work from home.
One of the most important steps is to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with your staff or a trade union.
What is a COVID-19 risk assessment?
COVID-19 risk assessments are very similar to your normal health and safety risk assessments.
You must take reasonable steps to protect your workers and others, such as customers and suppliers, from coronavirus, just as you would any other infection.
- Identifying what activities or situations might cause transmission
- Thinking about who could be at risk
- Deciding the likelihood of someone’s exposure
- Acting to remove the activity or situation or, where this isn’t possible, control the risk.
The Government has made it clear that for the foreseeable future, those who can work from home should, so this may be the first thing you want to consider.
Who can work from home? Who needs to be in the workplace? What’s the minimum number of people we need in the workplace?
Importantly, you must consider those employees who are at higher risk, such as those with pre-existing health conditions, or those who may have a family member who’s shielding at home.
Other questions you will want to ask include:
For those who need to be in the workplace, which jobs and tasks could be change to minimise the risk of transmission? What PPE do people need?
How will employees be getting to work, and how can we reduce the risk for those who need to travel?
How do I ensure those who are in the workplace can stick to the two-metre social distancing rules? Does this mean staggering start times/shift patterns?
How can we make sure hygiene rules (i.e. regular hand washing for 20 seconds) are followed? Does this mean providing extra handwashing facilities?
How do we ensure we are keeping work areas and high-touch areas clean and preventing transmission via contaminated surfaces?
Outside of employees’ immediate work environments, also think about how people move around the building/site. How will you deal with lifts and corridors? And make sure to remember staff rooms, kitchens, toilets, showers and changing facilities.
Consulting with staff and unions
The Government has stated that your COVID-19 risk assessments must be carried out in consultation with workers or trade unions, to identify what guidelines to put in place.
As the HSE outlines, this is a two-way process which will allow workers to raise their concerns and influence any decisions employers might make.
This will help to:
- Explain the changes you are planning and reassure employees
- Make sure any changes are workable
- Hear their ideas (they will know their working environments best)
- Continue to operate safely during the outbreak.
For an in-depth guide on talking with your workers, take a look at this HSE document.
Additionally, employers are being asked to publish the results of their assessments on their website – the Government expects all those with more than 50 employees to do so.