On 11 May, the government published eight industry-specific guides aimed to help employers understand what controls are appropriate and how employers can implement them to deliver a COVID-secure workplace.
One of the most important steps is carrying out a risk assessment that’s both in line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance, while also incorporating any risks associated with the coronavirus.
Taking the right steps
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the minimum any employer 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.
A COVID-secure risk assessment is similar to any regular health and safety assessment, i.e. you must take reasonable steps to protect workers, and others entering the workplace, in the same way you would from any other infection. You need to:
Identify activities or situations that might cause transmission
Look at precisely who is at risk
Determine the likelihood of a person’s exposure
Remove the activity or situation or, if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
A clear message from the government is that anyone who can work from home should, so identifying those individuals is the best place to start. Where home working isn’t possible, employers should highlight any employees who are in a high-risk category, such as those with pre-existing health conditions, and ensure their protection from infection at all times.
Tailored to you
Of course, any COVID-secure risk assessment should be specific to your business, industry and sector. Additionally, any form of risk assessment should be carried out in consultation with employees or a trade union.
Here are some questions to help get your COVID-secure risk assessment underway:
Can we ensure a 2m gap is maintained between employees and other persons affected by the work activity?
Do we need screens at reception or customer-facing areas?
How can we better organise our seating areas?
Have we put provisions in place for office, delivery and eating areas?
Are our handwashing facilities up to scratch? Do we have hot and cold running water, soap and disposable hand towels? Will we be providing hand sanitiser?
Do we have an action plan in place to deal with someone with suspected symptoms?
Support when you need it
Our Ensuring a COVID-Secure Workplace blog series and accompanying guide aims to deliver the latest findings and insights to help employers safely reopen their doors. While every business will face their own unique challenges, we hope the series will go some way in helping you get back up and running safely.