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Working safely during coronavirus

Stuart Brown | 13 May 2020

On 11 May 2020 the Government released a series of eight industry-specific guides detailing how employers, employees and the self-employed can safely return to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

These guides have been prepared following consultation with firms, unions, industry bodies and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive. This guidance follows on from the Prime Ministers statement on 10 May that those who cannot work from home should be actively encouraged to go to work.

Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace. More than one guide should be consulted if you operate from more than one type of workplace, to ensure that you do what is required to keep people safe.

It is likely that this guidance will be updated over time as more is known about the virus and as the lock down is eased. Your risk assessment should always be as current as possible, taking into account the most up to date guidance.

The guide documents set out how to work safely. They give practical considerations of how this guidance can be applied in the different workplaces.

“Each business will need to translate this into the specific actions it needs to take, depending on the nature of their business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated."

Common Themes

There are several common themes running throughout the guidance. These include:

  • The need to carry out the appropriate risk assessment.
  • The need to maintain social distancing of two metres wherever possible.
    • Including to maintain social distancing when arriving and departing from work.
    • Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed, all the mitigating actions possible should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission between workers.
  • The need for businesses and workplaces to make every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option.
  • The need to protect people who are at a higher risk.
  • The need to ensure that guidance and explanations are provided to workers to ensure that they know what the rules are and what is expected of them.
  • The need to ensure that workplaces are cleaned more frequently, especially “high-contact” objects like handles and keyboards.

Some examples of measures that could be taken include:

  • Staggering start and finish times for workers.
  • Stagger rest periods.
  • Clearly labelling floors and walls with distance markers.
  • Prevent hot-desking.
  • Provide hand sanitiser at entry and exit points.
  • Provide suitable training.
  • Use face coverings where social distancing is not possible.
  • Prepare cleaning procedures for shared equipment.

Organisations of all sizes will be subject to inspection, to ensure that they are keeping employees safe and will face potential fines if they are not.

All the guides contain useful checklists, to check against your progress to compliance.

Risk Assessment

Carrying out a risk assessment is the first key step for all industries, to help businesses to decide which actions to take.

  • The risk assessment must address the risks of COVID-19.
  • The risk assessment must include control measures linked to the risks identified.
  • The focus is on creating sensible measures to control the risk in your workplace.
  • If you have fewer than five workers or are self-employed nothing needs to be written down as part of your risk assessment.
  • There are interactive tools available to help with the preparation of your risk assessment, from the Health and Safety Executive.
  • Workplaces with more than 50 employees are expected to publish the results of such assessments on their website.
  • Display the COVID-secure poster in the workplace to share results of your risk assessment with your workforce (see below for link).

Useful Links

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Duncan & Toplis is here to support businesses and we hope we can provide clarity on these important changes as they are announced. For the very latest advice for your organisation, please contact our team.

You can find a full, regularly updated list of measures to support businesses throughout the coronavirus pandemic here.

The information which is summarised herein does not constitute professional advice and is general in nature.  Please contact our team for further detail of how these initiatives could help you and your business.


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