According to the latest government guidance on lockdown restrictions being lifted, if employees are expected to work in an office or a similar indoor working environment, employers should:
- Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from Covid-19;
- Provide adequate ventilation through opening windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both;
- Clean more often;
- Turn away people with symptoms of coronavirus. Employers should remember that if they know that a worker is self-isolating it is an offence to allow them to physically attend a place of work;
- Enable people to check in, while no longer legally required to collect customer contact details, doing so will support NHS Test and Trace; and
- Communicate and train all workers, contractors, and visitors so they are up to date on how safety measures have been updated.
The full guidance note goes on to look at each of these actions, for example what to consider in relation to infection and risk. It advises that risk assessment results should be shared with the workforce. It is also expected that all employers with a workforce of over 50 people will publish the risk assessment on their website.
In the section ‘who should go to work?’ it is acknowledged that ways of working have changed throughout the pandemic, and many employers are looking to implement hybrid models of working. It suggests that timing should be carefully considered, and that particular attention is given to those who are clinically vulnerable, disabled, or pregnant.
While social distancing guidance will no longer apply, the guidance suggests that employers mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 by reducing the amount of contact between colleagues.
Practical steps include using fixed teams or partnering or cohorting (so each person works with only a few others). It also suggests that layouts be reviewed, and screens or barriers are used to separate people who would ordinarily come into close proximity with each other.
It also reflects that reasonable adjustments may be needed for disabled workers so they can work safely.
In relation to workplaces and workstations, to reduce contact these should, where possible, be assigned to an individual. If they need to be shared, they must be cleaned before the other person uses it.
Employers should ensure that there are arrangements in place for frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly. This includes door handles and keyboards.
Employees should keep a clear workspace and remove any waste and belongings at the end of each shift.
Any equipment that cannot be washed down using a cleaning process will need to be identified and it will be necessary to design protection around machines and equipment.
On face coverings, the guidance states that while these are no longer required by law, the government expects and recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces and that workers may choose to wear a face covering in the workplace.
The guidance suggests that employers may consider encouraging the use of face coverings by workers (for example, through signage), particularly in indoor areas where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet. This is especially important in enclosed and crowded spaces.
When deciding whether to ask workers to wear a face covering, consideration will need to be given to reasonable adjustments for staff and clients with disabilities.
For workplace management, continued communications will be necessary to highlight the responsibility to:
- Implement control measures;
- Assist with communications to staff; and
- Reinforce prevention messages.
Given that these are health and safety measures, it will be important that managers are fully aware of the importance of compliance with these actions.
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