Working Safely Frequently Asked Questions
Please find below the most up to date FAQs @ 12th May 2020.
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. Information taken from the Working Safely During Covid-19 publications dated 11th May 2020.
Home working is still the preferred choice of the UK Government. However, where home working is not possible, and employees are furloughed, the following sectors have been identified as being able to open with precautions in place from Weds 13th May 2020:
Construction, Food Production (incl retailers and markets), Manufacturing, Logistics, Distribution, Research and Laboratories, Hardware Stores & Garden Centres.
Outdoor Sports Facilities where exercise can take place outside including tennis courts, golf and bowling.
Before re-introducing employees back into the workplace, you should carry out a risk assessment of all areas of the business where employees will be expected to work. A Risk Assessment is not about creating a huge document, but about identifying sensible measures to control the workplace risks. You can find interactive tools at the following link:
You need to think about the risks your employees might face and do everything practicable to minimise them, recognising that you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19. You must however ensure the Risk Assessment addresses the risks of COVID-19.
If you have five or less employees, you do not need write anything down as part of the Risk Assessment, but we would advise you still carry out the assessment.
Employers do have a duty to consult with their employees from a Health and Safety point of view. If you already have a representative(s), you must consult with them if recognised by a trade union. Otherwise, it is best practice for the employees to choose their representative(s) from the workforce. The employer cannot decide on who this is.
It is always best to take a consultative approach on Health and Safety as both employer and employee have legal duties to protect each other. Employers and employees should always come together to resolve issues. You can do this by listening and talking to them about how you plan to manage the COVID-19 risks. The people who do the work often have a very good idea about what changes may need to be introduced to make the workplace safe. By involving them at the outset, you are showing that you take their Health and Safety seriously.
Failure to take precautions to protect employees in line with Government guidelines could lead to HSE action being taken.
Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures.
The following list is not exhaustive or compulsory:
1) Consider working from home arrangements where possible;
2) Keep employees 2 metres apart in the workplace were possible;
3) Increase hand washing and cleansing frequency;
4) Consider “fogging” the workplace;
5) Keep any contact as short as possible;
6) Use screens or barriers to separate people;
7) Consider back-to-back rather than face-to-face working;
8) Use fixed teams or partnering to reduce unnecessary contact;
9) Use face masks;
If you consider the above cannot be put in place to be able to work as safely as possible, then you should consider whether you should continue working together. No one should be working in an unsafe environment.
You should share the outcome of the Risk Assessment with your employees. You could also consider publishing the results on your intranet, notice boards or website to make it available to everyone.
Anyone who has a letter from the NHS advising that they “shield” must not come back to work during that period. An assessment should be carried out once the period has come to an end as to whether they can safely return to work. Advice should be sought from their GP before they attempt to come back to work.
If there are employees who have underlying conditions, but do not have a shielding letter, then care must be taken to listen to their concerns and protect them where possible. If you don’t think you can make the work environment suitably safe, then consideration should be given to them working from home or taking holiday.
Anyone who is living with a high risk individual, but has no underlying health issues themselves, are expected to return to work. If they refuse, then they can take any accrued holiday and then unpaid leave.
For any employee who needs to self-isolate under the current Government guidlelines i.e. they or someone in their household has symptoms, you should do one of the following:
1) Request them to work from home where possible;
2) If they are sick, then SSP will apply as a minimum, payable from day 1 of the sickness;
3) If they are self-isolating due to a member of their household having Coronavirus symptoms, then they will also be eligible for SSP.
SSP may be able to be claimed back for the first 14 days from the Government for Coronavirus symptoms.
The first thing to do is look at the following characteristics and work out if anyone in the workforce retains these characteristics*:
* age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
If they do, look at your Risk Assessment and highlight any areas where they may be particularly at risk. You may need to put in place workplace adjustments, communication with employees and make sure that no group is inadvertently adversely affected by any changes.
It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic.
Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.
If there is any accident, fire or incident at work after the lockdown, then follow your Company procedures and make sure employees are kept safe at all times, even if this means breaking the 2 metre social distancing rule.
Anyone attending injured people should make sure they adhere to current sanitation guidelines i.e. wear face masks, gloves, PPE and wash hands effectively.
1) Provide clear signage and information about how you want employees to act when they return to work;
2) Frequently clean surfaces with regular cleaning products;
2) Make sure frequently touched areas are cleaned on a regular basis such as door handles, keys, tools etc;
3) Restrict access to certain equipment such as printers or IT Equipment;
3) Encourage all employees to wash their hands regularly in line with Government guidelines;
4) Make sure you have stocks of hand sanitiser, soap, paper towels and cleaning products;
5) Clear all work spaces and waste at the end of each shift or day.
At this time, the Government are not advocating any need to provide additional PPE over and above your normal PPE requirements unless one of the following apply;
1) Your Risk Assessment shows that you do need to provide additional PPE to protect employees. If this applies to your organisation, then you will need to organise for additional PPE to be available before employees return to work.
2) You are operating in clinical settings. If this is the case for your organisation, you should check the current Government guidelines on wearing PPE in this specific area.
You can, of course, make face coverings and gloves available for employees that prefer to wear them whilst in the workplace.
A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It is not the same as a face mask used by health and care workers. Face coverings are also not the same as PPE used to manage dust and spray in industrial environments. Whether an employee wears a face covering or not is optional and is not required by law.
Face coverings should not be used instead of putting in place the other measures such as regular cleaning, minimising contact or using fixed team partnering for close up work.
The employees should make sure that they are not passing any germs onto or from, the face covering when wearing it:
1) Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before touching the face covering and after removing it;
2) Avoid touching your face or face covering whilst wearing it to avoid contamination;
3) Change the face covering if it becomes damp or you have touched it;
4) Continue to wash your hands regularly;
5) Change and wash the face covering daily;
6) If material is washable, then wash the face covering according to the instructions, otherwise dispose of it carefully in normal waste;
7) Practise social distancing at all times, where possible.
If you need to have dual-person operations, then make sure that you pair up people consistently and maintain that pairing where at all possible.
You should put in place procedures to minimise person to person contact during deliveries and receipting items.
Minimise touch points in terms of payment e.g. no cash accepted, using electronic payment methods and electronic sign technology.
You should write to each member of the workforce and explain what the Company’s plans are, new procedures that will come into force, and the expected date they are due to return to work. Make sure they know who to contact if they have any concerns.
You will need to carry out an induction process for each employee to explain any new procedures being implemented when they return to work.
An audit trail should be kept of the training and a signature page signed by the employee to say they have been through the induction.
You should monitor how the return to work measures are being implemented and monitor any unexpected consequences. These should be communicated back to employees and representatives so that any issues can be corrected or procedures changed.
It is important to monitor mental health issues that occur in the work place. It is expected that the lockdown period may have adverse psychological effects for some people. Make sure that there is someone that can be contacted in confidence to handle these issues.
Use clear language and visual aids to get messages across to employees. the simpler the better.
Is There Anything We Haven't Covered?
The answers to these questions have been put together using the HM Government’s Working Safely Guides, published on 11th May 2020.
The guides are sector specific, so if you would like to review the guides specific to your industry, please follow the link below: