Working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Social distancing and making your workplace COVID-secure
HSE has produced guidance on social distancing in the workplace, with details on common areas, workstations, movement around buildings and more.
Find out more below or visit the HSE webpage https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely
Social distancing means keeping people apart to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
- You should start by updating your risk assessment to manage the risk of coronavirus in your business. This will help you to understand what you should do to work safely and protect people.
- identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- act to remove the activity or situation, or if this is not possible, control the risk
If you have fewer than five employees, you do not have to write anything down, but it might help if you do.
The Public Health England report Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 shows that some groups of people may be at more risk of being infected and/or an adverse outcome if infected. You should consider this in your risk assessment.
- By consulting and involving people in the steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace you can:
- explain the changes you are planning to work safely
- make sure changes will work and hear their ideas
- continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak
- Where possible you should keep people 2m apart. If this is not viable, keeping 1m apart with risk mitigation is acceptable.
These are some of the things you can do:
- use floor tape or paint to mark work areas
- provide signage to remind people to keep a 2 m distance
- use screens to create a physical barrier between people
- have people working side-by-side rather than face-to-face
- limit movement of people; rotating between jobs and equipment, using lifts and work vehicles, in high-traffic areas like corridors, turnstiles and walkways
- allow only essential trips within buildings and between sites
- Cleaning and hygiene
Coronavirus can transfer from people to surfaces. It can be passed on to others who touch the same surfaces. Keeping your workplace clean reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread and is a critical part of making and keeping your business ‘COVID-secure’.
Use signs and posters to help your workers to practice good handwashing technique and to remind them to cough/sneeze into an arm and avoid touching their faces.
- provide handwashing facilities with running water, soap, and paper towels
- provide hand sanitiser at locations in addition to washrooms
- provide hand sanitiser nearby for people getting in and out of vehicles or handling deliveries, if they are unable to wash their hands
- Make sure that surfaces remain clean. This may mean increasing the level and frequency of cleaning as well as cleaning surfaces that you may not ordinarily clean.
Clean equipment frequently
- Set clear guidance for the use and cleaning of toilets, showers and changing facilities to make sure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible
- Clean work areas and equipment between uses
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
- If equipment like tools or vehicles are shared, then clean them after each use
- Protecting Vulnerable Workers
As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect workers from harm. You should make sure you consider the risk to workers who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus and put controls in place to reduce that risk.
The Public Health England report Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 shows that some groups of people may be at more risk of being infected and/or an adverse outcome if infected.
There are currently no expectations of additional controls for these groups. But make sure your existing controls (social distancing, good hygiene and cleaning, ventilation, supervision etc) are applied stringently.
As an employer, you need to support these individuals/groups in your workforce. You should support them by ensuring that:
- you emphasise the importance of individual and wider workforce engagement, buy-in and cooperation to ensure controls are applied stringently
- they have individual discussions with their managers around their particular concerns
- you/they discuss the risk management measures you have put in place to minimise transmission to keep them, and others, safe
- you explain the controls you will put/already have in place to protect them and other workers
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the government has defined some people as clinically extremely vulnerable (shielded).
Shielded workers are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus. They cannot return to workplaces before at least 31 July 2020 in Scotland, from 1 August 2020 in England and from 16 August 2020 in Wales when shielding is paused.
Supporting shielded workers returning to work
- You should talk to shielded workers about their working arrangements and take every possible step to enable your workers to work from home.
- When shielding is paused, where it is not possible for workers to work from home, you must regularly review your risk assessment, and do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect those workers from harm.
- If workers are in the shielded categories, explain what will be done to protect them, for example doing tasks where stringent social distancing guidelinescan be followed.
- This also applies to workers living with someone in the shielded group.
- You can find more advice on shielding and protecting vulnerable peopleon GOV.UK.
During the outbreak, pregnant workers have been advised to follow stringent social distancing to reduce the risk of severe illness from coronavirus.
There is a long-standing requirement for employers to put in place measures to ensure workplace safety where a significant health and safety risk is identified for a new or expectant mother.
Some pregnant workers will be at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus. They should have received a shielding letter from the NHS advising them:
- to stay at home where possible
- that they are not expected to be in a workplace
Employers will need to take this into account in their risk assessment.
If you cannot put the necessary control measures in place, such as adjustments to the job or working from home, you should suspend the pregnant worker on paid leave. This is in line with regulation 16(3) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Where possible you should keep people 2m apart. If this is not viable, keeping 1m apart with risk mitigation is acceptable.
You must ensure that workers and other people visiting your workplace understand and comply with the measures you put in place.
Social distancing should form part of your business’s risk assessment and is one of the steps needed to make your workplace COVID-secure.