Covid-19 – General guidance
The situation in respect of Covid-19 is constantly changing which means any guidance created today might not be relevant tomorrow. It is therefore important for businesses to fully risk assess their current and precise situation, ensure communication remains open and transparent, share information with all relevant stakeholders as it comes in, do not try to hide issues – trust people and work with them to deal with issues as they arise.
Follow scientific advice. The British Government are taking a risk-based approach. Different territories are at a different stage and what is happening in another country may not be appropriate in the UK at this time. We can, however, learn from their experience.
Therefore, only use the information supplied by trusted sources. There is a risk that if precautions are overly onerous individuals will start to relax the personal measures being made when cases start to increase due to “Rule Fatigue”. If this happens, we will not be able to tighten up controls when we really need them. A variety of trusted websites are shown below. Use trusted sources as you risk assess your current situation and as we start to consider how we will move out of full lockdown.
Covid-19 has become a notifiable disease which means if a medical practitioner has diagnosed this, they must formally notify it which is how the Government is obtaining its statistics. If someone contracts Covid-19 out of or in connection with work it may be reportable under the Reporting of Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013. Click here for guidance from the HSE and we can support you as you make decisions in respect of this if relevant.
Everyone has a responsibility to do their best to control the spread via good personal hygiene, maintaining physical separation from others and isolation if unwell. If you come to work when you are not well, you risk the health of your colleagues who in turn could be responsible for or in contact with vulnerable people.
The different control stages are as follows:
- Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease from taking hold for as long as possible;
- Delay: slow the spread – if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season;
- Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care;
- Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for sick people in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.
Consider the hierarchy of risk control when determining your controls. Get together as a group to consider potential hazards. We can help with this if needed.
- Hazard Elimination – Make a list of activities, tasks, and issues. Are they all absolutely necessary? Prioritise what is left for risk assessment.
- Substitution – This is about looking for clever alternatives to the way work is undertaken and thinking of new ways to reduce risk if it cannot be avoided. This can take some clever thinking about how to work differently. Use a diverse group to consider this
- Use of Barriers – Can a guard or a physical barrier be provided? This must be considered before the measures described below. Many shops have installed barriers at checkouts as an example
- Procedures – Can a Safe System of work be introduced? This will include your procedures for keeping your workforce physically separated at this time and how people are trained
- Warning Systems – Is it possible to let people know there is a hazard? E.g. use of signage or labelling to remind people about the rules in place
- Personal Protective Clothing – Is it possible to protect the individual with special clothing? This must be considered as a last resort and not as an alternative to the arrangements above. PPE is a last line of defense but will be required in certain circumstances. Your risk assessment should use information from trusted sources to define what is right for your organisation.
Issues to consider
- Manage responsibilities – be clear as to the roles different people have, demonstrate strong leadership based on your risk assessment and trusted advice and be transparent.
- Go back to your risk assessment as often as you need to, update/amend it as things change or new information comes in. As we start to plan how to come out of lock down the risk assessment must consider this
- Ensure your risk assessment includes physical and mental health & wellbeing for your people
- Organise clear communications so everyone understands what the direction being taken is and to avoid speculation. Ensure everyone has HR advice regarding how they will be paid during any self-isolation.
- Ensure you know how to stay in contact with relevant people so make sure you have numbers and contact details up to date. Think about how you will let people know if things change. There are GDPR restrictions around managing personal data so consider carefully how you do this. There are apps and devices available which will do this.
- Manage travel risk, especially to affected countries, by reducing the need to move around. Work from home and use video conferencing. If this is not possible, reduce the amount of time at work, thereby minimising contact. Avoid physical contact greetings and maintain physical distancing.
- Some people have to go to work, and this will need careful risk assessment to ensure people can keep their distance from one another and do self-isolate if they begin displaying symptoms. A risk assessment should be completed for work during this time based on your situation, with clear communications. Involve your staff so they become part of the solution.
- Communication and transparency are important. Share information freely but remain practical and sensible in respect of any precautions. Stay in contact with all your stakeholders and work together to manage precautions. Follow the science-based guidance provided by trusted sources and government advice. Be practical and realistic.
- Think about your service providers, those within your supply chain whom you rely on to deliver your service. Consider: how they manage cover if your regular team has to self-isolate or take time off sick; their policies regarding coming to work if displaying symptoms. Workers may be tempted to come to work when unwell if they are going to be financially penalized, especially those on low pay; whether there could potentially be a future risk to critical maintenance due to a lack of engineering staff.
- Everyone should consider their own business contingency plans and resilient arrangements.
- Work with your cleaners to ensure they have sufficient supplies of essential cleaning products. Ensure that everyone is aware that washing hands with soap and water is just as effective as hand sanitising gel if this runs low.
- Have antiseptic wipes available for communally used items such as telephones or shared workstations.
- Everyone needs to understand the message that they do not come to work if they are unwell. If a case is suspected at work, organise a deep clean for areas they may have come into contact with and self-quarantine those in the vicinity.
- If you are in a shared building keep the building manager informed so they can organise a deep clean of those areas of the building with which the individual has come into contact such as lift controls, door handles or communal welfare facilities.
- If you are in a shared building keep others informed so everyone can take the precautions they feel are most appropriate for their staff.
- Provide notices to remind building users of basic hygiene standards in WC’s and reception areas. Ensure any signage is clear and straight forward.
- Guidance from trusted sources may be different in different countries so stay territory specific.
- The virus cannot be spread through air handling systems. Air handling systems should be maintained as normal and do not need to be switched off if there is a case of the virus in an area of the building.
Additional guidance for Property Managers can be found by clicking here
We can help you with your risk assessments – call 0203 603 6466 or email email@example.com
Health & Safety at work cannot have a day off and with fewer staff or people taking on roles they are not familiar with – remain vigilant. Keep up your normal Health & Safety routines but do prioritise. There may be some high-risk work which can be delayed so our advice is to do so. Dealing with an accident or serious incident now could have far reaching and longterm consequences for your business.
General – how to protect yourself
The NHS advises the following measures to help stop germs like coronavirus spreading:
- Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell;
- If you have arrived back from China, Italy or specified areas, follow the NHS advice for returning travellers.
Trusted websites – use the links to access trusted information on precautions and hand washing