With Lockdown 3 still in progress and the government saying ‘work from home if you can’ it may be easy to say everyone should be at home, however for some business and employees, they have no choice about where they work. From health and social care, education and childcare to key public services essential workers have to visit their place of work while others may be required to attend their workplace because they cannot physically carry out their job from home.
So as businesses re-open and workers return to the workplace, employers are having to adapt their working environments to manage the risk posed by coronavirus.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it is carrying out spot inspections of businesses to ensure they are operating safely. Whether your staff work at home or in the workplace; all employers have a legal duty to ensure their employees and any visitors’ health, safety and welfare is protected.
When the HSE visits the Inspector will ask to speak to an appropriate person in your business who can detail the systems in place to ensure the workplace is COVID secure. They will want to see the workplace risk assessment, records of training and how this information has been disseminated to the workforce. They will also inspect the the hygiene practices and social distancing measures which you have put in place such as, good cleanliness and hygiene facilities e.g. use of hand sanitiser, social distancing and, where that is not possible, other measures such as screens to reduce transmission risks. They will speak to staff and observe them to check and confirm compliance.
Put your staff in the know
You need to have made sure your staff know what Covid control measure you have put in place and why they are important. Is everything been followed which you set out in your risk assessment?
Who’s coming calling?
At this time the HSE are extremely busy, the Environmental Health team from the local authority are approved partners to deliver the spot check calls and visits, so you may be visited by an officer or an inspector. Both parties will carry and identity badge, you are entitled to them ask to see their ID. The Local Authoriy will also carry a letter of authorisation for spot checks from the HSE.
The aim of HSE spot checks is to advise and assist businesses to be COVID compliant.
If your business’s COVID controls are inadequate, they will offer you specific advice on how to comply with the legislation/guidance. If they believe that the business is not following government guidelines to make the workplace COVID secure then they may take enforcement action. This may mean stopping certain operations or shutting the whole workplace until they are made safe.
The HSE could prosecute if the deemed it necessary.
Your COVID-19 risk assessment should be continually reviewed, this will help you to understand what you should do to work safely and protect people.
Observe social distancing; where possible you should keep people 2 metres apart. If this is not viable, keeping 1 metre apart with risk mitigation is acceptable.
Keeping your workplace clean and advising that frequent handwashing reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread. It is a critical part of making and keeping your business COVID-secure.
Ensure you have good ventilation (including air conditioning) to help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Realise ‘it’s good to talk’
Talk to workers and provide information on the steps you’re taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace. Good communication is the key in ensuring employees are well informed and looked after.
Keep in touch with those staff who are working at home. It’s easy to keep an eye on employees while they are physically in the workplace but it is harder for those that are out of sight. Make sure they don’t become out of mind too. Maintain regular contact with everyone and please make sure you discuss their wellbeing whilst you are there too!
Make sure you consider the risk to vulnerable workers who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, have controls been put in place to reduce the risk to them?