As the COVID-19 lockdown relaxes we need to consider the H&S obligations when business reawakens and we begin to returning to work.
Shortly business will begin to reawaken and try to resume a new sense of normal. The way we interact and travel will be completely different to before. Planning is key in ensuring a smooth transition back to work and the protection of employees.
As with anything to do with health and safety we must always comply with the Health and safety at work act 1974, and specifically the obligations in sections 2 and 3 . “All reasonably practicable steps must be taken so as to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your workers and anyone else impacted by your operations.” This includes keeping up to date with the work-related risks posed by COVID-19, as well as planning and implementing all reasonably practicable risk reduction measures.
Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 tell us we need to make “suitable andsufficient” risk assessments of the health and safety risks faced by your employees, as well as anyone else who are affected by your operations. If you have 5 or more employees these risk assessments must be in writing. All risk assessments must be reviewed regularly and updated when the circumstances change (so for changes to working due to Covid19) . The COVID-19 risks are changing fast, so it is really important businesses are kept abreast of the latest developments and act accordingly. Risk assessment should cover things like handwashing, cleaning, social distancing, meetings, travel, hygiene, PPE, mental health etc.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 telling us to provide suitable PPE is an import piece of legislation also. It tells us that PPE must be appropriate for the risks and conditions involved, it needs to fitting correctly and must be assessed as suitable and effective, so far as is reasonably practicable, to prevent or adequately control the risk.
Employees must be given adequate information, instruction and training regarding PPE. All PPE must also be maintained, cleaned and replaced as appropriate. Last but by no means least, all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that any PPE is properly used.
What do you have to do?
In terms of any operations in the workplace, you must to follow the Government’s rules. Make sure you are aware of the most up to date ones as the revisions are changing all the time. There may be some specific guidance to your sector. For example the construction leadership council have published an SOP, the transportation sector also have their own guidance to complement that of the government.
So, what do you need to do to comply with the law?
- Revise, update or create risk assessments dealing with COVID-19 to encompass returning to work.
- Have a COVID-19 return to work plan which identifies the hazards.
- Ensure these hazards are mitigated (social distancing, PPE etc)
- Above all communicate with your staff.
Remember the HSE will act if there is inadequate planning, if employees are pressured into returning to work, if social distancing is not arranged and enforced and if adequate PPE is not provided and replenished.