Health and Safety During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Coronavirus controls and social distancing
Under health and safety law, businesses must take all reasonable steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus and ensure employees, customers, contractors and members of the public are not exposed to the virus whilst they are in the business premises.
Before reopening, businesses must carry out a risk assessment to identify the risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19 and ensure there is system in place which allows the business to operate safely.
The Government have issued guidance to help businesses create a risk assessment so they can open safely.
There is also a Template Risk Assessment COVID which has been developed to help businesses identify the risks within their workplaces and to implement adequate controls.
A Safe systems checklist has been created to help you ensure the risks have been identified within your business and adequate controls implemented.
The Government are also encouraging businesses who have employees that cannot work from home to adopt the Government’s workplace testing programme. The programme offers Lateral Flow tests free of charge and encourages employers to test employees twice a week. The programme will run until 30 June 2021 but businesses must register before 31 March 2021. The Government have published guidance on how to order tests for your workplace.
Details of the Government's roadmap out of lockdown is available on their website.
Please see social distancing advice below, as well as links to Government guidance for specific workplaces.
Health and safety within the workplace
Despite the Government imposed restrictions as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, businesses still have legal responsibilities in relation to health and safety of their employees, contractors and members of the public.
In many cases, the way in which the business is operating has changed which may have implications in how the business manages health and safety.
Below are some key areas businesses will need to consider during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
If the business activity or the way in which the business operates has changed, the existing risk assessments must be reviewed to ensure all new hazards have been identified and control measures implemented to control any risk.
Areas to consider are:
- Increase in employees homeworking
- Increase in lone working
- How to protect people from infection and spreading the infection
- Maintenance of water systems (legionella)
- Use and availability of personal protective equipment
- Work related stress and mental health of employees
- Social distancing
- Mental wellbeing
- Bubbles for shift workers/teams
Please note this is not an exhaustive list of the areas you will need to consider.
Visit the Health and Safety Executives website for further advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and working safely.
You must implement controls so that your employees, customers, contractors and anyone else within your business follow social distancing requirements outlined by the Government.
Latest information on social distancing is available from the Government's website.
You must ensure where possible there is a two metre gap between people at all times. Where this is not possible, there needs to be a minimum of a meter gap with risk mitigation in place. Further information is available on the Government's website:
To achieve this, you may need to change the layout of the business and how you operate. This may require you to reduce the number of people allowed in the premises at one time.
To help people keep the required social distance, floor markings maybe used and staff trained to manage the process during busy times.
To assist business, the Government have produced guidance for specific workplaces.
You must make sure any staff working in retail, leisure, and hospitality wear a face covering whilst they are working in an indoor area that is open to the public, and where they are likely to come into contact with the public. This includes:
- Post offices
- Estate agents
- Public areas of hotels and hostels
For other indoor settings, employers should assess the use of face coverings on a case by case basis and consider other controls implemented by their risk assessment. Specific guidance for different workplace settings is available from the Government's website.
If a physical barrier has been installed such as a Perspex partition between staff and employees, staff will not need to wear a face covering whilst behind the barrier.
There is also a duty for businesses to ensure members of the public wear masks when entering any indoor business setting.
There are exemptions for not having to wear a face covering based on age, health or disability reasons. There is no legal requirement for a person to have to show written evidence of the reason.
Further guidance on face coverings is available on the Government's website.
As many businesses will have to restrict the number of people entering the premises at a time, this will result in people queuing outside the premises.
Businesses must work alongside their neighbours and implement controls to manage the queues to ensure social distancing requirements can still be met.
Controls should include:
- Ensuring the queues do not extend beyond their shop frontage.
- Ensure signage is used to make people aware of your procedures, including social distancing requirements.
- Use of floor markings to direct customers where to wait.
- Procedure in place for employees to manage/marshal the queues.
The Equality Act still applies, so any social distancing measures must be worked through so that access is not compromised for disabled people. The points below are designed to assist businesses to comply with the Equalities Act whilst implementing social distancing measures:
- Disabled parking spaces should not be used for queuing unless adequate parking provision has been made close by.
- Consider a process for people who are unable to queue due to disability, some disabilities may be hidden and not obvious.
- When considering numbers within business premises, consider some people may need to access the premises with carers or personal assistants.
- Visually impaired people may struggle with one way systems, consider implementing further controls to assist them if needed.
- Have clear signs and symbols so your controls are clear
- Make sure one way routes are clutter free and accessible for wheelchairs.
For further information please contact Ann Webster, Lead on Equality and Diversity at Derby City Council on 01332 643722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You must ensure you implement procedures to protect your employees from catching Coronavirus through their work activity. You must also ensure controls are implemented to prevent your employees, customers and contractors from spreading the infection.
Control measures should include:
- Regular hand washing with soap and warm water
- Regular cleaning and sanitising of hand contact surfaces such as workstations, phones, desks, worktops, door handles and switches.
- Use and availability of personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks
- Cleaning and maintenance of welfare facilities used by employees and customers
- Social distancing controls (see above)
Please note this is not an exhaustive list.
Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for home working employees as they do for employees based in the work place.
Display Screen Equipment
If homeworking is only a temporary short term measure, there is no legal requirement to complete a workstation assessment.
If homeworking becomes a long tern measure, a workstation assessment must be completed and adequate control measures implemented. The Health and Safety Executive have produced a workstation checklist which employees can complete at home to help with the assessment.
Further information can be found on the Health and Safety Executive's website, Working safely with display screen equipment.
Work related stress and employees mental health
Homeworking can impact upon employees mental health and cause work related stress.
In an attempt to reduce the risk, employers should make regular contact with employees to make sure they are healthy and safe. This will help to prevent employees feeling disconnected, isolated and abandoned.
Further information on homeworking can be found on the Health and Safety Executives website, Protect home workers.
As many businesses have temporarily closed due to the Governments Coronavirus restrictions, water systems are not being used.
This is increasing the risk of water within the system stagnating and being left at temperatures which will encourage the growth of legionella bacteria.
Once the system is used again, any bacterial growth will be flushed throughout the system and released into the atmosphere through water outlets. This could be inhaled and could result in future respiratory illness outbreaks such as Legionnaires disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
Hot and cold water systems
To prevent future outbreaks, the water system must be maintained. The business should continue to keep water moving through the system by flushing it weekly. This is achieved by using all water outlets such as showers, toilets and taps on a weekly basis. Water should be kept at the same temperature as if it was operating normally. Cold water should be kept below 20oC and hot water above 60oC so that it reaches a temperature of 50oC within one minute at the outlets (55oC in healthcare premises)
Hot and cold water systems must not be drained as this increases the risk of water becoming stagnant within the system.
If the system cannot be flushed weekly, before it is next used the system must be treated as though it is a new installation and should be cleaned and disinfected as required.
Please see the current health and safety topic areas for more information in relation to legionella and businesses health and safety duties. Further information in relation to controlling legionella in hot and cold water systems is available from the Health and Safety Executive's website, Hot and Cold Water Systems and Part 2 of HSG274, The control of legionella bacteria in hot and cold water systems.
Spa pools and hot tubs
Spa pools and hot tubs should be maintained as though they are still in use. If this is not possible, they must be drained, cleaned and disinfected. They must also be cleaned and disinfected again before their first use. Further information is available from the Health and Safety Executive's website, Spa Pools.
Further information is also available from ESGLI guidance for managing Legionella in building water systems during the COVID-19 pandemic and Public Health England's Important information for all organisations that rely on a safe water supply to undertake their business activities.
For details of what needs to be reported in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) please see Accident and ill health reporting.
If one of your employees is diagnosed with coronavirus and there is reasonable evidence to suggest that they were exposed to the virus through their work, this must be reported as a disease attributed to an occupational exposure to a biological agent.
If an employee who is likely to have been infected through their work dies of coronavirus, this must be reported as a fatality.
Further information in relation to reporting cases of diseases or fatalities as a result of coronavirus can be found on the HSE's website, RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19.
Incidents should be reported online using the Health and Safety Executive webpage How to make a RIDDOR report.
For advice in relation to what PPE should be provided to prevent infection and the spreading of the infection please visit the Health and Safety Executive's website, Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice
You must also review your existing personal protective equipment to ensure you have an adequate supply as you may struggle to obtain supplies during the ongoing pandemic. If you are unable to obtain sufficient PPE you must implement alternative controls.