The concept remains for you to consider areas of your management by investing 15 minutes of your time to challenge your processes and procedures.
We have asked three questions for you to investigate and identify whether you are meeting the level of compliance you are expecting. Some months may involve simply reviewing documents, others to go and look at items or challenge processes.
Our three questions are below, please read on for some points to consider:
Have you amended your task risk assessments as needed to cover COVID-19?
Are you updating your COVID-19 planning and procedure documents?
How are you meeting social distancing requirements?
1. Have you amended your task risk assessments as needed to cover COVID-19?
As we are all aware that the current COVID-19 pandemic is creating further risks to people in and out of work. The number of measures put in place to help us manage and control the spread of the disease is impacting us on all levels and affecting everybody.
The implications for organisations are also myriad, the advice from the Government and Health and Safety Executive (HSE), except for some “non-essential shops and public venues” is to “keep your business open”. But that means now we need to consider COVID-19 as part of risk assessing our workplace activities.
For some of your activities with COVID-19 there may be little change in risk, for others there will be much more of an implication, particularly where people must work in groups and/or in close proximity. For example, people having to travel together or using lifts will need more attention than a single person working in isolation in a plantroom.
Review the tasks you have and identify those where the risk is increased or changed as a result of COVID-19. Apply the principles of the hierarchy of control to identify what should then be done so the task can be performed safely within the additional requirements needed.
Even if only temporarily, amend your risk assessment, schemes of control, procedures and any further information or equipment etc. accordingly to reflect the changes and document it. Keep them under review so your processes and advice remain in line with any changes or new information you receive (see below).
2. Are you updating your COVID-19 planning and procedure documents?
COVID-19 is a new disease and although we have experience, to greater or lesser degrees, in managing pandemics historically, there are always differences to be learnt in determining the best and most effective courses of action. Subsequently, the guidance being produced to help us combat the disease will also change and develop as our understanding improves.
From a health, safety and building management perspective, meeting government guidance on social distancing, essential work and other requirements are subject to regular change and update. This means we need to be checking and amending our own advice and procedures as needed, to reflect these changes.
GOV.UK in addition to their general advice have provided Coronavirus (COVID 19) sector guidance, for example in:
- Employees, employers and businesses;
- Schools and places of education;
- Food businesses; and
- Other nonclinical settings.
The Health and Safety Executive are providing more specific advice and guidance in areas such as:
- RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19;
- Social distancing, your business and in-work activities;
- Protecting homeworkers;
- Work equipment – examination and testing;
- First aid cover and qualifications during the outbreak; and
- Drivers – access to welfare facilities and hours rule.
These can be found here, https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm
3. How are you meeting social distancing requirements?
Social distancing has become a fundamental part of our strategy to manage the spread of COVID-19. The practicalities in work settings however can cause issues. This has led to a joint statement being released by the HSE, TUC and CBI:
“This is an extremely worrying time for firms and workers. We know many workers, union reps and employers have questions and concerns about safe working – especially for those continuing to work away from home.
This joint statement between the Health and Safety Executive, the TUC and the CBI is intended to clarify the position. The health and safety of workers remains paramount. Employers are and must continue to provide workers with information about risks to their health and the actions their employers must take.
Social distancing is a key public health measure introduced by Public Health England to reduce the spread of infection. Most employers are going to great lengths to ensure social distancing wherever possible. The HSE, CBI and TUC wish to publicly support these efforts. Firms that can safely stay open and support livelihoods should not be forced to close by misunderstandings about government guidance.”
But if it comes to the HSE’s attention that employers are not complying with the relevant Public Health England guidance (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so), HSE will consider a range of actions ranging from “providing specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices, including prohibition notices.”
For ‘in-work’ activity the HSE have advised:
- All workers are encouraged to keep working and should be working from home if they can.
- Only travel to work when you absolutely cannot work from home. Protect yourself, your workers and help save lives by staying at home.
- If you are travelling to your workplace you will still need to observe the social distancing guidance whilst you are travelling, as far as is practical. Social distancing means staying 2 metres (6ft) apart from other people.
- In your workplace you need to observe, where possible, the social distancing guidance.
The wider HSE advice on social distancing can be found here, https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/social-distancing-coronavirus.htm
How are the social distancing measures currently being met at your workplace and what information have you provided to support meeting them?