The original concept behind our campaign for 2020 was to challenge areas of your existing compliance by actively investigating where you stood through questioning specific aspects.

While we have looked to maintain the theme, COVID-19 Secure, became a clear focus.

So, as we return to ‘normal’ we have for this month combined questions around existing subject areas that can also be affected by COVID-19 contingencies.

Below are three questions for you to consider by investing 15 minutes of your time to review your processes and procedures. In addition to the questions, supporting information is provided for you on each of the topic areas.

1. How ready is your workplace for a fire evacuation?
2. Does the first aid provision for your employees still meet its needs?
3. What is the Test and Trace information like for your employees?

1. How ready is your workplace for a fire evacuation?

Change of use and occupation levels in our workplaces, together the additional COVID-19 Secure requirements has triggered a range of adaptations to existing procedures. Fire safety and fire evacuation is one of these.

The GOV.UK advice in the ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ sector guidance has been consistent in its approach stating;

“In an emergency, for example, an accident, provision of first aid, fire or break-in, people do not have to comply with social distancing guidelines if it would be unsafe.

People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards including washing hands.”

(Note: we’ve used Section ‘3.6 Accidents, security and other incidents’ from the Office and Contact Centre guidance, but the majority of other sector advice is largely the same.)

Even so, if you have closed off parts of the building, gone from assembly to dispersal or implemented an ‘all out immediately’ process, this need to be clearly communicated to all staff in the office or are likely to visit the office and other visitors.

So, for this question, the task is to review your current procedures and consider the following;

  1. Do your published procedures reflect any changes to process and are these readily accessible to all relevant staff and visitors?
  2. Ask three members of staff in the workplace what the procedure for a fire evacuation are, what they would do and where they could find the information. Are they right?
  3. Ask your security team what their roles and responsibilities are in the event of a fire evacuation, if one occurred now. Do there reflect the changes in your procedures?
  4. Walk your fire evacuation route(s) and identify if any changes in use/access/equipment etc. Do they materially affect the escape route?

2. Does the first aid provision for your employees still meet its needs?

As with the first question above, the GOV.UK advice in the ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ sector guidance has been consistent in its approach to first aid and emergencies stating;

“In an emergency, for example, an accident, provision of first aid, fire or break-in, people do not have to comply with social distancing guidelines if it would be unsafe.

People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards including washing hands.”

(Note: we’ve used Section ‘3.6 Accidents, security and other incidents’ from the Office and Contact Centre guidance, but the majority of other sector advice is largely the same.)

With variable numbers of staff returning to work in most organisations, and so by nature the number of those able to provide first aid as well as those potentially needing it will be inconsistent, so what should you be considering?

  • Have you reviewed and updated your first aid needs assessment to reflect current staffing and first aid provision? You should also discuss with and update all first aiders on any changes to your risk assessment/provision of first aid procedures.
  • What factors are affecting/influencing you first aid provision, where staff in the office may not be qualified, first aiders on furlough / long term work at home, in a vulnerable group or where their training has recently lapsed (also see below)? How does this affect your current provision of first aiders?
  • For those first aiders who hold First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) (it also applies to Offshore Medic (OM) and Offshore First Aid (OFA)), valid certificates that expired on or after the 16th March 2020 and who have not been able to access requalification training since due to COVID-19 coronavirus, you may qualify for an extension. To qualify for the extension, you must be able to:
    • Explain why you haven’t been able to requalify; and
    • Demonstrate what steps you have taken to access the training, if asked to do so.

Where this applies, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have put a final deadline for requalification of the 30th September 2020 (note this date applies in England only). What is the current status of your first aiders?

  • Where they are called on to provide first aid, actively encourage first aiders to maintain safe distancing if possible but where they cannot, the use of equipment to minimise risk of infection transmission or failing that to minimise their time in the patient’s breathing zone. What information do you have and what have you communicated?
  • Keep your first aid needs assessment under review as more staff return, guidance changes and so procedures may need to be further adapted. When was yours last reviewed?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have produced guidance to help employers in ‘First aid during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’ (https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/first-aid-and-medicals/first-aid-certificate-coronavirus.htm).

  • First aid in non-healthcare settings; and
  • First aid cover and qualifications.

The Resuscitation Council UK have also produced a “statement on COVID-19 in relation to CPR and resuscitation in first aid and community settings”, designed to provide guidance for “anyone who is performing CPR/defibrillation in an out-of-hospital setting” This can be found at - https://www.resus.org.uk/covid-19-resources/covid-19-resources-general-public/resuscitation-council-uk-statement-covid-19

3. What is the Test and Trace information like for your employees?

The principles of the NHS Test and Trace service is designed to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by isolating new infections and providing an early warning if COVID-19 numbers start to rise again, it;

“ensures that anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus, and also includes targeted asymptomatic testing of NHS and social care staff and care home residents”

“helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus”

With cases of COVID-19 increasing, you are also more likely to have employees develop symptoms and potentially develop the disease. All employers (and the self-employed) have a duty to make sure that the health, safety and welfare of their employees as well as other people, which could cover contractors, customers, suppliers and others. So, what process and procedures do you have in place should this occur?

The ‘NHS Test and Trace service in the workplace’ guidance (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance ) provides an overview of the process and what employers can expect and need to do. This includes;

“It is vital that employers play their part by:

  • Making their workplaces as safe as possible (where working from home is not possible);
  • Requesting that workers self-isolate if they have been asked to do so; and
  • Supporting their workers when in isolation.

Although this may seem disruptive for businesses, it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace, and far less disruptive than further social and economic restrictions.”

The guidance goes on to cover topics including:

  • Workplace risk;
  • If a worker develops symptoms and orders a test;
  • Alerting close contacts;
  • If the test is positive;
  • When a case would be escalated to local public health experts;
  • Make sure your workers self-isolate;
  • Where workers are asked to self-isolate because they are a close contact of a positive case;
  • Multiple cases in the workplace;
  • Collecting customer and visitor data for NHS Test and Trace; and
  • Additional guidance for workers and the self-employed.

Alongside this and as a further means of supporting organisations with this process, local authorities have also been producing more specific guidance for workplaces. In the form of on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) they provide information for the prevention, mitigation and control of coronavirus and explain how the test and trace system works locally in relation to the symptomatic individual(s) and to the setting. We provided an insight on this subject on 13th August 2020 (https://www.assurityconsulting.co.uk/knowledge/insights/new-guidance-on-coronavirus-covid-19-standard-operating-procedure-for-workplaces).

With a myriad of different work patterns, bubbles, split shifts and isolations being operated by organisations, any of these could potentially be captured by the Test and Trace process if an individual(s) become ill.

  • What are your procedures for gathering information on your employees, their location and movements when in the office?
  • Do you review this information to make sure it is up to date?
  • What information might your local authority be expecting or wanting to see and how does what you have currently match against it?
  • How well are you managing ‘COVID-19 Secure’ in your organisation?

Assurity Consulting is the leading expert in workplace health, safety and environmental compliance. For more information, please contact us on tel. +44 (0)1403 269375 or email us.

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