In this section
Objective: That all employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment.
As an employer, you must by law protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This includes risks from COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a workplace hazard. You must manage it in the same way as other workplace hazards. This includes:
- completing a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace
- identifying control measures to manage that risk
Failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place sufficient control measures to manage the risk may be considered a breach of health and safety law.
Your risk assessment will help you decide if you have done everything you need to. The Health and Safety Executive has tools to support you .
You should also consider the security implications of any decisions and control measures you intend to put in place. Any revisions could present new or altered security risks you may need to mitigate.
You do not have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment if you:
- have fewer than 5 workers
- are self-employed
However, you may still find it useful to do so.
Consult your workers
As an employer, you have a legal duty to consult workers on health and safety matters. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work they do and how you will manage the risks from COVID-19.
You may do this by consulting with any recognised trade union health and safety representatives.
If you do not have any, you can consult with a representative chosen by workers. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be.
Employers and workers should always come together to resolve issues. If you still cannot do this, see below for other steps you can take.
Enforcing authorities identify employers who do not take action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks. When they do, they can take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. The HSE and your local authority are examples of enforcing authorities.
When they identify serious breaches, enforcing authorities can do a number of things. They include:
- sending you a letter
- serving you with an improvement or prohibition notice
- bringing a prosecution against you, in cases where they identify significant breaches
When an enforcing authority issues you with any advice or notices, you should respond rapidly and within their timescales.
The vast majority of employers are responsible. They will work with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public.
However, inspectors are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers are taking the necessary steps.
How to raise a concern:
If you’re an employee, you can contact:
- your employee representative
- your trade union if you have one
You can also contact HSE at:
1.1 Managing risk
Objective: To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.
As an employer, you have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level. You do this by taking preventative measures.
In the context of COVID-19 this means protecting the health and safety of your workers and clients by working through these steps in order:
Make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the venue. By law, businesses may not require a self-isolating worker to come to work.
Increase how often people wash their hands and clean surfaces in the workplace.
Make every reasonable effort to ensure your employees can work safely. Consider reasonable adjustments for employees or customers with disabilities, including disabilities that are not immediately obvious. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the government’s social distancing guidelines. These are 2 metres or 1 metre+ with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable.
Fresh air helps to dilute the virus in occupied spaces. Provide adequate ventilation through doors, windows and vents, by mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or through a combination of both.
Consider these additional control measures where 2 metre social distancing is not possible:
– increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning even more
– keep the activity time involved as short as possible
– use screens or barriers to separate people from each other
– use back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible, instead of face-to-face
– reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)
Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, even through redesigning a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.
When you cannot redesign an activity to meet social distance guidelines, ask if your business can continue without that activity. If it cannot, take all mitigation actions possible to reduce transmission risk between staff.
Take steps so people don’t have to raise their voices to each other unless they need to. For example, make sure people don’t play music or broadcasts at a level that makes it hard to have normal conversations. This is because there is potentially an increased transmission risk, especially from aerosol transmission.
If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, assess if the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.In your assessment pay particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
If your building has been unoccupied for a period during any lockdowns, consider legionella risk and HSE advice.
Singing, shouting and aerobic activities generate higher levels of aerosol and increase the risk of transmission further. You should consider these factors when ensuring you have adequate ventilation in the workplace. Lowering background noise, including music, reduces the need for people to sit close or shout. This can reduce the risk of airborne virus emissions and transmission.
You must consider the rest of the recommendations below as you go through this process.
You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector. For example, by trades associations.
If you’re currently operating, you will already have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment. You should use this document to identify any further improvements you should make.
You must review the measures you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if they may no longer be effective or there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.
When you’re working in homes, you will usually need to:
Not carry out any work in any household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms. This is unless you’re remedying a direct risk to the safety of the household or to the public.
Continue any work required to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household or the public when you’re working in a household where one or more individuals has been advised to shield. Other types of work may be carried out in the home at the householders’ discretion. You should take additional precautions as outlined in step 3 below.
Make prior arrangements with vulnerable people to avoid any face-to-face contact when you’re working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable, but has not been asked to shield. For example, when you’re working in the home of someone aged over 70 and they answer the door. You should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.
Stay updated with the latest guidance, and consider how you can apply it to your work.
This can include:
–washing your hands more often than usual
– reducing the spread of germs by coughing or sneezing into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arms if a tissue is not available
– cleaning regularly touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products
– communicating with households before any visits, to discuss how the work will be carried out to minimise risk for all parties
– maintaining social distancing guidelines as far as possible
1.2 Sharing the results of your risk assessment
You should share your risk assessment results with your workforce.
If possible, consider publishing the results on your website. We expect all employers with over 50 workers to do so.
All businesses should show their workers and clients they have:
- properly assessed their risk
taken appropriate measures to mitigate this
You should do this by displaying a notification:
- in a prominent place in your business
- on your website if you have one
To show you have followed this guidance, sign and display the notice below.