In this section:
1.1 How to do a Covid-19 risk assessment
As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. Considering these risks and how to manage them is called a COVID-19 risk assessment and it will help you manage risk and protect people.
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.
While you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19, you need to think about the risks your staff and others face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to.
How to do a COVID-19 risk assessment:
COVID-19 is a hazard in the workplace and should be managed 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 and identifying control measures to manage that risk. If you have fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to put your risk assessment in writing, but it can be useful to do so.
The Health and Safety Executive has published information on how to do a COVID-19 risk assessment, and you can also find more resources in their general advice on managing risk and risk assessments.
In your risk assessment you should:
- identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
Your COVID-19 risk assessment should include an up-to-date plan for what you will do in the event of an outbreak in your workplace. This includes nominating a member of staff as the single point of contact (SPOC) who will contact local Public Health teams. You can find more information and resources on handling outbreaks in the section on COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in the workplace.
Your risk assessment should also take into account the impact of your policies on groups who have protected characteristics, and to those who are more at risk of being infected with COVID-19 or have a higher risk of serious illness. You can find more information in the section on protecting people at higher risk.
Consulting your workers
Employers have a duty to consult their 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 could consult the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, 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 concerns still cannot be resolved, you or your workers can contact your employee representative, or your trade union if you have one.
You can also contact HSE’s COVID-19 enquiries team:
1.2 Key actions to include
As an employer, you have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. You should make sure your risk assessment includes the following key action areas, as well as any risks and issues specific to your organisation, so that everybody’s health and safety is protected.
Remember that a risk assessment is not a fixed document, and you should update it when risks change or new issues occur. You must also review the measures you have put in place to make sure they are working, if there are changes to the law or government guidance which affect your workplace, or if there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.
Key points to consider in your risk assessment:
Ensure that workers, customers and visitors who feel unwell do not come to the workplace. By law, businesses must not require a self-isolating worker to work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (normally their home). See the section on who should go to the workplace for more information.
Remind customers, visitors and staff to wear face coverings where they are required (e.g. by putting up signs). It is a legal requirement for staff and customers to wear face coverings in certain settings such as retail and hospitality venues, unless an exemption applies. In these settings, businesses also have a legal duty to remind people to wear face coverings. See the section on face coverings and PPE for more information.
Increase the frequency of cleaning for higher-risk areas (such as surfaces) and encourage frequent hand washing. See the section on managing your facility for more information.
Make every reasonable effort to ensure your staff can work safely. This includes consideration of reasonable adjustments for employees or customers with disabilities, including hidden disabilities that are not immediately obvious. This also includes following government guidance on whether staff should work from home. For those who can’t work from home, ensuring that COVID-secure guidance is closely followed in the workplace. See the section on who should go to the workplace for more information.
Ensure that people make every reasonable effort to comply with social distancing guidelines by maintaining 2 metres distance from others (or where 2m is not possible, at least 1m with additional control measures, such as wearing face coverings). Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full for a particular activity, consider redesigning the activity or taking further steps (such as using fixed teams or putting up screens) to mitigate risk. See the section on managing your workforce for more information.
Assess the risk levels of relevant activities (and any mitigations you put in place), to determine whether the activities can safely go ahead. If a high-risk activity (such as working face-to-face for a sustained period) cannot be redesigned, consider whether the activity needs to continue for the business to operate and take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risks. Nobody is obliged to work in an unsafe environment, so you should take steps to keep your staff safe and take into account the impact on people with higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. See the section on managing your workforce for more information.
Consider the risks arising from periods of closure. If your building is unoccupied or has reduced occupancy during a period of restrictions, you should take steps to manage any risks that could arise when reopening (for example, by reviewing HSE’s guidance on the risk of legionella). See the section on reopening after a period of closure for more information.
Ensure you are providing adequate ventilation where people are in enclosed spaces. This can be natural ventilation (through opening doors, windows and vents), mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. You can find more information in the section on ventilation and the HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.3 How to share your risk assessment
You should share the results of your risk assessment to show your workers and customers that you have properly assessed the risk levels and taken appropriate mitigating measures.
What you should do:
Share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce
If possible, consider publishing the results on your website (and we would expect all businesses with more than 50 staff to do so)
Display the COVID-secure notice (below) in your workplace, to show you have followed this guidance
Download the COVID-secure notice for your workplace.
1.4 COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in the workplace
You should ensure you and any relevant staff (such as managers or supervisors) are aware of the steps to take if there is a case or outbreak of COVID-19 in your workplace.
What you should do:
Ensure you have an up-to-date plan setting out the steps to take if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your workplace or facility. This includes designating a single point of contact (SPOC) who will lead on contacting local Public Health teams.
Contact your local PHE health protection team if you’ve had an outbreak and need further guidance. Find your local PHE health protection team.
If the local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak, you will be asked to record details of symptomatic staff and assist with identifying contacts. You should therefore ensure all employment records are up to date. You will be provided with information about the outbreak management process, which will help you to implement control measures, assist with communications to staff, and reinforce prevention messages.
1.5 NHS Test and Trace
The rules on what you need to do when a group enters your venue have changed.
If this applies to your facility, you must ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to scan the NHS QR code using their NHS COVID-19 app or provide their name and contact details, not just a lead member of the group. This is to ensure everyone receives the necessary public health advice in a timely manner.
Hospitality facilities (including restaurants, cafes or bars within other types of venue) are legally required to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide their contact details.
You can find more information in the guidance on NHS Test and Trace.
Hotel and guest accommodation facilities are legally required to keep a record of all visitors, customers and staff on the premises, to support NHS Test and Trace.
If this applies to your facility, you need to keep these records for 21 days and make them available when requested by NHS Test and Trace or local public health officials, to help contain clusters or outbreaks. You must also display an official NHS QR code poster so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details.
This is a legal requirement and failure to comply is punishable by fines. You can find more information in the guidance on NHS Test and Trace.
What you must do:
Ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to provide their name and contact details.
Keep a record of all staff working on your premises and shift times on a given day, and their contact details.
Keep these records of customers, visitors and staff for 21 days and provide data to NHS Test and Trace if requested.
Display an official NHS QR code poster, so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option, as an alternative to providing their contact details. However, you must still have a system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details for those who do not have access to a smartphone.
Ensure you manage this information in line with data protection regulations.
This is a legal requirement and failure to comply is punishable by fines. You can find out more about these requirements in the NHS Test and Trace guidance.
1.6 Who should go to the workplace
Anyone who can work from home should do so. If it is unreasonable for people to work from home, they can go to their place of work.
You should review your business or facility management plans and consult your employees to determine who needs to come into the workplace, giving extra consideration to those people at higher risk.
What you should do:
Consider the maximum number of people who can be safely accommodated on the site.
Monitor the wellbeing of staff who are working from home and help them to stay connected to the rest of the workforce, especially if the majority of their colleagues are on-site.
Keep in touch with off-site workers on their working arrangements, including their welfare, physical and mental health and personal security.
Provide equipment to allow staff to work from home safely and effectively, such as remote access to work systems. Consider how best to account for different types of needs, including the needs of people with disabilities.
1.7 Protecting people who are at higher risk
There are some groups who are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. If employees are in these groups, they may be advised to follow additional measures. See guidance on who is at higher risk from coronavirus.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus, so at times may be advised to take additional steps to protect themselves. Government advice is that clinically extremely vulnerable people no longer need to shield, and should follow the general coronavirus restrictions which apply to everyone.
However, clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to continue to take extra precautions to protect themselves. The guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable sets out practical steps they can take to minimise their risk of exposure to the virus.
Clinically vulnerable people are at moderate risk of severe illness from coronavirus. They should take additional care to follow the relevant guidance in their area, including any specific measures for clinically vulnerable people. You should consider this in your risk assessment, and look at how best to support staff in these groups.
What you should do:
See current guidance on who is at higher risk from coronavirus, and ensure that you are aware of any specific measures for people who are clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable.
Provide support to staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and consider options for altering work arrangements if they are advised not to come into the workplace if this is advised in future.
Provide mental health and wellbeing support for workers. This could include advice or telephone support.
1.8 People who need to self-isolate
All businesses are prohibited from requiring self-isolating workers to come into work.
If you are made aware of a worker needing to self-isolate, you must ensure that they do not come to the workplace. It is against the law for you to knowingly require or encourage someone who is required to self-isolate to come to the workplace. This includes people with a positive test, people who are advised to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app, and people required to self-isolate in relation to travel.
1.9 Equality in the workplace
When you are applying this guidance, you should be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals. For instance, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in the workplace.
It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, ethnicity, sex or disability.
Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.
What you should do:
Take steps to understand the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics, and take them into account in your working safely policies.
Involve and communicate appropriately with staff whose protected characteristics might either expose them to a different degree of risk, or might make any steps you are thinking about inappropriate or challenging for them.
Measures such as social distancing may not be possible or will be more challenging for workers with certain disabilities, such as individuals in wheelchairs or with vision impairments. You should discuss with disabled employees what reasonable adjustments can be made to the workplace so they can work safely.
Consider whether you need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of your duties under the equalities legislation.
Make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled staff being put at a disadvantage, and assess the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers.
Make sure that the steps you take do not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others, for example, those with caring responsibilities or those with religious commitments.
1.10 Testing and vaccinations
It’s important that you continue to put measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including maintaining social distancing, frequent cleaning, good hygiene and adequate ventilation, even if your employees have:
- received a recent negative test result
- had the vaccine (either 1 or 2 doses)
Where you are providing testing on-site, you should ensure that workplace testing is carried out in a safe manner, and in an appropriate setting where control measures are in place to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the testing process. These include maintaining social distancing where possible, frequent cleaning, good hygiene and adequate ventilation. You should also ensure that an appropriate setting is available for individuals to wait in while their test is processed.
You can also order rapid lateral flow tests, to test employees with no coronavirus symptoms. The test kits are entirely free of charge until 30 June 2021 for businesses that register by 12 April.
Anyone with symptoms should get a free NHS test as soon as possible.
Ordering COVID-19 tests for employees with no coronavirus symptoms
You can register to order tests if:
Register and order COVID-19 tests for your employees
Free test kits will be available until the end of June. However, your organisation must register interest by 12 April (even if you are currently closed and want to receive them at a later date). After this date, businesses will still be able to access tests through private providers and community testing sites.
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