In this section
Objective: That all employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment.
As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety, including from the risks of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a hazard in the workplace and, as such, 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.
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 whether you have done everything you need to. There are interactive tools available to support you from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
You should also consider the security implications of any decisions and control measures you intend to put in place, as any revisions could present new or altered security risks that may require mitigation.
If you have fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment, but you may decide it would be helpful to.
Employers have a duty to consult 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.
This may be through consulting with any recognised trade union health and safety representatives or, if you don’t have any, 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 concerns still cannot be resolved, see below for further steps you can take.
Where the enforcing authority, such as the HSE or your local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they are empowered to take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. Where serious breaches are identified HSE and Local Authorities have a range of measures they can take to ensure compliance. These include sending letters, serving improvement notices and prohibition notices and in cases where significant breaches are identified then prosecutions can be brought.
Employers are expected to respond to any advice or notices issued by enforcing authorities rapidly and are required to do so within any timescales imposed by the enforcing authorities. The vast majority of employers are responsible and will join with the UK’s fight against COVID-19 by working 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:
- contact your employee representative
- contact your trade union if you have one
- 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.
Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Employers must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected. In the context of COVID-19 this means protecting the health and safety of your workers and customers by working through these steps in order:
Ensuring both workers and customers who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the premises. By law businesses may not require a self-isolating worker to come into work.
In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to ensure their workers can work safely. This includes consideration of reasonable adjustments for workers or customers with disabilities, including hidden disabilities that are not immediately obvious. Any office worker who can work from home should do so. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work, if COVID-19 Secure guidelines are followed closely. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).
Fresh air helps to dilute the virus in occupied spaces so provide adequate ventilation through doors, windows and vents, by mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.
Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain a 2m distance or 1m+ with risk mitigations where 2m is not viable.
Further mitigating actions include:
– further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
– keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
– using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
– using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
– reducing 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.
You should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission. We will develop further guidance, based on scientific evidence, to enable these activities as soon as possible.
Remind customers and staff to wear face coverings where they are required, for example, through use of signage.
If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.
In your assessment you should have 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.
Read information on social contact rules, social distancing and the exemptions that exist. These rules will not apply to workplaces or education settings, alongside other exemptions.
Singing, shouting and aerobic activities generate higher levels of aerosol and increase the risk of transmission further, so these factors should be considered when ensuring you have adequate ventilation in the workplace. Furthermore, lowering background noise (such as music) reduces the need for people to sit close or shout, which can reduce the risk of airborne virus emissions and transmission.
Those running events following COVID-19 secure guidelines should take additional steps to ensure the safety of the public and prevent large gatherings or mass events from taking place.
Individual businesses should consider the cumulative impact of many businesses reopening in a small area. This means working with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and applying additional mitigations. These could include:
- further lowering capacity even if it is possible to safely seat a number of people inside a venue, it may not be safe for them all to travel or enter that venue
- staggering entry times with other venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas
- arranging one way travel routes between transport hubs and venues
- advising patrons to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue
Local authorities should avoid issuing licenses for events that could lead to larger gatherings forming and provide advice to businesses on how to manage events of this type. If appropriate, the government has powers to close venues hosting large gatherings or prohibit certain events (or types of event) from taking place.
The recommendations in the rest of this document are ones you must consider as you go through this process. You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector, for example by trade associations or trades unions.
If you are currently operating, you will already have carried out an assessment of the risks posed by COVID-19 in your workplace. 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 if there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.
1.2 Sharing the results of your risk assessment
You must share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing it on your website (and we would expect all businesses with over 50 workers to do so). We would expect all businesses to demonstrate to their workers and customers that they have properly assessed their risk and taken appropriate measures to mitigate this. You should do this by displaying a notification in a prominent place in your business and on your website, if you have one.
Below you will find a notice you should sign and display in your workplace to show you have followed this guidance.