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 workplace hazard. You should 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 whether you have done everything you need to. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has interactive 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 are 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.
You must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace to protect everybody’s health and safety.
In the context of COVID-19, this means 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 workers can work safely. Consider reasonable adjustments for workers or customers with disabilities, including hidden disabilities that are not immediately obvious. Anyone who can work from home should do so. Anyone who cannot work from home should go to their place of work, if COVID-secure guidelines are followed closely. 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 so provide adequate ventilation through doors, windows and vents, by mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.
Consider these additional control measures where 2 m social distancing is not possible:
– increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning even more
– keep 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)
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.
Remind customers and staff to wear face coverings where they are required, for example, through signage or verbal reminders.
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.
Find 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. 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.
Those running events following COVID-19 secure guidelines should take additional steps to ensure the safety of the public. Read the organised events guidance for more information.
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 extra mitigations. These could include:
- lowering capacity further. 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.
You should consider the recommendations in the rest of this document 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 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 if there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.
1.2 Sharing the results of your risk assessment
You should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce.
If possible, consider publishing the results on your website. We would expect all businesses with over 50 workers to do so.
All businesses should show their workers and customers that 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.