In this section:
How to do a risk assessment
As an employer, by law you must protect workers and others (including contractors, volunteers and customers/users) from risks to their health and safety. This includes risks from 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 control measures to manage the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, 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 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 cannot do this, see below for other steps you can take.
If you’re an employee, you can contact:
- your employee representative
- your trade union if you have one
You can also contact HSE’s COVID-19 enquiries team:
- online: working safely enquiry form
- telephone: 0300 790 6787 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm)
Enforcing authorities identify employers who do not take action to comply with the relevant law 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. These 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.
If an enforcing authority issues you with any advice or notices, you should respond rapidly and within their timescales. Inspectors are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers are taking the necessary steps.
Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020, local authorities continue to have the power to place public health restrictions on businesses in cases where there is a serious and imminent threat to public health posed by COVID-19. However, coronavirus legislation does not impose any restrictions on the types of events which can take place in Step 4, and local authorities may only exercise those powers by issuing a direction where that is necessary in public health terms, and any prohibitions, requirements or conditions imposed by the Direction are proportionate to the risk. Further information is available in the section on working with partners and the guidance on local authority powers to impose restrictions.
What to include in your risk assessment
To carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, you should consider the different ways the virus can be spread (aerosols, droplets and surfaces) and put in place measures to reduce the risk of each type of transmission. An example of the factors you should consider is included in the box below.
You will need to translate this into the specific actions you need to take. These will depend on the nature of your business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated and managed.
Some risk assessments may need to be broken down to cover different areas and different time periods within the same venue, particularly for large events. For example, those working at concession stands may be in an area with large concentrations of people for a significant part of the event, whereas attendees will move in and out of the area and have less exposure.
Some activities can increase the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19. This happens where people are doing activities which generate more particles as they breathe heavily, such as singing, dancing, exercising or raising their voices. You should consider the specific risks of your facility or event, and take additional care to manage situations where there is a higher risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.
Your risk assessment should also 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 who will contact local public health teams. You can find more information and resources on handling outbreaks in the section on COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
- Ensuring 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).
- 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).
- 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 guidance on protecting people who are defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable. You may also wish to refer to any relevant guidance produced by your sector, such as the 7 Inclusive Principles for Arts & Cultural Organisations.
- Managing risk in any unusual workplaces. This could include specialist construction or archaeological sites, where it can be necessary for people to work in close contact in enclosed spaces (such as excavation trenches and roof spaces). You should consider ways to modify the work area or working practices to mitigate risk, and may find relevant advice in the guidance for construction and outdoor work.
Event organisers should also consider the risk factors identified by the Events Research Programme when undertaking risk assessments for their particular event or premises. These are set out in the additional risk guidance for event organisers.
Risks to consider
Aerosol and droplet transmission
The main way of spreading COVID-19 is through close contact with an infected person. When someone with COVID-19 breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes, they release particles (droplets and aerosols) containing the virus that causes COVID-19. These particles can be breathed in by another person.
To reduce aerosol transmission, consider:
- How best to increase ventilation in your facility. There are different ways of providing ventilation, including mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, natural ventilation which relies on passive flow through openings (doors, windows, vents) or a combination of the two. Open doors, windows and air vents where possible, to improve natural ventilation.
- Identifying any poorly ventilated spaces and taking steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas. A CO2 monitor could help you assess whether a space is poorly ventilated, and if you should switch on additional mechanical ventilation or open windows. If you can’t improve ventilation in poorly ventilated spaces, consider restricting the number of people in these spaces or stop using them if possible.
- Encouraging the use of outdoor space wherever possible.
To reduce droplet transmission, consider:
- Putting in place measures to reduce contact between people, particularly between customers and workers. Where practical, measures could include:
- Keeping the activity time involved as short as possible.
- Using screens or barriers to separate people (which can be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close proximity with each other) or using back-to-back or side-to-side working for your staff, instead of face-to-face.
- Reducing the number of people your workers have contact with, for example by using fixed teams, partnering or cohorting so that each person works with only a few others.
- Recommending the use of face coverings by workers or customers, particularly in enclosed and crowded spaces. From Step 4, there is no longer a legal requirement for staff and customers to wear face coverings in any setting, so you should review the section on face coverings to understand what this would mean for your business.
Surfaces and belongings can also be contaminated with COVID-19, when people who are infected cough or sneeze near them or if they touch them.
To reduce surface transmission, consider:
- Advising customers and workers to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser frequently. This is particularly important before and after touching shared objects or surfaces that other people touch regularly.
- Maintaining regular cleaning of surfaces, particularly surfaces that people touch regularly.
- Providing additional handwashing facilities and hand sanitiser, particularly in high-traffic or higher-risk areas, such as reception and entrance foyers, doorways, lifts and bathroom facilities.
Additional guidance for event organisers
The Events Research Programme identified the following risks associated with specific settings or events, though it is important to recognise that not all of these risks are associated with every venue or setting. You should consider taking additional steps to manage risk if the event site or venue includes one or more of the factors below.
The risk of COVID-19 transmission at any event will depend on several factors, including the prevalence of the virus at the time and the characteristics of the event and the event venue. The highest risks of transmission happen when multiple factors such as venue environment, attendee behaviours and travel to and from events are combined. For example, an indoor event with a large number of people mixing in close proximity for a prolonged period of time is likely to present a higher risk than fewer people outside for a shorter period.
Indoor events: Indoor events present a significantly higher risk of transmission than similar events taking place in outdoor spaces. Poor ventilation in indoor spaces increases the risk of transmission further. Ventilation is the process of introducing fresh or cleaned air into indoor spaces. The more fresh or cleaned air that is brought inside, the more diluted any airborne virus will become. In poorly ventilated spaces the amount of virus in the air can build up, and residual virus can remain in the air after an infected person has left, increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Outdoor events (including those with indoor areas): Although outdoor events typically present fewer risks than indoor events, there may still be some indoor spaces within outdoor venues where risks are likely to be higher. This could include areas where people congregate at higher densities (such as concession stands, bars, turnstiles and toilets), in which ventilation may be poorer. These risks can be reduced through implementing such things as queuing systems and appropriate signage to avoid congestion (see ‘congested areas’ below for further details).
Indoor settings such as private boxes and restaurants may still be occupied by some attendees for several hours during an event classified as ‘outdoors’. Ensuring that these spaces are sufficiently well-ventilated, and following the steps set out in the guidance for hospitality venues, can reduce transmission risk in these areas.
Congested areas: Some areas are more prone to potential congestion and crowding, including concession stands, bars, toilets, turnstiles, lifts, corridors, walkways, entry/exit points and ticket collection points. Congested areas or ‘pinch points’ will be present at all types of events (including outdoor events), and could potentially lead to an increased risk of transmission. Event organisers may want to consider additional risk management in these areas such as limiting the number of individuals who congregate for a longer duration, staggered entry and exit, or greater levels of ventilation in these zones.
Events with free movement between people: Events where there is significant close-mixing of people typically pose a higher risk, especially at those events where people will naturally tend to come together and mix for prolonged periods of time (for example, in front of a stage at a live performance or on a dancefloor).
Crowd density: As crowds at an event become denser (particularly in relation to venue size and capacity), it becomes more difficult for people to be physically distant from each other, and close contact inevitably increases. The Events Research Programme found that increasing crowd density can have an impact on localised ventilation which may in turn result in an increased risk of transmission. Key areas of higher density were observed in queues, in hospitality areas, and when attendees were leaving the venue at the end of the event.
Large numbers of attendees: Events where large numbers of people attend do not necessarily constitute a greater risk than smaller events, (particularly if the event is outside or attendees are dispersed over a large area). However, end-to-end transmission risks are increased through large numbers of people travelling to and from venues and visiting nearby premises such as pubs, bars and restaurants. Early engagement between event organisers and local transport authorities to manage crowds near transport hubs and routes to and from the venue should be factored into the event planning process.
Events involving energetic activity: Observations from the Events Research Programme indicate that unstructured and energetic activity with a high crowd density may lead to higher airborne transmission risks. This could include activities such as actively chanting and celebrating while attending sporting events, singing along at gigs and concerts, or dancing/singing at a nightclub.
If you have identified that your event involves higher risks of transmission, you should take steps to manage this, by reducing the risk or mitigating its impact. Many large events will inherently involve multiple factors such as crowd density and free movement, but this guidance sets out ways you can mitigate these risks to ensure that they can take place as safely as possible. There is advice on the types of measures you can take to reduce risk at events in the section on managing customers and audiences, and further guidance on the steps you should take in the section on event planning.
You can use the risk management template to identify risks and risk management options specific to your event or setting, and help you to plan your event.