In this section
Objective: That all employers include risks from COVID-19 in their health and safety risk assessment.
As an employer, you must by law protect workers and others 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 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 (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 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. 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.
From Step 4, local authorities will continue to have the power to place public health restrictions on businesses in cases where a serious and imminent threat to public health is identified.
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:
1.2 Managing risk
Objective: To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures.
As an employer, you have a duty to take reasonably practical steps to manage risks in the workplace.
You must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace to protect everybody’s health and safety.
Consider reasonable adjustments for workers or customers with disabilities, including hidden disabilities that are not immediately obvious.
How COVID-19 is spread
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.
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.
Managing risk and completing your risk assessment
To carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, you should consider the different ways the virus can spread and put in place measures to reduce the risk of each of these different ways.
You should use the guidance to consider the risk within your business and decide the appropriate measures to adopt.
This guidance suggests ways to reduce the risk of each of the different ways the virus can spread. You may also identify other measures to reduce risk when carrying out your risk assessment. Some of the measures may help reduce the risk of more than one of the different ways the virus can spread.
To reduce the risk of the virus spreading through aerosols, consider:
Providing adequate ventilation:
– through doors, windows and vents
– by mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts
– through a combination of both
This is because fresh air helps to dilute the virus in occupied spaces. If you have mechanical ventilation, you should maximise the fresh air your system draws in and avoid systems that only recirculate air and do not draw in a supply of fresh air.
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. If you can’t improve ventilation in poorly ventilated spaces, minimise use of these spaces.
Encouraging use of outside space where practical. Identifying any areas of congestion in your venue and considering if any reasonable steps could be taken to avoid this.
To reduce the risk of the virus spreading through droplets, consider:
Putting in place measures to reduce contact between people, particularly between customers and workers. Where practical, measures could include:
– 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)
– using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, or using back-to-back or side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face
Screens are only likely to be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close proximity with each other.
Encouraging the use of face coverings by workers or customers in enclosed and crowded spaces. From Step 4 there is no longer a legal requirement for staff and customers to wear face coverings in retail or close contact services settings.
To reduce the risk of the virus spreading through contaminated surfaces, 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.
You should also make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the venue. By law, businesses must not allow a self-isolating worker to come to work.
If your building has been unoccupied for a period during any lockdowns, you should read the HSE advice on legionella risks.
You should consider the recommendations in the rest of this document as you carry out your risk assessment. You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector, for example by trade associations or trades unions.
If you’re currently operating, you will already have carried out a risk assessment. Use this document to identify any adjustments or further improvements you should make.
You must review the measures you have put in place to make sure they’re still working 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