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Returning to work during the COVID-19 Pandemic: 5 steps to working safely

12 August 2020
Returning to work during the COVID-19 Pandemic: 5 steps to working safely

The COVID-19 Secure guidelines, applicable in England, are supported by five key steps to working safely which employers need to implement. They are:

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Before employees start to return to the workplace, employers should ensure the safety of their workplaces by:
    • carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance;
    • consulting with their workers or trade unions; and
    • sharing the results of their risk assessment with their workforces and on their websites.
  • When the government announced the publication of the COVID-19 Secure guidelines it suggested that employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their websites and stated that the government expected all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.
  • Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures. Employers are called on to ensure an increased frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:
    • encouraging people to follow the NHS guidance on handwashing;
    • providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms;
    • frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly;
    • More cleaning for busy areas;
    • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets; and
    • providing hand drying facilities (either paper towels or electrical dryers).
  • Help people to work from home. Employers should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:
    • discussing home working arrangements;
    • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example, remote access to work systems;
    • including them in all necessary communications; and
    • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Maintain two-metre social distancing, where possible. The employer should do this by:
    • putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance;
    • avoiding sharing workstations;
    • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a two-metre distance;
    • arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible; and
    • switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible.
  • Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk. Employers should do this by:
    • considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate;
    • 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 whenever possible;
    • staggering arrival and departure times; and
    • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams or partnering.

A downloadable poster “Staying Covid-Secure in 2020” has been produced reflecting the five steps which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed the government’s guidance.

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