Conducting a Covid-19 risk assessment is both a necessary and vital part of managing infection within your organisation. However, your responsibilities extend far beyond that. When your staff return, it is your responsibility to implement and enforce the control measures set out in the assessment i.e. ensuring social distancing, providing hand sanitising stations, ensuring PPE is available etc.

Your responsibilities

Whilst conducting a risk assessment is a legal requirement, it isn’t the only responsibility you have as an employer. You must also:

  • Create safe working practices specific to your workplace
  • Maintain and review these working practices regularly
  • Provide adequate handwashing facilities, as well as PPE and training to employees
  • Review and update your risk assessments where necessary

Creating safe working practices:

Social distancing

There are steps you can take to ensure staff adhere to social distancing, including:

  • Displaying posters with relevant information and advice
  • Banning certain activities, including face-to-face meetings, offer video/voice calls instead
  • Displaying markers on the floor to highlight the appropriate distance between colleagues
  • Staggering work hours and break times
  • Moving office furniture/desks to maintain distance

Managing risk when travelling

There are certain risks employees face in relation to work even when they are not in the workplace i.e. commuting to and from work, for example on public transport. The obvious solution to prevent risk from travelling is to perform homeworking. However, this isn’t possible for some roles and you may wish to suggest suitable alternative means to travel to work such as cycling to work or walking (if possible). Staff should also travel to work separately and should not car share with other members of staff who do not drive.

So what can you do to assist those who need to commute on public transport?

The wearing of a face mask/covering is now mandatory on public transport to prevents or reduce the risk of infection.

Aside from this, make sure you reinforce the need to wash their hands or use alcohol gel frequently and maintain social distancing where possible.

The one metre plus rule

Where the 2m social distancing rule cannot be followed, there is now the “1 metre plus” rule for certain industries. This means employees will need to maintain a minimum of 1 metre distance from others with extra measures in place.

“Extra measures” include:

  • Face masks
  • Face shields
  • Frequent handwashing

This change was brought about to try and help businesses struggling to open under the 2m rule. However, do not assume that you do not need to use PPE or any other measures just because you can maintain a 2m distance in your workplace. In some industries, PPE is vital, particularly in roles where the employee comes into contact with the members of the public or vulnerable people.

Cleaning Protocols

Work environments often have a variety of settings including office areas, bathrooms, changing rooms, kitchens/canteens, meeting rooms etc. Each area will have different surfaces and materials and all need to have routine cleaning protocols. Special attention should be given to the high touch point areas such as shared equipment, door handles, light switches etc. Careful consideration should be given to the products used to complete these tasks to ensure they are compatible and effective.

  • Work areas and equipment needs to be cleaned frequently using effective products
  • High touch points such as door handles, keyboards and light switches should be cleaned frequently with products freely available and accessible to users
  • Maintain a ‘Clear Desk Policy’ at the end of the shift to allow for adequate cleaning
  • Cleaning products used should have appropriate safety data sheets, COSHH Assessments, training/instructions and disposal arrangements.
  • Provide at desk cleaning wipes and personal hand gels
  • If you have a known or suspected case of Covid-19 within the workplace then additional cleaning and requirements will be necessary i.e. deep clean carried out, anti-bacterial fogging machine etc.
  • Keep a good air flow in the workplace – open windows and doors frequently, where possible

Reviewing your risk assessment

The HSE states that you should review your assessment when one of the two apply:

  • It is no longer valid (reviews should be undertaken at least annually to check the status)
  • There has been a significant change

Annual reviews are recommended, however given the circumstances, it is best practice to review these as regularly as possible. As a minimum, you should review your assessment before shielding/vulnerable workers return.

If any member of the Health and Safety team at HR Services Scotland can help you with any queries in relation to the above, please contact our main advice line on 0800 652 2610 and select option 2.

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