Whether you have been working through the current lockdown period or are taking steps to reopen, it essential that you complete a COVID-19 risk assessment, agree it with your employees and review it regularly; companies with less than 5 employees are not legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment but it would be prudent to do so.
The Government has circulated advice for safe working in factories, offices and laboratories (see here). The HSE has now provided guidance on carrying out risk assessment (see below) and the HSE in Northern Ireland have produced a general risk assessment template to assist in the development of risk assessments for your work place (here).
It is important to note that the HSE will expect you take all practical steps to protect your employees. This does not necessarily require extensive risk assessments and, in most cases, adequate protection be achieved through the simple measures of good hand hygiene, social distancing and where appropriate, the use of PPE.
Leather UK has been involved in a number of discussions and webinars, regarding health and safety during COVID-19. Below is a summary of points, gleaned from those conversations, that may be of use in when considering risk assessments and health & safety guidance for your workplace. This guidance is not provided as legal advice and should not be treated as such. However, if you are experiencing issues with returning employees to work, please let us know and we will help as much as we can.
Dr Kerry Senior
Director, Leather UK
Workforce: Risk Assessments and health & safety protocols
Many companies will be very keen to get back to work, to limit the damage done to their business during the COVID-19 lockdown and to start making money again. It is essential that this is done, as far possible, with the cooperation of their employees, and with their safety at the forefront of any decisions. The guidance below provides some pointers for consideration when carrying out the necessary risk assessments and developing health & safety protocols.
• wash their hands after every change of task
• use hand gel (60% ethanol/70% propanol) if soap is not available
• cover mouth when coughing
• avoid touching face and eyes
• avoid contact but, if close working is unavoidable, risk assess to reduce risk, with agreed precautions and review regularly.
Only necessary employees should be onsite. Those that can work from home, should do so. Avoid meetings where possible. No visitors onsite without authorisation of a Director. Monitor temperature of arriving workers. If employees have symptoms, they should not come to work. Employees with symptoms or living in a household where other members have symptoms, should isolate for 14 days minimum. If an employee becomes unwell, they should leave the site and advise manager from their car. If they do not have a car, they should be taken to a dedicated isolation area to wait until transport arrives. The room should be cleaned afterwards.
Reduce transmission on surfaces:
• clean shared areas at least once per day
• use gloves in canteens/operational areas
• ensure staff wash hands
• provide cleaning wipes for tables and desk
Maintain social distancing:
• mark corridors and organise flow with one-way systems and give-way zones.
• ensure that stopping in corridors and on stairs is avoided.
• face-coverings may be useful but face masks are not considered necessary when appropriate distancing is possible
• employees should avoid travelling together. If this is necessary, they should clean their hands and car, before departure and after arrival.
Communication is essential:
• Keep risk assessments and guidance simple
• Update policies in line with latest advice
• review procedures regularly
• provide staff with information
• treat any breaches of agreed protocols very seriously
• have employees to sign off that they understand requirements