The government have issued new ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines for UK employers to help them get their businesses back up and running with workplaces operating as safely as possible.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has set out steps to beat the virus and restart the economy, ‘so we can protect jobs, restore people’s livelihoods and fund the country’s vital public services’.
Around 250 stakeholders were consulted in preparing the guidance, with input from: firms, unions and industry bodies. And also the devolved administrations of: Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. And with consultation of Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), have develop best practice on the safest ways of working across the economy, and providing people with the confidence they need to return to work.
The new guidance covers 8 workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.
Five key points
This sets five key steps which should be implemented as soon as practical:
1. Work from home, if you can
All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.
2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
This guidance operates current health and safety employment and equalities legislation. Employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. Employers should publish the results of their risk assessments.
3. Maintain 2 metres social distancing
Re-design workspaces to maintain 2 metre distances… staggering start times, …one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.
4. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk
Look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.
5. Reinforcing cleaning processes
Workplaces cleaned more frequently, paying attention to high-contact objects such as door handles and keyboards. Provide handwashing facilities or sanitisers at entry and exit points.
A downloadable notice is included in the documents, which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed guidance.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:
This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe…
These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.
And as we are able to reopen new sectors of the economy, we will continue our collaborative approach working with a wide range of stakeholders, to provide guidance for additional workplaces.
Sarah Albon Chief Executive, Health and Safety Executive
The BEIS guidance issued today sets out practical steps employers can take to enable staff to continue and return to work. We have worked… to ensure businesses have access to the information they need to put in place measures to help them work safely. This will assist employers in carrying out risk assessments and putting practical measures in place.
At the heart of the return to work is controlling the risk posed by the virus. Ensuring safe working practices are in place will help deliver a safe return to work and support businesses across the country.
The guidance applies to businesses currently open. This also includes guidance for shops which may be in a position to begin a phased reopening… from the 1 June.
These 8 guides cover a range of different types of work:Construction and other outdoor work Factories, plants and warehouses Homes Labs and Research facilities Offices and contact centres Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery Shops and branches Vehicles
Guidance for other sectors that are not currently open will be developed and published ahead of those establishments opening to give those businesses time to plan.
The government will also shortly set up taskforces to work with these sectors to develop safe ways for them to open at the earliest point at which it is safe to do so, as well as pilot re-openings to test businesses’ ability to adopt the guidelines.
As part of today’s announcement, the government has made available up to an extra £14 million for the HSE, equivalent to an increase of 10% of their budget, for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment if needed.