Throughout early 2020, many of us watched events unfold around the world wondering if, when, and how we might be impacted by the emerging threat of a new virus.
As a Health & Safety Consultant I had a professional interest in the situation, striving to keep clients aware of latest developments and closely monitoring latest government advice. I’ll be honest though, the gravity of the COVID-19 situation and its potential consequences didn’t really strike me until the Republic of Ireland closed all pubs in the lead up to St Patricks Day.
At this point it was clear we were in unchartered territory and heading for a momentous challenge, with few industries facing as tough a time as those in leisure and hospitality.
Effective, legally compliant management of the Health, Safety & Welfare of employees and others affected by our activities has always been important. Our over-arching legal duties and responsibilities as employers and business operators have not changed. However, in light of C0VID-19, for many businesses the actions taken to meet these duties are facing levels of employee scrutiny, public scrutiny and regulatory interest not seen before.
Employers will be familiar with common hazards to health and safety in their sectors and the appropriate means of managing them. Identification and management of hazards will appear in risk assessments of all businesses, making the workplace COVID-Secure is now just another essential requirement of doing business. The transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace is a different type of risk to assess but management of the hazard can be simplified and there is a great deal of freely available guidance to help businesses do this.
The main duty of an employer is to identify the health and safety risks in their workplace, assess who can be harmed by those risks and how, then reduce the risk so far as they reasonably can. With COVID-19, the virus is in general circulation in the population so it’s reasonably foreseeable that exposing our employees to each other or any other persons in the conduct of our business, gives rise to a risk of transmission. As employers we therefore need to reduce that risk. Control of this risk relies on a relatively simple set of rules summed up as follows:
- Keep your employees 2M apart while they carry out their duties and where this is not practically achievable, keep them 1M apart but use additional mitigating measures.
- Keep the workplace clean and hygienic
- Make provisions of adequate handwashing and hand sanitising equipment and encourage regular use.
- Make employees aware of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and ask them and anyone else with those symptoms to stay away from the workplace and follow Government self-isolation and testing guidance.
It only gets more complicated when you can’t fully accommodate 2M distancing in normal operations. That doesn’t mean you can’t carry on, but means you need to keep the distance as much as possible, no less than 1M, and adopt additional mitigating measures to compensate. Reference to the Government COVID-Secure Guidance is the best place to start.
While COVID-19 transmission risk assessment is important and you must have one in place if you’re operating your business now, you must also make sure that any measures you put in place to prevent transmission of the virus don’t compromise your existing health and safety arrangements. Ensure the impact of any modifications you make to your operations are carefully considered and don’t create new or increase the risk from existing hazards.
Napthens Health and Safety is a trading name of ATG Health and Safety Consultants Limited. ATG Health and Safety Consultants Limited is a limited company incorporated in England and Wales with registered company number 5172986. It is a business providing Health and Safety consultancy which is not regulated by the SRA.
For advice on this topic or health and safety generally, please contact a member of the Health and Safety team.