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Leisure sector reopening: health and safety considerations

Last updated: 29th June 2020

Latest updates to government COVID-Secure Workplace guidance include specific information for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services. Napthens’ Head of Health and Safety, Chris Walker, takes a look.

Duties on business owners to protect the health & safety of their employees and others affected by the conduct of their business are clear and well established in health and safety law, COVID-Secure guidance does not supersede these.

In addressing the guidance itself, the call for businesses to conduct a Risk Assessment has exposed a lack of access to competent H&S support for so many organisations. While the risk from COVID-19 will in many workplaces be relatively insignificant on an individual employee basis in comparison to other workplace hazards they face, it is nonetheless important that this risk is managed, not least to avoid the attention of the HSE or local authorities.

Compliance with health and safety obligations can only be achieved with effective COVID-19 risk assessment and employee engagement on the COVID-19 controls.

  • From a HSE/H&S Legal perspective – Employers/Businesses are responsible for reducing the risk of harm to employees (and others who may be affected by their undertaking) only from reasonably foreseeable hazards. The risks that must be managed are only those over which duty-holders can exercise control or mitigate consequences of through the way they conduct themselves. This includes risks which arise from external circumstances, over which the duty-holder has no control but whose consequences the duty-holder can mitigate. All such risks must be assessed. In the case of COVID-19 its clear that the risk of transmission to employees and users of businesses is one that is reasonably foreseeable, and publication of guidance on the matter only serves to reinforce that view. It is also evident, again reinforced by the guidance, that although the risk arises from external circumstances, the duty holder can mitigate the consequences of this risk through the way it conducts its undertaking. Failure to assess this risk could indeed lead to HSE or Local Authority enforcement action but I suspect that the greater risks to the business lie in what else is uncovered should the HSE spotlight fall upon a business because of COVID-Secure non-compliance. Its worthy of note that the guidance document encourages employees with concerns to call/email the HSE.
  • Risk Assessment must be completed and there is a duty to consult with employees on matters of health and safety. Meeting duties on consultation through the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Process will improve the likelihood that, with employee input, a more comprehensive range of risks and necessary controls are identified. Engagement with the employees throughout risk assessment and implementation of controls will improve employee confidence and likelihood of a willingness to return to work. In the case of pubs/restaurants, visibility and clear communication of the controls and trust in their implementation is going to be vital to restore consumer confidence.

Having assessed risk of virus transmission through staff and customer population by identifying touch points, contacts and individuals at increased risk, control measures are required to reduce the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

The process of controlling risk is essentially to follow the COVID-Secure guidance which contains the hierarchy of control priorities ordered within the document in accordance with their effectiveness, organisations have to work out how far they can go to control the risk, taking into account the necessities of their operations and the cost, time, effort and obstruction/difficulty caused by the control.

The whole control strategy is based on maintenance of social distancing, supplemented with hygiene/cleanliness – the further mitigation in the guidance comes in to play where the aforementioned are compromised by the nature of an activity that the business must continue doing in order to operate.

For more advice on making your workplace, pub, restuarant or takeaway Covid secure, speak to one of the Napthens Health and Safety team.

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.