During the current coronavirus outbreak, it is important for businesses to operate where it is safe to do so.
To reduce social contact, the Government has identified which businesses and venues must not open to the public, along with a list of exemptions.
If you are unsure whether your business can open read the Government guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England.
Putting plans in place to work safely
If your business is allowed to re-open, then you must put in place measures to keep staff and customers safe, such as:
- social distancing
- staggering shifts
- providing additional handwashing facilities
- informing employees of the changes
It is likely that the work you do will need to be organised differently from how it was before lockdown. Staff who can work from home should do so wherever possible.
If staff cannot work from home then you should separate workers by time or space. If you rely on space separation then you should follow Public Health England guidelines for social distancing, making sure that individuals are two metres apart. To help with this you may need to redesign the workplace and / or process flow.
Assessing the risk
As an employer you must protect staff and customers from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect them from coronavirus.
You should already be familiar with the duty to assess the health and safety risks faced by your staff and to take action to reduce any risks that may be found. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, risk assessments should be reviewed to:
- identify what work activity or situations might cause the virus to spread
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed to the virus
- act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn't possible, control the risk
If you have less than five employees, you don't need to write anything down but it might help if you do.
Examples of what to consider in your risk assessment
Your risk assessment should reflect your working practices and consider:
- Where and how your work is carried out and if there are jobs and tasks that can be changed to reduce risk
- Identifying everyone who can work from home - if they can, they should
- Providing equipment for employees to work safely and effectively at home (for example laptops, mobile phones, video conferencing equipment)
- Keeping regular contact with people working from home, make sure to discuss their wellbeing and help them to feel they are still part of the workforce
- Where home working is not possible, apply social distancing and hygiene measures (handwashing with soap and water, often, for at least 20 seconds)
- The minimum number of people needed to carry out work tasks safely
- Protecting people who are at higher risk including those who are clinically extremely vulnerable (shielding) or working from home with someone who is shielding or those who need to self- isolate
- Getting into and leaving work - including transport, staggering the times staff arrive and leave to maintain the 2 metre social distancing rules at entrances / exits and providing handwashing facilities at entry / exit points;
- People should be able to wash their hands (using running water, soap and paper towels) when they arrive at work and when they leave. If this is not possible then provide hand sanitiser
For further advice on managing risks and risk assessment at work, including a risk assessment template and examples please see: Health and Safety Executive: Managing risks and risk assessment at work
The Health and Safety Executive has produced a guide to working safely, including:
- who should go to work
- protecting people who are at higher risk
- getting into and leaving work
- the work area - including how to achieve 2m separation
- moving around the work environment (both inside and outside)
- common areas (including canteens, toilets, showers and changing facilities)
- good hygiene (including handwashing facilities)
- information and guidance
- Personal Protective Equipment
View the working safely during the coronavirus outbreak guide
Specific work settings
A set of guides covering different types of work settings has been produced to help businesses put in place controls to manage the additional risks during the coronavirus outbreak.
Detailed guidance is available for the following work settings:
- Construction and other outdoor work
- Factories, plants and warehouses
- Labs and research facilities
- Offices and contact centres
- Other peoples' homes
- Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
- Shops and branches
View the Government guidance on working safely during coronavirus
Talking to your staff
Once you have completed your risk assessment you will need to talk to your staff about the steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in the workplace. You will need to:
- explain the changes you are planning to work safely
- make sure changes will work and hear employees' ideas
- continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak
Your risk assessment should be shared with the workforce; large employers should publish the results on their website (it is expected that all employers with over 50 workers do this).
You should decide how you will communicate the risk assessment to those who don't have English as their first language and others who may struggle with written and verbal communication.
Everyone, including businesses, is required to comply with legislation issued by the government, including that relating to coronavirus, to protect both themselves and others.
An owner, proprietor or manager carrying on a business, who goes against legislation without reasonable excuse, commits an offence.
Compliance monitoring of businesses will depend on the business or activity and is undertaken by Environmental Health, Trading Standards, and the Health and Safety Executive, with support from the Police if needed.
Before you report a problem or seek compliance advice, please check you are contacting the correct enforcing authority
You can contact South Tyneside Council's Environmental Health Team by phone on 0191 424 7000 or email Environmental.HealthMailbox@southtyneside.gov.uk
The Health and Safety Executive can be contacted on 0300 790 6787 or by making a 'Working Safely' enquiry online
Most businesses want to comply with the changes to working arrangements during the outbreak and we will work with these businesses to protect public safety.
A small amount of businesses who breach the legislation may be issued with a:
- Fixed Penalty Notice
- Health and Safety Improvement Notice
- Prohibition Notice and / or prosecution