South Tyneside Council is asking businesses for support to help keep workers and customers safe and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The number of coronavirus cases has been rising steadily across the Borough since early September, with infection levels now similar to those recorded in January 2021 when national restrictions were required to control the spread of disease.
Additional winter pressures already being experienced very early in the season means that there is an even greater need to do as much as we can now to try to ease the situation.
As well as easing pressure on our health and care services, adoption of the correct behaviours will help to keep your workforce safe and ensure your business can maintain appropriate staffing levels over the busy festive period.
Businesses still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business and you are reminded that you must ensure you regularly review and update your health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Risk Assessment
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on how to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Your risk assessment should identify sensible controls for your workplace including adequate ventilation, sufficient cleaning and good hand hygiene to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk. These measures will also help reduce the risk from seasonal illnesses such as flu. See the The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website risk assessment page.
Latest Government Guidance
HSE has updated guidance to help businesses identify poor ventilation in work areas and take practical steps to improve it. With winter approaching, HSE has also revised the guidance on balancing ventilation and keeping warm. See latest guidance.
The government has updated the guidance on reducing the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the workplace to include additional information on ventilation in offices, restaurants, shops, hotels and at events or attractions.
The guidance provides information on how different workplaces can maintain an adequate supply of fresh air. In poorly ventilated spaces, residual virus can remain in the air after an infected person has left and increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
The guidance also includes information on managing risk, self-isolation, reducing contact for workers and equality in these workplaces. See working safely guidance.
Businesses are also encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, or to continue collecting customer contact details to support NHS Test and Trace.
Vaccinations and Testing
We are keeping the situation under continuous review and working closely with NHS colleagues to improve the uptake of the Booster vaccination in those that are eligible. Getting the vaccine remains one of the best things we can all do to protect ourselves and others. We want to encourage all business operators and their employees to take up the vaccine, which is available at local vaccination centres, as well as some local pharmacies. Visit www.getyourjab.uk for further details.
Regular testing also helps to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms meaning they could be spreading the virus without knowing it. Testing twice-weekly increases the chances of detecting coronavirus in persons who are infectious but aren't displaying symptoms, helping to make sure the chain of transmission is broken.
Rapid lateral flow testing is available free to anyone. Employers may wish to promote the use of regular rapid lateral flow testing to help manage high risk situations such as employees returning to the workplace, close contact in higher risk environments or prolonged periods of time spent with a more vulnerable individual. Rapid Lateral Flow tests can be obtained from pharmacies or online. Find out more about how to get rapid lateral flow tests.