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Working safely during the coronavirus pandemic: Information for employers, employees and the self-employed

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.

There is a useful government tool to help employers reopen businesses safely. This identifies the most relevant guidance for your business, to help you carry out a risk assessment and make sensible adjustments to the site and workforce. Access the reopen your business safely tool here 

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.

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

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. 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.

NHS test and trace: workplace guidance

The NHS test and trace: workplace guidance explains how employers and businesses can play their part in the NHS test and trace programme to slow the spread of the virus, protect the health and care system and save lives. By following the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) guidance, employers can reduce the risk of co-workers having to self-isolate if a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19.

Pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, cinemas and other venues across England and Wales are being urged to download QR codes to prepare for public rollout of new app on 24 September. Businesses are asked to ensure they have NHS QR code posters visible on entry so customers who have downloaded the new NHS COVID-19 app can use their smartphones to easily check-in.

Local Outbreak Plan 

South Tyneside Council has published a Covid-19 outbreak management plan. It sets out how the Council intends to prevent and control outbreaks of COVID-19 in South Tyneside. It has been put together by the COVID-19 Contact Tracing Working Group, which includes staff from South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group.

Businesses in South Tyneside are asked to view a copy of the outbreak management plan to ensure they are familiar with what the arrangements are should there be an outbreak of COVID-19 in a workplace setting. Please view a copy of the outbreak management plan at https://www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/69951

Reporting cases and outbreaks  

To help prevent and manage possible cases and outbreaks of COVID-19 in South Tyneside quickly and appropriately, a COVID-19 mailbox has been set up by the Public Health team.  Any queries regarding the outbreak plan, and information regarding any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 should be sent to COVID@southtyneside.gov.uk

What to do if someone in your business has coronavirus

The government has created guidance and action cards to help business owners plan out what to do if someone in your business is confirmed to have coronavirus (COVID-19)

To download the action cards see action cards.

For more information on the governments guidance around outbreak management see COVID-19 early outbreak management.

Compliance

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

Further information