The COVID-19 crisis is putting pressure on employers and workers, with many employers having to implement new procedures and practices in a very short time to enable a safe return to work. If you haven’t already, now is the time to prepare and have all control measures in place. Horizon Risk Consultancy Ltd offers practical health and safety support for returning to the workplace, advising you of preventive measures to help you return to work safely.
As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. This is done by carrying out a risk assessment and which will help you manage risk and protect people. However many employers do not know how to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. Below is a practical guide for you:
You must do the following according to the law:
- identify what (e.g. work activity or situations) might cause a hazard (transmission of the virus)
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how seriously (the risk)
- take action to eliminate or remove the hazard (e.g. activity or situation), or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do. Find out more about managing risk and risk assessment.
You need to identify the specific aspects outlined below when carrying out a risk assessment:
- Work where social distancing will be more difficult;
- Areas or tasks are more likely to increase the risk;
- Tasks or parts of work you need close contact with others;
- Think about areas of work where you need, or can’t avoid, close contact with other people;
- Work or tasks you unable to do while maintaining social distancing;
- All people including customers and contractors, as well as employees who might be at risk;
Implementing control measures
Hierarchy of Controls
Identified risks should be reduced to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking effective control measures. The framework of ‘hierarchy of controls’ can be used to select ways of controlling workplace hazards in order of priority. During a COVID-19 outbreak, when it may not be possible to eliminate or substitute the hazard, the most effective protection measures are (listed from most effective to least effective): engineering controls, administrative control (e.g. safe work practices), and PPE.
The table below sets out an ideal order to follow when planning to reduce risk from construction activities:
There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of control measure when considering the ease of implementation, effectiveness, and cost. In most cases, a combination of control measures will be necessary to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.
Engineering controls involve isolating employees from work-related hazards. In workplaces where they are appropriate, these types of controls reduce exposure to hazards without relying on worker behaviour and can be the most cost-effective solution to implement. Engineering controls include:
- Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment especially in enclosed area.
- Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
- Installing a drive-through window for customer service.
- Where there are tasks that need 2 people and they can’t be more than 2m apart, consider if you can redesign the task so only one person is needed, e.g. using lifting aids.
- Re-layout the workplace or using other facilities to reduce the risk.
Administrative controls involve changing the way people work. For example, changes in work policy or procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard. Examples of administrative controls include:
- Sick worker management by identify sick worker and encouraging sick workers to stay at home.
- Avoid or minimizing face to face contact among workers, clients, and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications and implementing telework if feasible.
- Avoid hand contact, where you can, use contactless deliveries so people don’t need to get too close.
- Reduce the number of people in work- Change when and where people work to reduce the numbers of people at work. For example, establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, stagger breaks and start/end times.
- Limit the number of people doing tasks at the same time. This could be limiting the number of people in a work area, reduce the number of people in high traffic areas including lifts, corridors, turnstiles and walkways.
- Minimise the frequency and time workers are within 2 metres of each other
- Traffic control – Use more than one exit or entry to reduce the numbers of people coming together.
- Warning signs or marks: Use markers on floors to help people keep 2m distance.
- Developing emergency communications plans, including the communication channels for answering workers’ concerns and internet-based communications, if feasible.
- Providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviours (e.g., cough etiquette and care of PPE).
- Training workers who need to use protecting clothing and equipment on how to use it.
- Providing people with information, training on procedures, guidance or ways of working that have been introduced.
- Discontinuing nonessential travel to locations with ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks.
Safe Work Practices
Safe work practices are types of administrative controls that include procedures for safe work used to reduce the duration, frequency, or intensity of exposure to a hazard. Examples of safe work practices include:
- Providing resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
- Requiring regular hand washing or using alcohol-based hand rubs. Workers should always wash hands when they are visibly soiled and after removing any PPE.
- Post handwashing signs in restrooms.
- Establish cleaning procedures to prevent transmission by hand contamination surface.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
While engineering and administrative controls are considered more effective in minimizing exposure, PPE may also be needed to prevent certain exposures. While correctly using PPE can help prevent some exposures, it should not take the place of other prevention strategies. Examples of PPE include: gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, and respiratory protection, when appropriate.
Where you cannot keep a 2m physical distance, you should think about:
- physical barrier: using screens to create a physical barrier between people.
- assigning one person per work area;
- reducing the number of people in the work area;
- limit social interaction: assigning and keeping people to shift teams (sometimes known as a cohort), that is people on the same shift working in the same teams, to limit social interaction;
- keeping the number of people working less than 2m apart to a minimum;
Involved your workers in the risk assessment
According to the law, you must consult all your workers on health and safety. It is a two-way communication process, allowing workers to raise concerns and influence decisions on managing health and safety.
It is critical that you consultant your employees when carrying out the risk assessment, by doing so, you will be able to get their thoughts and ideas about how to change the workplace to keep people safe and to ensure those changes are workable; continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak. In addition, it is more likely that your workers will follow the control measures if they are involved in developing them.
Carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment – Need our support?
If you need further help or if you need specific health and advice for your industry, please call 01484 937128 or email email@example.com