A new five-point ‘COVID-19 secure’ safe working guidelines have been published by the Government to help firms to get businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible.
The Government was criticised for not publishing the guidelines in advance of the Prime Minister setting out steps re-open the economy. But business leaders welcomed the new COVID-19 secure guidance as a positive step forward.
The new guidelines covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways. The new guidelines have been built around five key points, which the Government say should be implemented as soon as it is practical:
- Work from home, if you can
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
- Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible
- Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk
- Reinforcing cleaning processes
The guidance will operate within current health and safety, employment and equalities legislation. Employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. It goes on to say: “If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.
Where 2-metre working is not practical employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.
Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone. These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.”
Sarah Albon Chief Executive, Health and Safety Executive: “At the heart of the return to work is controlling the risk posed by the virus. Ensuring safe working practices are in place will help deliver a safe return to work and support businesses across the country.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI commented: “Safety is at the heart of business thinking. Unless people feel safe, employees won’t return, customers will stay away and the restart will falter, harming livelihoods and public services. Excellent employee engagement, fast workplace innovation and transparency have helped many companies support livelihoods. It’s right to build on this.
As part of the announcement, the government has made available up to an extra £14 million for the HSE, equivalent to an increase of 10% of their budget, for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment if needed.
There are 8 workplace guidance documents now available under Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.
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