What to include in your COVID-19 risk assessment
The situation within the workplace is constantly changing along with Government guidance, previously localised and now national lockdowns, compounded by the closure of businesses.
However, the fact still remains that all businesses must carry out, if not already done so, a COVID-19 risk assessment.
As an employer, you must protect people from harm, which includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others effected by your activities from coronavirus, by completing a COVID-19 risk assessment, however many businesses are still unsure as how to go about this, or simply have not done so.
In simple terms you must manage the risk and protect people by:
- identifying what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
- thinking about who could be at risk
- deciding how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- acting to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
The overriding risk is in the event that the virus enters the workplace, that it is transmitted amongst your workforce and subsequently back into the wider public environment.
So, as far as your control measures are concerned, you should be looking at areas where this could potentially happen, and implement suitable control measures, such as:
- Provide water, soap and drying facilities such as paper towels
- Provide information on how to wash hands properly and display posters
- Provide hand sanitiser for the occasions when people care unable to wash their hands
- Limiting the number of people in rooms so that social distancing rules can be met, eg stagger breaks, have maximum occupancy numbers for meeting rooms
- Reorganise facilities in communal areas such as spacing out tables in meeting rooms, canteens etc so social distancing rules can be met.
- Where possible put in place physical barriers to reduce contact, such as between office desks
- Increase the use of online meeting facilities, even for people working in the same building, to reduce the number of people moving around
- If possible, put in place one-way systems in corridors or regularly used pedestrian traffic routes to manage the flow of people moving around workplaces and to allow social distancing rules to be met
- Leave non-fire doors open to reduce the amount of contact with doors and also potentially improve workplace ventilation
- Identify surfaces that are frequently touched and by many people (often common areas), eg handrails, door handles, vehicle door handles (inside and outside), shared equipment etc and specify the frequency and level of cleaning and by whom
- Train people how to put on and remove personal protective equipment (PPE) that is used for normal work hazards and how to keep it clean
- Avoid sharing work equipment by allocating it on personal issue or put cleaning regimes in place to clean between each user
- Identify what cleaning products are needed (eg surface wipes, detergents and water etc) and where they should be used, eg wipes in vehicles, water and detergent on work surfaces etc
- Don’t forget that workers may be finding the situation difficult mentally, especially where you have employees working from home.
- Talk openly with workers about the possibility that they may be affected and tell them what to do to raise concerns or who to go to so they can talk things through
- Keep workers updated on what is happening so they feel involved and reassured
- Discuss the issue of fatigue with employees and make sure they take regular breaks, are encouraged to take leave, set working hours to ensure they aren’t working long hours
These limited control measures are only for guidance purposes, offering some consideration for your workplace as best practice, and content of your risk assessment. They may not be appropriate for either your workplace or your activities.
You should consider the risk, who is at risk, and the actual control measures for your workplace, and if you have more than 5 employees, record your risk assessment.
Author: Mark Worsnop, Health & Safety Advisor at Howarths