The Scottish Government have published a range of guidance for businesses and employers at Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance - gov.scot (www.gov.scot). This guidance is regularly updated.
HSE have also published guidance on keeping workplaces safe as coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are eased – sources of advice (hse.gov.uk).
It's important to carry out COVID-19 specific risk assessments and review your existing risk assessments, putting into place control measures to keep people safe. What we know about the spread of coronavirus, and the rules you must follow, have changed.
Below is some helpful information to help you carry out this process. If you are unsure or need advice please contact us.
You will need to:
- Remember fresh air: the risk from aerosol spread of coronavirus is now known to be very important. This means that improving ventilation as much as possible is the most effective control measure in your workplace. For more guidance on ventilation, see ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (hse.gov.uk).
- Consider how many people will you actually "fit" back into the workplace with social distancing measures in place.
- Remove or restrict the use of use some desks, workstations, chairs, tables, equipment throughout the workplace (including canteens, service areas, offices, stockrooms, public areas, communal areas, external areas etc.) and stop hot-desking to enable people to maintain social distancing.
- Decide when it will be safe to open - have contractors visit first to carry out any essential or necessary works, maintenance and testing. Ensure contractors are safe when working in your premises - both contractor and businesses must work together to communicate any concerns and control measures to each other.
- Involve employees and union representatives in your decision-making and risk assessments reviews.
Social Distancing/Infection Control
Plan for how you long you will need to maintain social distancing (it could be required for a long time)
- Consider what hygiene controls must be in place (including maintaining additional hand washing, additional cleaning and disinfecting especially of touch points, shared equipment, barriers between employees and public etc.).
- Carry out thorough cleaning and disinfection of the premises and equipment with appropriate cleaning chemicals
- Consider a phased return to the building whilst Covid19 continues and consider what will happen later when Covid19 controls end
- Identify which roles and activities won't go ahead due to the ongoing restrictions (e.g. due to the risk of infection, restrictions on travel etc) and what impact that will have on your business.
- Plan for and identify how people will physically access the building if there are still social distancing restrictions in place.
- Will you need one door in and one door out? Can you make entrance doors automatic, so they don't have to be touched?
- Will it take longer for people to get into and out of the building if the 2 metre rule is still in place?
- If you are permitting members of the public to enter your building what extra measures are you going to put in place? For example Perspex screens at reception, contactless card readers, sanitiser hand stations.
- Try to discourage members of the public from visiting your workplace. Only accept members of the public, or clients if there is no alternative and ask them to make appointments. 'Walk-in's' will only encourage queuing, which creates additional challenges.
- Legionella risk assessments should be reviewed to reflect buildings being closed or having reduced occupancy levels during the Covid-19 outbreak. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health have provided guidance on Legionnaire's Disease Lockdown Risk and Reopening Safely booklet.
- Hot and cold water outlets may now be infrequently-used and will require flushing on a weekly basis to prevent water stagnation. If weekly flushing cannot be undertaken, then duty holders should liaise with whoever provides their competent advice to ensure systems are cleaned (if required) and disinfected before building reoccupation. This is especially important for duty holders that have showers such as hotels or leisure centres as showers can be a potential source of Legionella.
- Where spa pools or hot tubs remain in use, then existing control regimes must be maintained. Where systems are not in use, they will need to be drained, cleaned and disinfected. Prior to reinstatement, they will also need to be cleaned and disinfected
- Where operation of Cooling Towers and Evaporative Condensers is still necessary, then these must be maintained and operated safely at all times to avoid increased Legionella risks. During the COVID 19 emergency, it is important that employers have reviewed operations and planned for the necessary measures and resources to ensure safe systems of work are continued. This will include the availability of adequately trained personnel to carry out essential checks and monitoring, as well as ensuring chemical supplies are maintained and dosed appropriately.
- Operators should liaise with their water treatment companies for assistance and if it is necessary to cease operation of any systems. If cooling towers and evaporative condensers are likely to be out of operation for:
- Up to a month – fans should be isolated, but biocidal-treated water should be circulated around the system for at least an hour on a weekly basis, or
- More than a month – systems should be drained down, cleaned and disinfected before being refilled and returned to operation
- You need to consider drinking fountains, water coolers and other drinking water outlets where the spread of COVID-19 may occur.
- You may want to remove drinking fountains as they pose a high risk of cross-infection as employees may touch them with their mouths, and coolers require a glass to be pushed against a lever which will also be likely to spread infection.
- Ensure that you use water outlets that have sufficient room to enable staff to get a cup/glass easily under the tap to enable them to fill their cup/glass properly, without touching the tap spout or nozzle.
- Removal of drinking fountains or coolers may lead to a shortage in drinking water points.
Employers have a duty to provide clean drinking water in the workplace for all staff, therefore alternative arrangements may need to be considered such as purchasing bottled water.
- Identify all equipment and installations that may have missed their planned preventative maintenance, inspection, test or thorough examination - ensure they are maintained/tested/inspected/examined by a competent person before being put back into use (examples include pressure systems, lifts and lifting equipment, gas installations and equipment, electrical equipment and installations, extraction systems, ventilation systems, vehicles, manual handling equipment, metal detecting equipment, guarding, security equipment etc)
- Think about the use of lifts whilst maintaining social distancing - you may need to restrict the number of people allowed in the lift at any one time, which will mean it could take longer for people to reach their work station.
- If you restrict the number of people using the lifts, that may lead to increased use of staircases, you may also need to control the number of people using the staircases at any one time - plan for any extra time it may take and consider introducing staggered start, finish and break times to reduce the numbers in those areas
- Think about busy communal doorways, can they be propped open safely without interfering with fire precautions or making employees work in a draft? Can doors be retro fitted with automatic door openers?
- Understand how people will feel about going back into the workplace, people may have lost confidence in their ability to do the jobs they haven't done for a while, they may be worried about mixing with other people - a planned phased return could help
- Some people may require refresher training or retraining to carry out their roles safely, competently and effectively - be understanding of this and provide any necessary support.
- People will need information, instruction and training on any changes in activities, any risks and new controls you have put in place, as well as training in your COVID-19 control measures
- Stagger shifts and break times to reduce the amount of people present at any one time
- Rotate days in office and work from home days to reduce amount of people in the building
- Ensure that your work related stress policy is up to date. Line managers should be given refresher training on how to help employees and employers should ensure that information to help employees find help is freely available.
- Remember that some employees may have been very unwell or be grieving for loved ones following the pandemic.