COVID-19 Secure Guidance

The new COVID-19 Secure guidance documents I mentioned in my last update have now been published. They cover 8 workplace settings as opposed to being sector specific. See below for the specific guidance for different settings:

  1. Construction and other outdoor work
  2. Factories, plants and warehouses
  3. Working in other peoples homes
  4. Labs and research facilities
  5. Offices and contact centres
  6. Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  7. Shops and branches
  8. Vehicles (covering couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar)

The guidance applies to businesses currently open and also includes guidance for shops which may be in a position to begin a phased reopening at the earliest from 1 June. Guidance for other sectors that are not currently open will be developed and published ahead of those establishments opening to give those businesses time to plan. The government have also said they will also shortly set up taskforces to work with these sectors to develop safe ways for them to open at the earliest point at which it is safe to do so, as well as pilot re-openings to test businesses’ ability to adopt the guidelines.

The guidance follows a similar structure for all 8 workplaces and sets out practical steps for businesses, focused around 5 key points, which BEIS states should be implemented “as soon as it is practical”. The detail comes back to the general premise that an employer is under a duty under existing Health and Safety legislation to provide a safe place of work.
The guidance applies to businesses currently open and also includes guidance for shops which may be in a position to begin a phased reopening at the earliest from 1 June. Guidance for other sectors that are not currently open will be developed and published ahead of those establishments opening to give those businesses time to plan. The government have also said they will also shortly set up taskforces to work with these sectors to develop safe ways for them to open at the earliest point at which it is safe to do so, as well as pilot re-openings to test businesses’ ability to adopt the guidelines.

The guidance follows a similar structure for all 8 workplaces and sets out practical steps for businesses, focused around 5 key points, which BEIS states should be implemented “as soon as it is practical”. The detail comes back to the general premise that an employer is under a duty under existing Health and Safety legislation to provide a safe place of work.

What The Future Workplace Might Look Like

Here, we look at how some work environments are likely to look when they return to work.

Offices
Where possible, office staff will need to continue working from home unless they are in roles that are critical for the business.

Layout should be reviewed to ensure contact is minimised, while staff should work side-by-side or facing away from each other.

Screens should be installed to create a physical barrier between people and floor tape should encourage staff to keep a 2 metre distance from each other.

Hot-desking and shared workspaces should be avoided, while the use of shared equipment should be minimised.

In-person meetings should be avoided. However, if necessary, they should be held in a well-ventilated room with restricted occupancy. Hand sanitiser should be placed in each meeting room.

Employers should keep in touch with staff working from home to monitor their welfare, mental and physical health and security.

Factories and Warehouses
Employers will need to keep staff numbers to a minimum, with those who can work at home, such as office staff, asked to continue to do so.

Equipment, work areas and surfaces will need to be frequently disinfected. Cleaning procedures need to be put in place to ensure shared equipment, such as forklift trucks and tools, are cleaned at the end of each shift.

Staff boarding vehicles or handling deliveries will need to use hand sanitiser.

Hotels and Restaurants
Interaction between workers will need to be minimised, even in busy environments such as kitchens.

Access to walk-in pantries, fridges and freezers will need to be restricted, with likely only one person being able to access these areas at a time.

Contact at “handover” points, such as where food is passed to serving staff or delivery drivers, will also need to be minimised. A physical barrier will need to be created between staff and customers.

In hotels, check-in and check-out times will need to be staggered to prevent overcrowding in reception areas, while room occupancy will need to be minimised.

Outdoor Working
Layouts should be changed so that staff can work further apart, or screens should be installed to physically segregate workers.

If people need to work in close proximity, consistent pairings should be put in place. They should also work side-by-side or facing away from each other, not face-to-face.

Retail Stores
A maximum number of customers in a store at any one time will need to be defined so that a safe distance can be maintained, with customers queueing outside to be let in.

Stores are encouraged to appoint social distancing ‘champions’ to demonstrate social distancing practices to customers and provide guidance to customers on arrival.

No-contact return procedures will need to be established and returned items need to be kept separate from displayed items.

Cashless payments and refunds will be encouraged.

Working in a Vehicle
Companies should reduce the number of people working at distribution centres or depots to a minimum and establish scheduled times for goods collection.

No-contact delivery, loading and refuelling should be put in place, with electronic delivery notes used instead of paperwork.

Alternatives to two-person delivery should be investigated. However, if this is not possible, a fixed pairing system for those who need to work in close proximity should be put in place.

Summary

Changes to the current lockdown restrictions are likely to be slow and gradual. They are also likely to fluctuate and stricter measures may be imposed, possibly with very little notice, if there is an increase in cases.

Communication with your staff is key. Keeping people informed of what your business is doing – whether it is good or bad news for individuals – will help them to make their own decisions and give them some degree of security in very uncertain times. Knowing they are valued and supported by their employer – and that you continue to prioritise their health and safety – will be pivotal to their well-being.

Pay specific attention to staff who have particular requirements (e.g. health issues, disability, childcare or other caring responsibilities). They may not be in a position to return as quickly to ‘normal’ working. Be aware that some employees who had a reasonable adjustment before may need a different one on their return to a workplace. Similarly, many individuals who didn’t previously have a mental health condition may have experienced mental health challenges and need to discuss changes to help them overcome any barriers and fulfil their role.

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Coronavirus and COVID-19 Secure Guidance