Many employees are now returning to the workplace after a period of working from home. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers have a legal duty to ensure that employees work without risk to their safety. COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment is now mandatory under the current UK government guidelines.
Risk assessments are designed to identify hazards and control measures. The main hazard related to COVID-19 is the risk of infection with the virus. For many businesses, the most challenging task is to identify effective control measures such as social distancing, maintaining high standards of hygiene, sanitation and working from home.
How to assess COVID-19 risks at the workplace
It is the employer’s duty to address the risks associated with COVID-19 to your business, customers and any visitors. This requires appointing an assessor who will need to assign specific risk assessment duties to different employees. For instance:
- What checks will be carried out and how they will be carried out.
- Which employees will be involved e.g. supervisors, managers etc..
- Why the task is being carried out.
- What are the steps they are using to complete the task.
Once completed, working arrangements can be figured out to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
How to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment at the workplace
Employers need to carry out a risk assessment in compliance with the present UK government guidelines in mind. The purpose of this assessment is to determine:
- The hazards that could lead to infection.
- The employee or any other member who could face infection.
- What necessary measures the employer can take to control the risks.
The UK government’s COVID-19 secure guidelines aim to make your workspaces safe. Employers will need to complete the COVID-19 risk assessment before staff return to work and take reasonable preventive measures to reduce the risks of this hazard.
1. Identifying business risks
The initial stages will take an overview of your working atmosphere and what hazards employees face. This is a simple process where you can address the issues you have encountered, mainly, whether you can manage social distancing. This depends on the nature of your business and industry, but the focus is very much on social distancing (the two metre rule).
You should consider which areas of your business may pose a threat to health and safety and what you can do to control these issues.
2. Identifying employee hazards
Keeping the above business risks in mind, consider how these may affect your employees. You will have to do this on an individual basis and think about the arrangements you can make to keep staff safe. You can consult with your workforce during this time and may include allowing them to work from home if they can continue to do so. Again, this all depends on the type of business you have and the industry you are in. There is no one size fits all fix but by identifying risks in your specific environment, you can establish suitable measures to control the chance of infection.
3. Identifying the risks to others
Assessing the risk to delivery drivers, other visitors to your business premises and customers are equally important, especially true if staff have customer-facing roles. You will need to consider how any visitor to your business interacts with your working environment which may result in the need for protective barriers or a limit on the number of visitors.
4. Using control measures
Once you are aware of the problems around your workplace, you can think of the ways in which you can reduce the virus’ risks. For most businesses, the steps that follow will include:
- Implementing social distancing.
- Making use of protective measures (such as personal protective equipment).
- Enforcing thorough cleaning, sanitation and hygiene measures.
- Allowing employees to work from home.
Publishing your findings
The top requirement of becoming a COVID-19 secure workplace in the UK is to communicate your findings and measures to the employees through a video call or via email so they can review and see what must be done. If you have over fifty employees, there is a legal requirement to publish the findings of your COVID-19 risk assessment on the company’s official website. Even if you don’t, it is a good idea to make your findings available online. Remember, it is essential to act on the findings you publish and create a safe working environment. Review your assessment on a regular basis, react quickly to change, and post these updates on your website. This is really important as the UK Government introduces new employment laws.
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During these difficult times, speaking to an expert health and safety consultant can take the pressure off your legal responsibilities. Contact us if you require support!