Last night, the Prime Minister announced a need to ensure workplaces are 'Covids-secure' and that the government has been “working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces Covid-secure”.
Boris Johnson did not go into further detail to explain what a Covid-secure workplace would look like, stating that he will be providing more information in Parliament on Monday 11 May regarding the new lock down easing measures.
In the Government's "OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy" guidance, the government has confirmed many measures require the development of new safety guidelines that set out how each type of physical space can be adapted to operate safely. The Government has been consulting relevant sectors, industry bodies, local authorities, trades unions, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England on their development and will release them this week.
They will also include measures that were unlikely to be effective when the virus was so widespread that full stay-at-home measures were required, but that may now have some effect as the public increase the number of social contacts - including, for example, advising the use of face coverings in enclosed public areas such as on public transport and introducing stricter restrictions on international travellers.
Many businesses across the UK have already been highly innovative in developing new, durable ways of doing business, such as moving online or adapting to a delivery model. Many of these changes, like increased home working, have significant benefits, for example, reducing the carbon footprint associated with commuting. The Government will need to continue to ask all employers and operators of communal spaces to be innovative in developing novel approaches; UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) will welcome grant applications for proposals to develop new technologies and approaches that help the UK mitigate the impact of this virus
The guidelines will be based on sound evidence - from what has worked elsewhere in the world, and the best available scientific theory. The most important guidelines people can follow to stay safer outside their homes are attached at Annex A of the guidance, which can be found here. For example:
● Individuals should keep their distance from people outside their household, wherever possible. Transmission is affected by both duration and proximity of contact; individuals should not be too close to other people for more than a short amount of time. Public Health England recommends trying to keep two metres away from people as a precaution.
● It remains essential to keep hands and face as clean as possible. People should wash their hands often, using soap and water, and dry them thoroughly. Touching of the face should be avoided. Hand sanitiser should be carried when travelling and applied where available outside the home, especially when entering a building and following contact with surfaces. Clothes should also be washed regularly, as there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics.
● It is possible to reduce the risks of transmission in the workplace by limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly. Employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. Evidence also suggests the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas. In addition to COVID-19 Secure guidelines for workplaces, the Government will consult on and release similar guidelines for schools, prisons, and other public spaces.
It is understood that the Health & Safety Executive may be working alongside the business department to provide a kitemark-style stamp of approval for standard workplace guidelines, however in the meantime employers must now determine their own rules and policies to protect returning workers.
The government has produced some initial “workplace by workplace” guidance on how the UK can safely return to work after the lockdown. The initial guidance is basic and includes information and advice on:
- Continued home-working where possible;
- Restricting access to communal spaces;
- Increased hand-washing and sanitising of workplaces;
- Avoidance of face-to-face work
Initial guidance and preliminary advice has been published for the following sectors:
In the meantime, you should undertake a risk assessment of the workplace and ensure you document the steps you have taken to ensure that your workplace remains safe.
We expect further detailed guidance to be issued in the following days but do not hesitate to contact Greystone Legal should you require further support.
View our full guidance on Coronavirus here.