New ‘Working safely through coronavirus (COVID-19) from step 4’ guidance issued

As the UK government has confirmed their plans to go ahead (for England) with the lifting of legal COVID restrictions from 19 July 2021, they’ve urged a cautious approach as cases continue to rise.

Although the legal duty under the Coronavirus Act has lifted, the onus has moved to employers, who still have legal duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act to:

  • Provide a safe working environment for employees (so far as is reasonably practicable).
  • Ensure that their business activities do not cause harm to others (so far as is reasonably practicable).

 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport have jointly published new COVID workplace safety guidance. This comprises:

  • General guidance on safe working from 19 July and
  • Six separate guides setting out guidance for safe working in the following environments:
    • Construction and other outdoor work
    • Events and attractions
    • Hotel and guest accommodation
    • Offices, factories and labs
    • Restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes, nightclubs or takeaways
    • Shops, branches, stores or similar environments and for people who provide close contact services, including hairdressers and beauticians.
What you need to do

You need to carry out a Health & Safety risk assessment which includes the risk of COVID-19 and take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify by implementing or continuing control measures to prevent the transmission and/or spread of the virus within your workplace and workforce.

Citation clients can make use of the templates in Atlas* or alter their existing COVID-secure risk assessments to factor in these changes and identify what controls still may be necessary.

We recommend that you retain the majority of your existing controls proportionately wherever possible. If you decide to remove controls, you must be satisfied that what you leave in place is sufficient to prevent harm through an outbreak, or you must put alternative measures in place to control the risks. You must also consult with your employees on any changes that you are making.

Important considerations

It’s also important to be aware that Test, Trace and Isolate procedures still apply.

Therefore, if you do remove your COVID-19 controls, there may be a significant risk to your business from large numbers of staff being required to self-isolate at the same time. This is because some of the controls such as: physical barriers/screens and social distancing can affect who is to be regarded as a close contact for the purposes of Test and Trace.

Importantly, some of the initial symptoms of COVID-19 (such as high temperature and coughing) are similar to those of other respiratory illnesses which could also lead to potential absences. This is because should any of your workers suspect or exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19 they must not attend your business premises (or must return home), should self-isolate immediately and book in for a PCR test as soon as possible.

Should the PCR test provide a negative result then they can attend the business premises, but should the test provide a positive result they should self-isolate in accordance with self-isolation rules. This may also require any close contacts of that employee in your workplace to isolate too, causing significant disruption.

All businesses should remind their staff that they must follow any instructions given by the NHS test and trace service with regards to self-isolation.

Priority actions for all sectors

The government have published ‘Priority Actions’ for all sectors which apply within England. Some industries such as the CLC have withdrawn their individual guidance, however we recommend you check with your own industry bodies for further updates. The government priority actions are as follows:

  1. Complete a Health & Safety risk assessment including risks from COVID-19
    This should consider the points below in the rest of this guidance. It should also take into account any reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities. You should share your risk assessment with your staff.
    Citation tools Within the template risk assessments on Atlas, you’ll find Covid Secure risk assessments for many business sectors, you can adapt these to reflect your working arrangements.

  2. Turn people with COVID-19 symptoms away
    Staff members or customers should self-isolate if they or someone in their household has a new, persistent cough; a high temperature; or loses/has changes to their sense of taste or smell, even if these symptoms are mild. They must also self-isolate if they or someone in their household has had a positive COVID-19 result, or if they have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. If you know that a worker is self-isolating, you must not ask or make them come to work. It is an offense to do this.

  3. Provide adequate ventilation
    You should make sure there is a supply of fresh air to enclosed spaces where there are people present. This can be natural ventilation through windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. You should identify any poorly ventilated spaces in your premises and consider steps you can take to improve fresh air flow in these areas. In some places, a CO2 monitor can help identify if the space is poorly ventilated. Heritage locations should take into account the preservation of the building or artefacts displayed.
    Citation tools: You can refer to our Ventilation Workplace Guide to assist you.

  4. Clean more often
    Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are touched a lot. Heritage locations should ensure cleaning materials and schedules are appropriate for historic surfaces and materials. You should ask your staff and customers to use hand sanitiser and clean their hands frequently and provide them with advice to promote good hygiene.
    Citation tools: You can refer to our COVID-19 Cleaning Schedule Template to assist you.

  5. Enable people to check in at your venue
    You’re no longer legally required to collect customer contact details but doing so will support NHS Test and Trace to contact those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 so that they can book a test. You can enable people to check in to your venue by displaying an NHS QR code poster. You do not have to ask people to check in or turn people away if they refuse. If you choose to display a QR code, you should also have a system in place to record contact details for people who want to check in but do not have the app.

  6. Communicate and train
    Keep all your workers, contractors and visitors up to date on how you’re using and updating safety measures.
    Citation tools: Within the ‘Manage Training’ section on Atlas, you’ll find training courses such as Hand Hygiene to assist you in keeping your staff up to date.



For guidelines as to what your sector needs to do, please visit the government's website here.

Other nations within the UK

The Scottish government has stated that they will keep certain measures in place such as the requirement to wear face coverings, co-operate with test and protect teams, and comply with advice on good hygiene and ventilation. It is anticipated that they will move to lift restrictions further on 9 August 2021.

The Welsh government has also indicated that they will retain enhanced public control measures over those set out by the UK, including the retention of face coverings. It’s anticipated that they will move to lift restrictions further on 7 August 2021.

Northern Ireland will review its arrangements on 26 July 2021.

All remaining governments in the UK are due to publish additional ‘Working Safely’ guidelines over the coming days. Please keep an eye on their respective websites for any changes relevant to your location.

Managing pregnant employees within the workplace

Pregnant women require special considerations and are classified as clinically vulnerable, or in some cases clinically extremely vulnerable.

If an employee has informed you in writing of their pregnancy you must carry out a risk assessment to follow the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, or the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000. You can use the RCOG/RCM guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) in pregnancy as a basis of your risk assessment. The UK government advice is clear in that “Pregnant women of any gestation should not be required to continue working if this is not supported by the risk assessment.”

Where the risks in the workplace cannot be mitigated (for example, customer or public-facing roles), the employer should look at whether they can temporarily redeploy pregnant workers to a job that can be carried out at home. Agreement of such should be on a voluntary basis, as pregnant workers should not be forced to take on different roles in order to keep their job. Where there is no suitable alternative work available that can be done from home, the employer should consider suspending the pregnant worker on full pay in line with the requirements for the risk assessment.

As the government states, suspension “will last as long as the employee, or their baby is in danger… The employee has the right to normal pay (including bonuses) for up to 26 weeks, as long as they’ve been in their job for a month or more.”

Control ready reckoner

 As indicated above, although the COVID-19-specific legislation is gradually being phased out, it’s still necessary for employers to control the risk.

To assist you, we have created the table below to indicate some of the legislation the government is now using to ensure that employers manage Covid-19 risks within workplaces, under the ‘personal responsibility’ model. Please note: controls consist of those which are Mandatory, and those which are optional, but may be required in line with your risk assessment

Requirement Risk to be controlled Previous legislation Remaining legislation and regulations Controls to consider retaining 
Social distancing Infection and transmission within the workplace. The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act.

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Optional: COVID-secure rules, including social distancing requirements, could continue to apply in the workplace.
Test and Trace Infection and transmission The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Mandatory: Testing when you have symptoms and targeted asymptomatic testing in education, high risk workplaces and to help people manage their personal risk.
Hand washing and hygiene Infection and transmission within the workplace The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Optional: Providing additional hand sanitisation equipment and stations.
Test, Trace and Isolation Infection and transmission The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Mandatory: Isolating when positive or when contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

 

Mandatory: This includes those working from home isolating there should they test positive.

 

Optional: Include a test and trace system within your workplace.

Working from home Infection and transmission within the workplace.

 

Protecting those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Optional: Whilst Government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, Government would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer.
Face coverings Infection and transmission within the workplace.

 

Protecting those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Optional: Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
Clinically extremely vulnerable workers Infection and transmission within the workplace.

 

Protecting those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Refer to the easy-read and translated versions available on the UK Government Website.
New and expectant mothers Infection & transmission within the workplace.

 

Protecting those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The Coronavirus Act

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021.

Health & Safety At Work Act

Health & Safety At Work Act.

 

Management Regulations 1999.

Mandatory: Ensure that you regularly review your risk assessments (at least once per trimester or more often if the risks change) for these employees and take into account changing research and the latest government guidelines.

Citation COVID-19 toolkit

 To help you consult with and support workers coming back to the workplace or continuing to work from home, we’ve produced a Toolkit to help.

Please click on the links below to open the resources for each subject:

 

*Please note that only certain Atlas users, including all Service owners and H&S coordinators have access to these documents in Atlas.

If you have any questions about how to access anything in Atlas, please give our Atlas support team a call on 0345 310 0658 or email atlassupport@citation.co.uk

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