Government reforms (4): Guidance on Workplace Safety due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

workplace safety

The Government has published guidance for businesses and employers on:

  • how employers can safely remain open during Coronavirus (available here); and
  • social distancing in the workplace during Coronavirus, with a focus of particular sectors (available here).

Remaining safely open:  the guidance includes a summary of advice for employers and businesses in England to follow to protect their workforce and customers, whilst continuing to trade.  It includes advice on social distancing, hygiene, cleanliness, staff sickness advice, shift-working, staggering processes, moving goods and food safely and staying at home.

The guidance also explains that it is good practice for employers to:

  • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure to Coronavirus in the workplace;
  • ensure employees who are in a vulnerable group are strongly advised to follow social distancing guidance;
  • ensure employees who are in an extremely vulnerable group, and should be shielding, are supported to stay at home;
  • make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date;
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of Coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action;
  • make sure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly; and
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them.

Social distancing:  the guidance repeats the general (all too familiar) rules that:

  • all individuals must keep a distance of two metres between each other and should regularly wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds. If there are no hand washing facilities, they should be provided with hand-sanitiser;
  • if a two metre distance cannot be maintained, staff should work side by side or facing away from each other, if possible;
  • signage and floor markings should be put up to encourage two metre distance from colleagues/customers where it is at all feasible;
  • remind staff not to come into work if they have symptoms or are living with someone who has them; and
  • if these rules cannot be followed, the onus is on the employer to consider whether it’s safe for staff to continue to work. Employers are reminded to take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

The guidance then offers particular tailored advice to employers across a range of sectors including retail, construction, manufacturing, waste management and transport.  Whilst the guidance is useful, it does not supersede the duties every employer has to protect the health and safety of their staff. That means undertaking specific risk assessments and taking all necessary precautions to protect staff interacting with the public or each other.


workplace safety