Health and safety guidance to help businesses operate safely during Covid-19
|Roadmap out of lockdown||Covid-19 testing|
|Outbreaks and cases resource pack for Suffolk businesses|
|Covid-19 - Accidents and reporting||Cleaning and disinfection|
|Covid-19 Secure business sector guidance||Keeping records of staff, customers and visitors|
|Other sector guidance||PPE (gloves, aprons, face masks)|
|Risk assessment for coronavirus||Hospitality|
|Screening/barriers in the premises||Signage in the premises|
|Social distancing by business sector||Toilets|
|Queuing and shopping||Use of fitting rooms|
|Returns and donations in shops||Handling cash|
|Food safety guidance for businesses||Making your workplace Covid-Secure|
|Reporting an outbreak of Covid-19||Events|
|National lockdown guidance||Ventilation and air conditioning|
|I have a question or need to report a concern|
On Monday 22 February, the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons outlining a preliminary roadmap to lift the national lockdown in England.
Help stop the spread of Covid-19 by getting tested to see if you have the virus. In Suffolk, there are two types of test that you can take to see if you have Covid-19:
National workplace testing
Workplace testing is now available to all businesses, including those with fewer than 50 employees.
Businesses are encouraged to register their interest by 31 March 2021 to access free workplace testing.
Regular testing will be a vital part of the government’s roadmap to cautiously ease restrictions.
An online portal has been launched for businesses to find out more about offering rapid workplace testing. Businesses will be provided with all the information they need to plan and deliver their testing programme, along with promotional materials.
All local authorities in England are now offering rapid lateral flow testing for small businesses if they cannot offer rapid workplace testing. Businesses can find their local test site online.
When to make a RIDDOR report because of coronavirus (COVID-19)
You only need to make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) if:
Cleaning guidance for businesses can be found in the guides that the Government has issued for different business sectors. Each guide outlines the steps that will usually need to be taken before businesses reopen (keeping the workplace, shop etc clean) and with regard to hygiene (handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets):
The Government has published documents covering different business sectors setting out what small business owners can do to ensure their businesses protect employees and customers against Covid-19. They call this being 'Covid-19 secure' and small businesses can display badging that they have followed the guidance. Businesses must display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can check-in at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details. The business sectors covered are:
Government guidance is available for the hospitality industry:
By law, staff and customers of venues that provide food and drink will be required to wear a face covering, unless they have an exemption. By law all businesses must remind customers and staff to wear a face covering where required (for example by displaying posters). You are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it.
Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work, and increasing hand and surface washing. These other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace and government would therefore not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and for customers in a number of indoor premises including at pubs, bars, restaurants, cafés and takeaways. Face coverings may be removed when seated to eat or drink in a pub, bar, restaurant or café. You must put a face covering back on once you finish eating or drinking.
Businesses should take reasonable steps to encourage customer compliance for example through in store communications or notices at the entrance. If necessary, police can issue fines to members of the public for non-compliance. Businesses will not be required to provide face coverings for their customers.
Employers must ensure all staff of venues that provide food and drink wear face coverings in areas that are open to the public and where they come or are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public, unless they have an exemption.
Employers must not, by law, prevent their staff from wearing a face covering where they are required to do so. Where face coverings are required for staff, businesses are expected to provide these as part of their health and safety obligations. However, staff are welcome to use their own face coverings if they choose.
If businesses have taken steps to create a physical barrier or screen between workers and members of the public then staff behind the barrier or screen will not be required to wear a face covering. Enforcement action can be taken if barriers and screens are in place which do not adequately mitigate risks.
Businesses already have legal obligations to protect their staff under existing employment law. This means taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include providing face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigations such as screens and social distancing. Businesses should advise workers how to use face coverings safely. This means telling workers:
There are some places where you must wear a face covering by law. Different rules exist in different parts of the UK. In the context of the Covid-19 outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face. Visors may not be used in place of an appropriate face covering. The government guidance on face coverings does not allow the option of wearing a visor or face shield instead. In England, you must wear a face covering in the following indoor settings:
You are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it. More detailed advice on the application of these requirements in different settings can be found in the Government’s guidance for working safely.
You should also wear a face covering in indoor places not listed here where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
Face coverings are needed in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are also advised to be worn in care homes.
The Department for Education has updated its guidance on the use of face coverings for schools and other education institutions that teach people in Years 7 and above in England. There are some exemptions and circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.
In settings where face coverings are required in England there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances. Some people are less able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others. This includes (but is not limited to):
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering:
When buildings reopen after lockdown, it is essential that water systems are not put back into use without considering the risks of Legionnaires’ disease. There is an increased risk of waterborne pathogens such as Legionella bacteria being present because of the conditions that the lockdown may have created. Guidance has been specially written by the CIEH for businesses so that they know about the risk and what to do about it before reopening their business. If your business is or has been required to close for any period of time, please ensure you make plans to carry out regular checks and flushes of the system to prevent Legionella.
If your existing risk assessment has identified that PPE e.g. disposable gloves, aprons, eye protection is required, continue to use it as normal but if your risk assessment for coronavirus (COVID-19) identifies a specific need for additional or different PPE, it is important that it is acted on
Generally, the people who will have to wear Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) are those who work in high risk setting such as health and residential care. In these settings FFP3 respirators should be used when caring for patients, or in areas where high risk aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) are being performed.
If your risk assessment for coronavirus (COVID-19) identifies that RPE is necessary, it is important that it is of a suitable type and staff have been trained in how to wear and use it. Only purchase RPE from reputable and trusted suppliers to help avoid the purchase of unsafe/counterfeit products.
Employers and self-employed people need to carry out a risk assessment to identify what needs to be done to protect workers and others from the risk of coronavirus. When carrying out the risk assessment you need to:
If you have fewer than five employees, you do not have to write anything down, but it is good practice if you do.
The Government Better Business For All (a partnership between business and regulatory bodies) has created their Covid-19 Toolkit - considerations for restarting your business safely.
At counters and workstations where it is not always possible to maintain social distancing, then consider using screens. Any screen that is used, needs to be of suitable size (height and width) to provide an effective barrier between people. Screens also need to be securely fixed. It is important that where screens are used, they are regularly sanitised.
Signs at entrances and at appropriate locations in a premises can help people understand what they need to do to maintain their own and others safety whilst in a premises. A Workplace Risk Assessment for coronavirus (COVID-19) can help to identify what signs are needed and where to place them. Businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can check-in at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details. Create a Coronavirus NHS QR code for your premises.
Examples of free to use signs:
The aim is to maintain wherever possible 2m social distancing and to minimise the need for contact with people to who are not employed by the business. This will include customers, contractors, maintenance, and delivery people.
The aim in the workplace is to maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, including while arriving at and departing from work, while in work and when travelling between sites.
Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, businesses should consider if the activity must happen for the business to operate. If it is necessary, action will need to be taken to reduce the risk of transmission between staff. For detailed information please refer to the appropriate business sector guidance:
There is no specific government guidance on toilets yet but guidance can be found under Cleaning and disinfection by business sector (before and during opening).
Shops and branches need to ensure that social distancing for customers is managed as part of their business.
Government guidance says that retailers can use outside premises for queuing where safe and not causing a risk to individuals and other businesses. This also means that businesses can work with the local authority or landlord to take into account the impact of queuing on public spaces such as high streets and public car parks.
Shopping centres should take responsibility for regulating the number of customers in the centre and the queuing process in communal areas on behalf of their retail. This could include working with neighbouring businesses and local authorities to consider how to manage the number of people in public areas whilst still ensuring social distancing and avoid overcrowding in peak times. However, shoppers and the public should be reminded that it is also their responsibility to maintain social distancing when queuing.
The use of fitting rooms is problematical because they are difficult to clean between use. Government guidance says that fitting rooms should be closed wherever possible, given the challenges in operating them safely. Where fitting rooms are essential, for example to support key workers buying critical protective clothing, they should be cleaned very frequently, typically between each use.
Guidance also says that handling of shop items should be kept to a minimum and that all interactions between staff and customers should be undertaken in such a way as to enable social distancing to take place.
Government guidance says that stores should limit customer handling of merchandise, for example, through different display methods, new signage or rotation of high-touch stock.
However, items will be returned to shops, charity shops will receive donated items and some shops may receive items for repair. The guidance says that the store could set up ‘no contact’ return procedures where customers take return goods to a designated area. These returned or donated items should be stored in a container or separate room for 72 hours. The items should then be cleaned with usual cleaning products before display on the shop floor. Materials used for cleaning can be disposed of normally.
The Government is encouraging stores to use contactless payment where possible and for staff to avoid handling items as much as possible. However not all customers are able to pay with cards and sometimes cash will need to be handled. If staff are not able to wash their hands after handling cash then hand sanitiser can be used. There are no specific guidelines for handling cash but guidance states that handwashing after handling items will help prevent spread of Covid-19. This procedure should be in the employer’s risk assessment needed to ensure protection of staff.
The UK Government has lots of guidance for businesses to help them ensure they are Covid-Secure.
This encourages businesses to carry out a risk assessment and helps to identify the workplace adjustments that they should make. Employers have the legal responsibility to protect their employees and other people on site, such as customers and visitors. The guidance will help businesses to easily find out what they should do. Employees can also use this to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe.
Currently events are not permitted to take place. However you may want to plan for events when the Coronavirus restrictions allow them when events will still need to comply with existing licensing and health and safety law.
If the number of persons involved in the event is restricted to 499 people, you will be able to operate under a temporary event notice (TEN) but if you are proposing a larger event it would need a full premises licence which involves a significantly longer application process.
In order for the event to operate safely it must be run in accordance with the relevant guidance to control the spread of Coronavirus and also comply with all the other health and safety requirements under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974:
You will need the landowner’s permission so if you are intending to use East Suffolk Council land you will need to apply for an event on council land. Part of that application will require you to submit an event management plan and risk assessment which will be passed to the Safety Advisory Group for them to consider. They will contact you if there are any issues that the group feels require addressing to ensure the event is managed safely.
It is recommended that you contact us to engage with the East Suffolk Safety Advisory Group (SAG) at the early stages of your planning. SAG will review plans for events that are perceived to pose a significant risk either due to the size, type location etc of events, to allow the relevant regulatory agencies (police, fire, ambulance, local authority etc) to gain intelligence prior to any event, to allow for emergency planning and advise each other on any areas of concern. SAG will liaise with Suffolk County Council Public Health department, if there are concerns about the transmission of Coronavirus associated with the event. The group will also advise the event organiser (duty holder) of ways in which they can manage the event safely.
The law requires employers to ensure an adequate supply of fresh air in the workplace and this has not changed during the pandemic. Good ventilation, together with social distancing, keeping your workplace clean and frequent handwashing, can help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Good ventilation reduces the concentration of the virus in the air and therefore reduces the risks from airborne transmission. This happens when people breathe in small particles (aerosols) in the air after someone with the virus has occupied an enclosed area. However, ventilation will have little or no impact on droplet or contact transmission routes.
Providing adequate ventilation does not mean that workplaces have to be cold. Good ventilation is a balance between making sure workplaces are warm but keeping a flow of air going through an area. Simple steps, such as partially opening windows, can be taken to ensure ventilation is maintained. Natural ventilation can be used with heating systems to maintain a reasonable temperature in the workplace. The more people occupying an area that is poorly ventilated, and the longer they remain in it, the greater the risk of transmission. Singing, shouting and aerobic activities generate higher levels of aerosol and increase the risk further, so consider these factors when ensuring you have adequate ventilation. The following guidelines can help you improve ventilation in your workplace depending on the existing ventilation you have:
Natural ventilation can be provided through open windows, or through other means such as vents. However, fire doors should not be propped open. It is important not to completely close windows and doors when the area is occupied as this can result in very low levels of ventilation.
Lower temperatures and likely windy weather conditions in the winter months will increase the natural ventilation through openings. This means you don’t need to open windows and doors as wide, so partially opening them can still provide adequate ventilation while maintaining a comfortable workplace temperature. Opening higher-level windows is likely to generate fewer draughts. Airing rooms as frequently as you can will help improve ventilation. This involves opening all doors and windows wide to maximise the ventilation in the room. It may be easier to do this when the room is unoccupied or between uses. If the area is still cold you could relax dress codes so people can wear extra layers and warmer clothing. Fan convector heaters can be used provided the area is well ventilated, but they should not be used in poorly ventilated areas.
Mechanical ventilation brings fresh air into a building and can include air conditioning and/or heating. Systems that provide both heating and air conditioning are known as heating and ventilation air conditioning (HVAC). To help reduce the risk:
Mechanical systems supplying individual rooms where recirculation modes allow higher rates of supply of fresh air to be provided to an area, should be allowed to operate. If you use a centralised ventilation system that circulates air to different rooms, it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply. Recirculation units for heating and cooling that do not draw in a supply of fresh air can remain in operation provided there is a supply of outdoor air, for example windows and doors left open. Recirculation units (including air conditioning) can mask poor ventilation as they just make an area more comfortable.
Desk or ceiling fans can be used provided the area is well ventilated but they should not be used in poorly ventilated areas.
Local air cleaning and filtration units can be used to reduce airborne transmission where it isn’t possible to maintain adequate ventilation. Filtration systems, high-efficiency filters and ultraviolet-based devices are the most suitable types to use. They should be the correct size for the area they are being used in.
Switch ventilation systems on while people are in the vehicle and set to drawing fresh air in, and not recirculating air. To improve ventilation, windows can also be opened (partially if it’s cold). Heating should also be left on to keep the vehicle warm. For vehicles that carry different passengers, such as taxis, clear the air between different passengers so the vehicle is aired before anyone else gets in. Opening doors where it is safe to do so will help to change air quickly. Opening windows fully for a few minutes can also help to clear the air in the vehicle.
If you didn’t find the answer to your query within this information, additional guidance can be found on the Gov.uk website.
Alternatively, you can complete a brief enquiry form to inform us what further guidance you need or what concerns you wish to report. We will try and contact you within 7 working days or sooner wherever possible.