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Covid-19 health and safety guidance for businesses

Health and safety guidance to help businesses operate safely during Covid-19

Topics covered
Covid-19 - Accidents and reporting Cleaning and disinfection
Covid-19 Secure re-opening guidance by business sector Keeping records of staff, customers and visitors
Other re-opening guidance PPE (gloves, aprons, face masks)
Risk assessment for coronavirus
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 Planning for reopening
Legionella Face covering
Reporting an outbreak of Covid-19 Events
I have a question or need to report a concern


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: 

  • an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to Coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence
  • a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease
  • A worker dies because of occupational exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported the enforcing authority without delay.

Make a RIDDOR report online

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Cleaning and disinfection by business sector (before and during opening)

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):

Further guidance:

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Covid-19 Secure – re-opening guidance by business sector

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. The business sectors covered are:

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Other re-opening guidance

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Government guidance is available for the reopening of the hospitality industry.


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Face coverings in the workplace

Health and safety law requires that the best methods to control the spread of the virus are implemented as a priority before looking at other, potentially less safe options.

The best way of reducing the risk of catching or passing on Coronavirus is to avoid situations where you are closer than two metres to another person and, if you have to be that close, this should be kept to an absolute minimum. 

Premises where face coverings are required should take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law. The police can take measures if members of the public do not comply with this law without a valid exemption and transport operators can deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service. If necessary, the police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days for the first offence).

Repeat offenders receiving fines on public transport or in an indoor setting will have their fines doubled at each offence. After the first offence, there will be no discount. For example, receiving a second fine will amount to £200 and a third fine will be £400, up to a maximum value of £3,200.

Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams, 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.

When you need to wear a face covering, you should:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • store used, washable, face coverings in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them
  • if possible, wash your face after removing the face covering
  • practise social distancing wherever possible
  • be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so for the purposes of identification


Face coverings in public

There are some places where you must wear a face covering by law. Different rules exist in different parts of the UK. In England, you must wear a face covering in the following indoor settings:

  • Public transport (e.g. aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)
  • Transport hubs (e.g. airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • Shops and supermarkets (e.g. places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • Shopping centres (e.g. malls and indoor markets)
  • Auction houses
  • Premises providing professional, legal or financial services (e.g. post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses)
  • Premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (e.g. hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • Premises providing veterinary services
  • Visitor attractions and entertainment venues (e.g. museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • Libraries and public reading rooms
  • Places of worship
  • Funeral service providers (e.g. funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)
  • Community centres, youth centres and social clubs
  • Exhibition halls and conference centres
  • Public areas in hotels and hostels
  • Storage and distribution facilities

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.


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Re-opening your business and Legionella risk

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.


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PPE (gloves, aprons, face masks)

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.


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Risk assessment for coronavirus - practical points to consider

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:

  1. identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
  2. identify who could be at risk
  3. decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
  4. act to remove the activity or situation that places someone at risk, or if this is not possible, identify what can be done to control the risk

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.


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Screening/barriers in the premises

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.

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Signage in the premises

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.

Examples of free to use signs:

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Social distancing - customers, visitors and contractors

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.

Social distancing by business sector - staff

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:

Other guidance on social distancing

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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).

Think about:

  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible (including queuing)
  • cleaning toilets regularly, especially frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as WCs, toilet tissue dispensers, washbasins, urinals, cubicle and toilet entrances, door handles, hand dryers, soap dispensers, sanitary waste dispensers and vanity shelves
  • using signs and posters to build awareness of good hand washing technique and the need to increase hand washing frequency
  • making sure there is plenty of soap available

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Queuing and shopping

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.


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Fitting Rooms

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.


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Managing returned or donated items to a shop or branch

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.


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Handling cash in stores

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.

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Planning for reopening

The UK Government has developed a tool to help businesses in England reopen safely during Coronavirus. This tool 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 tool will help businesses to easily find out what they should do. Employees can also use this tool to check what their workplace needs to do to keep people safe.

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Gatherings of more than 30 people are generally not permitted in any private homes or gardens at this time. Local authorities and the police both have powers to enforce the restrictions.

Certain organisations such as businesses and charities are permitted to run events on commercial or public land. There are still restrictions on what type of event can take place and all events must 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 online. 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 and contact you if there are any issues that the group feels require addressing to ensure the event is managed safely.


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Additional information

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.

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