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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Contents

Health and safety and coronavirus

In this section you'll find information and updates related to coronavirus that are relevant to the law on health and safety.

The UK's response to coronavirus is changing regularly and often very quickly. While we'll continue to make every effort to keep this page up to date, there may be short periods where what you read here is not the latest information available. Where possible we've tried to provide links to official sources, so you can check the current situation.

General responsibilities

Where your business is not required to close and remains operational, you continue to be responsible for the health, safety and welfare of your staff (including non-employees, such as contractors) and prevent harm to any visitors to your offices and buildings. There's a legal obligation on staff to cooperate with you on this.

See the HSE and HSENI websites for the latest information and advice.

Washing facilities

You're legally required to provide adequate toilet and washing facilities. This includes:

  • Enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them
  • Hot and cold running water
  • Enough soap or other washing agents
  • Hand towels (preferably disposable) or a hand-dryer
  • Toilet paper
  • Drinking water

Individuals with disabilities must be able to easily access the facilities.

If possible, provide extra handwashing stations around the workplace.

Workplace social distancing

If possible, you should encourage staff to work from home. If that's not possible, take every possible action to ensure staff can remain at least 2 metres away from each other and, where applicable, customers.

The UK government has published guidance on the general principles, as well as possible solutions such as shift-working and staggering processes. They have also published more detailed guidance for specific sectors.

Additional guidance is available for businesses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Homeworking

You have the same health and safety duties to staff when they're at home as you do when they are in the workplace, though they must take reasonable care of their own health and safety. Remind them to take breaks and not overwork or do anything that may risk their health and safety.

Ordinarily, you'd visit them at home to perform a risk assessment, but that's not practical in the current situation. You could ask them to assess themselves by sending them a questionnaire about their workplace – look at their answers and tell them what action to take (if any).

It's particularly important at this time to consider and monitor their mental health.

See our Homeworking section for more.

Reporting of COVID-19

You must make a report under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations when:

  • An unintended incident at work has led to a member of staff possibly or actually being exposed to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
  • A member of staff has been diagnosed as having coronavirus and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
  • A member of staff dies as a result of workplace exposure to coronavirus.

See RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 for more.

Temporary relaxation of drivers' hours

Demand for the delivery of goods has understandably risen considerably. The Department for Transport has temporarily relaxed the enforcement of drivers' hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales.

Government guidance states that the relaxations aren't limited to particular sectors or journeys, but the intention is that they should be used when transporting essential goods by road (e.g. medical equipment/supplies, essential food/hygiene items) and only where necessary.

See Drivers' hours: rules and guidance for more.

The Health and safety Executive has stated that all drivers must have access to welfare facilities in their workplace. This is a legal requirement and they must be available during the hours they work, which can be late at night. See Arrangements for driver welfare and hours of work during the coronavirus outbreak for more.

Coronavirus action plans

It's a good idea to create a coronavirus action plan around health and safety for your workplace.

1. Select someone to be responsible for monitoring the situation and reporting to management with regular updates. Consider signing up to receive updates by email or RSS feeds.

2. Conduct a risk assessment and monitor the risks posed by COVID-19 to anyone. Pay particular attention to situations where staff may be in close proximity (less than 2 metres) to others. Remember that individuals at particular risk include those:

  • with compromised immune systems;
  • over 70;
  • with certain pre-existing health conditions, e.g. cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions or diabetes;
  • who are pregnant.

3. Ensure any control measures identified by the risk assessment comply with government advice (particularly around social distancing). Take steps to reduce the risk to vulnerable staff identified by the risk assessment.

4. Regularly pass on updates to staff and give them guidance on issues like:

  • What the symptoms are and what they should do if they have them;
  • When and how you should be notified if they've been diagnosed with COVID-19 or in contact with someone who has;
  • What you require them to do after being notified.

5. Ban all non-essential business travel.

6. Ensure managers know how to spot possible symptoms of COVID-19 and are clear on any relevant processes, such as sickness reporting and sick pay.

7. Decide what steps you'll take if a staff member infected with COVID-19 attends the workplace. You should:

  • Immediately communicate this to all staff (if possible, don't name the person for data protection reasons)
  • Confirm if the workplace will close (consider doing this to protect staff).
  • Instruct staff to take work home with them (if possible)
  • Contact your local public health authority in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. They'll conduct a risk assessment and tell you what to do next.

8. Increase the frequency and extent of cleaning in the workplace. Focus on shared areas and areas that may not often be cleaned, like doors and chair handles, light switches, keyboards and mice, telephones, desks and worktops, photocopiers and bannisters.

9. Try to maintain supplies of soap, cleaning products, disinfectants and cleaning materials.

10. Give staff access to tissues and hand sanitiser gel, wipes or sprays containing more than 60% alchohol. Try to maintain supplies.

11. Keep records of the number of staff who have:

  • been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed
  • shown potential COVID-19 symptoms, but haven't been diagnosed

For data protection reasons, don't collect more data than you need and use appropriate measures to safeguard it.

12. Ensure staff contact and emergency contact details are up to date.

13. Display COVID-19 information in the workplace and visitor areas.

14. Advise visitors to follow your guidance on preventative measures.

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