How to Reopen Your Business Safely Following COVID-19: Free Risk Assessment Template
While all businesses in England are now permitted to reopen following lockdown restrictions, there may be periods of closure. This may be due to staff having to self-isolate, or possible future lockdowns.
Where businesses need to reopen after a sustained duration of time, it is essential that extra precautions are taken while planning to reopen. Employees and other people on the premises must be kept safe. Conducting a risk assessment of your business is the first step towards this and will help you identify risks from COVID-19, as well as other aspects.
What are the Health & Safety Responsibilities of Employers?
All employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of all employees under the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, so far as is reasonably practicable. Under the Act, employers must also ensure their workplaces are safe and do not pose risk to others, such as contractors, visitors or members of the public.
There are a number of further regulations that fall under the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974, such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This states that the key duties of employers are to carry out risk assessments, and to record the findings if there are 5 or more employees. Furthermore, employers should keep the risk assessment up to date – at least annually and more frequently if circumstances change – and they should provide health surveillance where appropriate. Employers should also provide workers with information on the risks to health, the preventive and protective measures and any procedures they are required to follow. Lastly, employers have the responsibility of ensuring workers are fully trained in health and safety matters related to their roles.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides legal enforcement for health and safety law within the workplace. The aim of the HSE is to ‘prevent death, injury and ill health in Great Britain’s workplaces’. In relation to COVID-19 control measures, the HSE has said that they will carry out work to check that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19. If any staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19, the employer is required to report this to the HSE.
What Adjustments Should I Make for Working Safely?
As an employer, your risk assessment will help you identify the specific needs of your business. However, the government guidance to working safely during COVID-19 highlights six key steps that businesses are advised to consider implementing to protect staff and customers. These are:
1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes COVID-19 risks
As we have explained, it is the legal responsibility of employers to have completed a risk assessment of their business. COVID-19 is a new occupational health and safety hazard that you’ve never had to consider in a risk assessment before, so businesses are encouraged to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment.
This will not only identify the areas and methods in which you can keep people safe, but it will reassure your staff that it is safe to come back to work. Having a covid-secure workplace will also reassure your customers that they too can return to your business. Your risk assessment should therefore be thorough and you should aim to share it with all your employees and customers.
2. Provide adequate ventilation
Employers should ensure that indoor areas are suitably ventilated to ensure a constant supply of fresh air. This may be through natural means, such as opening windows and doors, or mechanical ventilation through fans and ducts. You should identify which areas are poorly ventilated and improve the fresh air flow there.
3. Clean more often
Every workplace will have to increase their cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures. As you conduct your risk assessment you will identify the areas of your business that are high contact. These areas will need cleaning more often throughout the day, and employers are responsible for ensuring this happens. These areas will need cleaning more often throughout the day, and employers are responsible for ensuring this happens, whether that’s by implementing cleaning schedules for staff to follow or increasing cleaners on site. Similarly, busy areas, such as waiting rooms or toilets, will need to be cleaned more frequently, more thoroughly and with appropriate disinfectants.
Handwashing continues to be essential in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and should be encouraged amongst all those on the premises – employees, contractors and visitors alike. Again, your risk assessment will highlight if your handwashing facilities are insufficient or if your business’s approach to hygiene is lacking. You may need to install extra handwashing or sanitiser stations in the premises. Some businesses will decide to set reminders for staff and implement procedures such as handwashing every hour, or after every customer is served. Note that handwashing must be done correctly to be effective. For a reminder on the correct way of washing your hands, watch our video here.
4. Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms
If staff members start to experience the symptoms of COVID-19, you should ensure they self-isolate and get a test immediately. They must not come into work. If a worker if legally required to self-isolate, you must not allow them to come to work. This would be an offence. If staff are well enough, they may be able to work from home instead.
You should also turn any customers or visitors away if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
5. Enable people to check in at your venue
While it’s no longer a legal requirement to collect customer contact details, continuing to do so will help to support NHS Test and Trace to contact those who may have been exposed to COVID-19. You can display the NHS QR code poster to allow people to check in to your venue, but this is not a requirement and you don’t have to ask people to check in or turn people away if they refuse.
6. Communicate and train
You must keep all your staff, customers and visitors informed of the safety measures that are in place and how to follow them.
Whilst the six steps outlined above are applicable as a guide to every workplace, there are range of ways in which businesses can approach reopening safely. Conducting a risk assessment of your workplace is the best way to determine which steps your business should take. You can access the government’s guidance on how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in workplaces at their Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.
Why is it Important to Conduct a COVID-19 Risk Assessment?
As we have explained, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their staff. To do this, they should carry out a risk assessment. It is now even more essential that workplaces conduct a risk assessment that carefully looks at the risk of COVID-19 and how to mitigate risks. This will not only identify how to keep workers safe from the virus, but also ensure that if any new measures cause other risks to health and safety, these are properly controlled.
When conducting a risk assessment, it is important to involve employees or trade unions. This will mean that any concerns from employees are heard, and that addressing these concerns will make the workplace as safe as it can be. This will go a long way in ensuring staff feel happy to return to work. Any new measures or procedures that emerge from the results of the risk assessment must be clearly communicated to all employees, and they must be trained and instructed on how to deal with the risks in their workplace. As an employer, you should record this training and make sure it is kept up to date with any changes in the workplace.
Furthermore, if an employer is exposing workers to risks, or is not carrying out their legal duties regarding health and safety, then workers can make a complaint to the HSE. Any business not protecting their workers could be liable for any injury or harm they come to at work. The HSE has the power to close a business or issue fines should they be found failing their duties.
Free COVID-19 Risk Assessment Template for Businesses
To help you carry out a risk assessment in your business, we have created a free downloadable blank template for you to use, as well as a pre-filled example risk assessment to highlight some of the COVID-19 risks you may find in your business. You can download them on the buttons below:
Once you have completed your risk assessment, you may wish to publish the results on your website. This allows the public to see what control measures you have put in place and helps to build trust, both with employees and with customers. You can also print and display the results prominently in your workplace to remind employees and customers of the steps you should all be taking to promote health and safety at work.
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