Government publishes guidelines for making workplaces 'COVID-19 secure'

Government publishes guidelines for making workplaces 'COVID-19 secure'

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has published guidance on working safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for those who cannot work from home. Eight guidance documents, containing the same information except for a definition of specific types of workers have been produced. The guidance states that wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) beyond what workers usually wear is not beneficial, as coronavirus is a different type of risk to the usual workplace risks and should be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE. The guidance is up to date as of 12 May 2020. Angus Dawson, partner at Macfarlanes LLP, comments on the guidance in relation to construction.

The guidance covers construction and other outdoor work; factory, plant and warehouse work; work in research facilities; work in offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments; work in other people's homes; work in shops, branches or similar environments, work in restaurants offering takeaway and delivery and work from vehicles.

Objectives for all industries include:

• carrying out a coronavirus risk assessment

• reducing risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level

• making sure individuals who are advised to stay at home under existing government guidance due to potential coronavirus infection do not physically go to work

• treating everyone in the workplace equally and making reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage, and assessing the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers

• maintaining 2m social-distancing wherever possible, including while travelling to and from work

• ensuring handwashing on arrival

• making sure people understand the safety guidance and helping them maintain good hygiene throughout the working day

• keeping the workplace clean

• changing the way work is organised to reduce the number of contacts each worker has

Angus Dawson stated the following: 'The new Government Guidance is broadly consistent with that contained in Version 3 of the Site Operating Procedures (SOP), published by the Construction Leadership Council. As with the SOP, it recognises that work within two metres may be unavoidable, in which case all mitigating action possible should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission between staff. The guidance still leaves the difficult question for employers of whether, if 2m working cannot be maintained for a particular activity, it is safe for that activity to take place. Risk assessment is critical and the guidance is clear that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment. The new government guidance is also clear that PPE is not the way to manage the risk of COVID-19. Covid risk needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering. Employers cannot and should not use masks and other PPE as a fall back way of addressing Covid risk.'

The guidance has been prepared with input from the devolved administrations although it should be considered alongside guidance specifically prepared by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

Written by Gloria Abigail Palazzi

Source: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

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