• Safer Highways

Coronavirus advice for employers

People who can’t work from home should be “actively encouraged” to go to work. That was one of the key messages from Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week. Mr Johnson mentioned construction and manufacturing as examples of the sorts of industries where restarting would now be explicitly encouraged. On Saturday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that, as part of a cautious phased return, children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be allowed to return to school on 1 June, but only if rates of infection are decreasing.

Wednesday’s Briefing



Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden led yesterday’s daily briefing from Downing Street. He was joined by Stephen Powis, National Medical Director at NHS England. Some of the main points included:

  • Mr Dowden pledged £150m from dormant bank accounts to support social enterprises;

  • A task force has been set up to examine how to resume sports and arts activities without crowds, featuring figures from football, TV, the arts and technology;

  • The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 has fallen below 10,000 for the first time since March;

  • Mr Dowden denied that issues with infections in care homes have been “glossed over”, saying that testing was available “right from the very beginning” and the number of infections was coming down;

  • Mr Dowden said talks about the Premier League playing behind closed doors could create a “win-win” by allowing additional matches to be broadcast free-to-air. He said existing TV rights could be respected, but concerns about competing with matchday attendances would be removed.

Other developments:

  • The HSE has announced it is restarting “proactive” inspections of construction sites;

  • A trial to see whether two anti-malarial drugs could prevent COVID-19 has begun in Brighton and Oxford;

  • People in England have been warned against using coronavirus antibody tests sold by some retailers;

  • EasyJet will resume some flights on 15 June, with all passengers and cabin crew told to wear face masks;

  • The number of people infected worldwide has now reached five million, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University;

  • Greece has announced that its tourism season will start in June, adding that international flights will resume in July.

Latest figures

AccordHSEing to figures from Worldometer, there are:

Globally:

  • 5,090,977 confirmed cases;

  • 329,761 deaths.

UK:

  • 248,293 confirmed cases;

  • 35,704 deaths.

Ireland:

  • 24,315 confirmed cases;

  • 1,571 deaths.

HSE to restart “proactive” inspections of construction sites

The move follows a government announcement of more cash for the organisation and prime minister Boris Johnson promising the body would carry out “spot inspections” to make sure businesses were safe places to work. However the head of the union representing HSE inspectors has warned the organisation remains too small, reports Construction News.

The safety watchdog stopped carrying out routine inspections after the lockdown announcement in March, despite sectors such as construction continuing to operate.

HSE to prosecute and lockdown eased in England

The HSE is prepared to use its enforcement powers when necessary and will also consider criminal prosecutions, its Chief Executive Sarah Albon said. She said last week, she is aware of a small number of firms “not doing the right thing or not sure what the right thing is to do”.

Government strategy and workplace guidance

The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

An outline to the Government’s plan for rebuilding and recovering from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has now been published.

The government is proposing a three-step plan. In summary:

  1. Step one, starting on Wednesday 13 May:

  • Workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open, and workplaces should follow new “Covid-19 Secure” guidelines;

  • More vulnerable children, who are already able to attend school, are urged to do so.


  1. Step two, which will begin no earlier than 1 June:

  • Nurseries and primary schools will begin a phased return. At first this will only involve early years, reception, and years one and six. But the government’s ambition is that all primary school children in England should return to school for a month before the summer;

  • Some businesses will be able to re-open and sporting events will be able to take place behind closed doors – but not hairdressers or beauty salons;

  • The government is seeking advice on allowing people to expand their household group and examining how small weddings can be better facilitated.


  1. Step three, which will start no earlier than 4 July:

  • more businesses will be able to open – although some, which are crowded by design, will not be able to open.


It is stressed that all dates could be delayed if not enough progress is made in tackling the virus, and restrictions could be reintroduced. And the government stress that changes are dependent on the rate of infection staying down.

“COVID-19 Secure” guidelines

Many measures require the development of new safety guidelines that set out how each type of physical space can be adapted to operate safely. The Government has been consulting relevant sectors, industry bodies, local authorities, trades unions, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England on their development.

To make workplaces less infectious, the guidelines promotes, for example:

  • Keeping a distance between people outside their household;

  • Keeping the hands and face as clean as possible. Hand sanitiser should be carried when travelling and applied where available outside the home, especially when entering a building and following contact with surfaces. Clothes should also be washed regularly, as there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics;

  • Limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly. Employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. Evidence also suggests the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas.

Lifting restrictions step-by-step

Step 1

In terms of work, the key messages in Step 1 include:

  • For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible;

  • Parts of the economy that are allowed to open should do so, including food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research;

  • Employees in these industries are now asked to return to work but should avoid public transport on their commute where possible;

  • As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines;

  • The advice says that these industries will be asked to follow new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines which are set to be published, but will likely include asking employers to take steps to reduce unnecessary contact between workers;

  • Hospitality and other non-essential shops will remain shut during this period.

Other measures relate to schools, travel, face coverings, public space, shielding, international travel, and enforcement.

Step 2

The Government’s current aim is that the second step will be made no earlier than Monday 1 June, subject to conditions being satisfied.

The current planning assumption for England is that the second step may include as many of the following measures as possible, consistent with the government’s five tests. Organisations should prepare accordingly, it says. The measures cover schools, a phased re-opening of all non-essential retail businesses, cultural and sporting events, and social and family contact.

Step 3

The final part of the Government plan is not expected to come into force before 4 July and relies on scientific and medical advisers being satisfied the previous measures have not caused a spike in the infection rate.

During this final stage, the government would hope to reopen at least some of the remaining businesses, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas). They should also meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

5 steps to working safely

This government advice sets out practical actions for businesses to take based on five main steps.

The relevant guide for each workplace should also be read (see below) as these contain specific actions for businesses to take based on these steps. Further guidance will be published as more businesses are able to reopen, says the government.

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

Before restarting work you should ensure the safety of the workplace by:

  • carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance

  • consulting with your workers or trade unions

  • sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website.

  1. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures

You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:

  • encouraging people to follow the guidance on hand washing and hygiene

  • providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms

  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly

  • enhancing cleaning for busy areas

  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets

  • providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers.

  1. Help people to work from home

You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:

  • discussing home working arrangements

  • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems

  • including them in all necessary communications

  • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.

  1. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possibl

Where possible, you should maintain 2m between people by:

  • putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance

  • avoiding sharing workstations

  • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance

  • arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible

  • switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible.

  1. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk

Where it’s not possible for people to be 2m apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk by:

  • considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate

  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible

  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other

  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible

  • staggering arrival and departure times

  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’.

On-demand webinar: Health and safety law conundrums during the COVID-19 pandemic

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  1.  Managing difficult decisions relating to COVID-19;

  2. Could we be prosecuted for COVID-19 exposures?;

  3. Can we keep operating if we are struggling with social distancing?

  4. Working from home – how far do our duties extend?

  5. Statutory inspections – what if we are running behind?

  6. Returning to work…

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Workplace Guidance: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely.

The ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines aim to help make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during coronavirus pandemic. The documents have been developed in consultation with approximately 250 businesses, unions, industry leaders as well as devolved administrations.

The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.

Practical steps for businesses are focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:

  1. Work from home, if you can

All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close, our message is clear: you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.

  1. Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible

Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain 2 metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

  1. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk

Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

  1. Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

A downloadable notice is included in the documents, which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed this guidance.

The guidance applies to businesses currently open. This also includes guidance for shops which the government believe may be in a position to begin a phased reopening at the earliest from the 1 June. It is noted that guidance for other sectors that are not currently open will be developed and published ahead of those establishments opening to give those businesses time to plan.

The following documents are also available:

  1. Construction and other outdoor work: guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments;

  2. Factories, plants and warehouses: guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses;

  3. Homes: guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to home environments as well as their employers;

  4. Labs and research facilities: guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments;

  5. Offices and contact centres: guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments;

  6. Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery: guidance for people who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services;

  7. Shops and branches: guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments;

  8. Vehicles: Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): charter for safe working practice

This Charter has been launched to enable housebuilders to make a common commitment to operate in line with government safe working guidance. Signatories to the Charter have publicly committed to safe working practices in accordance with government and Construction Leadership Council guidance. It has been co-produced by the government and the Home Building Federation.

Through adherence to this Charter, the aim is that the industry can continue to provide much needed additions to housing supply and play its part in the country’s economic recovery while delivering on its top priority: protecting the health and safety of the home building workforce, visitors to site and the local community.

According to HBF: “The Charter is a public facing commitment which supports the very detailed protocols individual builders have in place to ensure safe working on sites.”

Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak – HSE advice

This HSE guidance is for employers and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. It may also be useful to workers and their representatives.

During this time of unprecedented disruption, it is important for businesses to operate where it is safe to do so. It is understood working safely during this time is important and this guide is designed to help control the risks associated with running a business at this time.

The guidance explains measures that can be taken to help you carry on working safely during coronavirus, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts, providing additional handwashing facilities and how to talk with workers to help them stay safe.

This HSE guidance covers steps you should take to help manage the risks of coronavirus in your business. These include taking measures to work at home where possible, maintaining social distancing, cleaning and hygiene.

This guide is aimed at all employers and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. It explains how you can protect people from coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts and providing additional handwashing facilities.

The guidance may also be useful to workers and their representatives.

Assessing risk

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. This is called a risk assessment and it’ll help you manage risk and protect people.

You must:

  • Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus;

  • Think about who could be at risk;

  • Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed;

  • Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.

If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do.

In terms of ‘Talking to your workers’ – separate guidance is available to help employers let people know what they need to do to protect themselves – see below.

This guidance goes on to cover who should go to work; protecting people who are at higher risk; getting into and leaving work; the work area; moving around; common areas; good hygiene; information and guidance; and PPE.

Talking with your workers about preventing coronavirus

This guide is aimed at all employers. It explains how you can talk to your workers about preventing coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts and providing additional handwashing facilities.

The guidance may also be useful to workers and their representatives, and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. The law requires all employers to assess the risk of returning to work while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing and to put steps in place to manage that risk.

This guide is designed to help you consult with workers as one part of putting in place measures to manage the risks of coronavirus in the workplace while continuing to work.

By talking to your workers, the guidance suggests that you can:

  • Reassure them by explaining the changes you are making;

  • Get their thoughts and ideas about how to change the workplace to keep people safe and to ensure those changes are workable;

  • Continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak.

The guide describes five different themes and suggests questions you can discuss with your workers. They are designed to get you talking with your workers about managing the risks of coronavirus.

Actions can then be taken to make sure your plans are working safely, and people have been listened to. You can hold conversations before returning to work so that plans can be developed and put in place before going back. You could then have further discussions soon after return to make sure the actions are working and are being followed.

You may also decide to repeat the discussions if something changes, for example: if new guidelines are published; or if lockdown restrictions change.

Importantly, the guidance points out that you should make sure that there is time available for managers and workers to have these conversations. The guide relies on both managers and workers having an open and honest conversation.

COVID-19 roadmap taskforces

Reopening other (currently closed) businesses and public places will take place when the science allows, says the Cabinet Office, and when they can meet new COVID-19 secure guidelines, which relate to their specific activities. To support the development of such guidelines, the government will establish five ministerially-led ‘taskforces’. These are detailed in this guidance.

To support the development of such guidelines, the government will establish five ministerially-led ‘taskforces’:

  1. Pubs and restaurants (Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy);

  2. Non-essential retail (including salons) (Department for Business, Energy and industrial Strategy);

  3. Recreation and leisure, including tourism, culture and heritage, libraries, entertainment and sport (Department for Culture, Media and Sport);

  4. Places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings (Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local government);

  5. International aviation (Department for Transport).

Coronavirus – Guidance on access to green spaces

This guidance on using green spaces and protecting yourself and others has been updated to reflect recent changes. The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others outdoors is considered to be low as long as people maintain social distancing.

In England you can leave your home to exercise and spend time outdoors for recreation.

You can now:

  • spend time outdoors, including exercise, alone, with your household, or with one person who is not in your household as long as you stay two metres apart

  • exercise more than once a day

  • take part in other outdoor sports and activities, including fishing – on your own, with your household, or with one other person while adhering to social distancing rules

  • drive to outdoor open spaces, including beaches and beauty spots, irrespective of distance. You should travel in a private vehicle, alone or with members of your own household.

  • you should check first if facilities, such as car parks, are open to receive visitors and, when in the countryside, continue to follow the Countryside Code by respecting the local community and protecting the natural environment

  • go swimming in either lakes or the sea as part of daily exercise provided that social distancing guidelines are observed – you cannot use public indoor and outdoor pools

  • all forms of water sports practiced on open waterways, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing, paddle-boarding and the use of privately-owned motorised craft (in line with the guidance issued by the relevant navigation authority) are allowed. You can continue to use towpaths for walking, running and cycling, being mindful of other users and people living in boats along the water.

Staying alert and safe (social distancing)

This guidance applies in England – people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the specific rules in those parts of the UK.

The government has set out its plan  to return life to as near normal as is possible, for as many people as possible, and as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods, but in a way that is safe and continues to protect the NHS.

This guidance explains the measures that will help you to stay safe as the response to the challenges of coronavirus continue. Key parts of these measures are underpinned by law, which set out clearly what you must and must not do – every person in the country must continue to comply with this. The relevant authorities, including the police, have the powers to enforce the law – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

How to wear and make a cloth face covering

People in England are being advised to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where they come into contact with other people – including on public transport.

Issued by the Cabinet Office, this guidance emphasises that people should use home-made coverings, not the specialist masks used by healthcare workers, for example. It provides advice on:

  • Wearing a face covering;

  • Making a simple cloth face covering using either a T-shirt or cotton fabric.

Scotland: public use of face coverings

The Scottish Government has issued its own advice on this issue.

It says that Physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene, are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Therefore, it is stressed that the wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions.

Wales: Unlocking our society and economy: continuing the conversation 406109

This document sets out the steps the Welsh Government are considering in order to lead Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic.

It builds on the approach set out in the document published on 24 April (Leading Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic: a framework for recovery) which identified three pillars:

1 Measures and evidence

2 Principles underpinning adjustments to restrictions

3 Public health purpose.

It is felt that there is a growing risk that changed behaviours could lead to a rapid, possibly uncontrolled increase in the spread of the disease. To avoid this, the document notes that Wales needs to move at a pace which is matched by its capacity to identify and shut down new outbreaks of the disease – to test, trace and protect those who become ill or have the virus without symptoms and ensure that they self-isolate to protect onward transmission.

It says the next few weeks need to be spent adapting workplaces,  public spaces and other places where people come in contact with each other to the necessity of maintaining social distancing.

A traffic light-style system is set out, which is based on four stages to determine how those rules could be lifted – lockdown, red, amber and green – and includes the reopening of schools, seeing family and friends, playing sports and running businesses.

There are no dates given in the document, as changes can be only made when the scientific and medical advice says it is safe to do so, it says.

The document gives some detail to how life would look under each category:

  • Lockdown – Schools are only open to vulnerable pupils’ children and children of key workers, people are advised to stay at home, only leaving home for essential travel and to work from home if possible.

  • Red – Schools enabled to manage increase in demand from more key workers and vulnerable pupils returning; local travel, including for click-and-collect retail allowed; people allowed to provide or receive care and support to/from one family member or friend from outside the household

  • Amber – Priority groups of pupils to return to school in a phased approach; travel for leisure allowed together with meeting with small groups of family or friends for exercise; people able toaccess non-essential retail and services; more people travelling to work;

  • Green – All children and students able to access education; Unrestricted travel subject to ongoing precautions; All sports, leisure and cultural activities, as well as socialising with friends permitted, with physical distancing.

The Welsh government stressed that it is monitoring the “R rate” to decide what can be lifted and when.

Northern Ireland: NI Executive publishes plan for easing lockdown

A five-stage plan for easing the COVID-19 lockdown in Northern Ireland has been published by the Executive. The document sets out the approach the Executive will take when deciding how to ease restrictions in the future.

The plan does not include a timetable, but it is hoped to reach the final stage by December.

In making decisions, the Executive will consider three key criteria: the most up-to-date scientific evidence; the ability of the health service to cope; and the wider impacts on health, society and the economy.

Measures detailed in the plan include, amongst others:re

Step 1:

  • encouragement to those unable to work from home to return to work on a phased basis

  • large outdoor-based retail can open including garden centres, though associated cafes and restaurants can only offer takeaway or collection

  • groups of four to six people who do not share a household can meet outdoors maintaining social distancing. With the exception of people who are shielding, visits to immediate family allowed indoors where social distancing is possible

Step 2:

  • non-food retail can open where numbers are limited, with social distancing

  • groups of up to 10 can meet outdoors

  • as demand increases on public transport within social distancing requirements, people encouraged to walk and cycle for short journeys where possible

Step 3:

  • phased return to office and onsite working subject to risk assessment. Work that can be done from home should still be done from home

  • schools expand provision for priority groups on a part-time basis, using a combination of in-school and remote learning

  • gatherings can accommodate up to 30 people while maintaining social distancing

Step 4:

  • other “contact” retail (hairdressers, fitness studios, tattoo and piercing parlours) can open subject to mitigations following risk assessment

  • schools expand provision to accommodate all pupils on part-time basis with combination of in-school and remote learning

  • reducing and staggering demand for public transport at peak times through continued home working and staggered start times for businesses

Step 5:

  • all able to return to work subject to mitigations. Remote working still strongly encouraged

  • hospitality retail (restaurants, cafes, pubs) can open subject to risk assessment, initially on a limited basis

  • expand early-year school provision to full-time basis

  • public transport operating full service but subject to ongoing risk assessment.


Coronavirus guidance for schools

Managing school premises during the coronavirus outbreak 

This guidance is for schools and other educational settings on managing premises during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

It is aimed at leaders of schools and other educational settings; and members of staff with responsibility for managing premises.

Schools are advised to review their arrangements for all building-related systems but in particular:

  • Hot and cold water systems;

  • Gas safety;

  • Fire safety;

  • Kitchen equipment;