Providing a safe working environment during the coronavirus outbreak and the possible consequences of failing to protect your employees

Posted 10/06/2020 : By: Jessica Piper

With the lockdown easing slightly and more people encouraged to return to work, you need to be ensuring you are providing a COVID secure workplace.

The Government has issued guidance on working safely during this time and has also introduced sector specific guidance. More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

As part of this guidance, the five main steps are:

  1. ensure you have completed a COVID-19 risk assessment ( following the requirements for risk assessments, displaying the COVID secure poster and publishing this on your website if you have more than 50 employees);
  2. developing cleaning hygiene, handwashing and cleaning procedures;
  3. helping people to work from home wherever possible;
  4. maintain 2m social distance where possible;
  5. where 2m is not possible, manage transmission risk.

Employer’s responsibilities

Under Health and Safety law, employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this. This means providing employees and others with protection from anything that may cause harm and controlling any risks to injury or health that could occur in the workplace.

Main responsibilities as an employer:

  • carry out risk assessments to address all risks that could cause harm in the workplace
  • provide information and training to employees about the risks and dealing with them in the workplace
  • consult employees on health & safety issues either directly or via a safety representative elected by the workforce or appointed by a trade union
  • report accidents and illness
  • provide first aid at work
  • prepare a health and safety policy and share with employees
  • appoint a competent person
  • have the right workplace facilities
  • ensure you have employer’s liability insurance

Good practice steps for employers during the coronavirus outbreak:

  • take extra steps for vulnerable groups, such as those who are clinically (extremely) vulnerable, aged 70 or over, have a long-term health condition or are pregnant
  • be mindful of specific guidance around pregnant women and those shielding
  • be conscious of possible discrimination arguments around treating certain groups differently
  • if employees come into the workplace, make sure they are abiding by the government social distancing and infection control guidelines
  • hold meetings remotely via online platforms such as Zoom or Teams and avoid non-essential travel
  • ensure managers are trained to spot the symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sick pay and absence reporting, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
  • make sure employees have clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • provide hand sanitiser, tissues and cleaning supplies for staff to clean their work areas
  • make sure employee’s emergency contact information is up to date and accurate
  • communicate clearly and consistently with everyone on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  • keep up to date with the latest government advice and regularly communicate this to your employees
  • ensure employees know how they can raise concerns if they wish to.

 This information is correct at 9.30am on 10 June 2020.

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