- joint working
- implementation phases
- legionella testing
- pilot implementation
- dynamic assessment
- utilising expertise
Carrying out a robust risk assessment with studio users, building representatives where appropriate (including facilities managers in shared buildings), staff and trade unions will identify the practical measures that can be put in place to minimise the spread of the virus in studio environments.
Companies that have successfully been able to maintain or increase production of essential goods during the COVID-19 crisis have highlighted the importance of joint working. Protecting the health of employees has been at the heart of this joint approach which is fundamental to establishing shared confidence around the safety of returning to places of work and supporting a recovery in productivity.
Health and safety 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. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) short guide to working safely during the coronavirus outbreak can help you, including with a Risk Assessment template. Your trade body will also have helpful templates to guide you through assessing risk.
you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do so. It is acknowledged that in such a diverse sector there are many micro businesses with no staff and for whom this guidance may not appear directly relevant. Risk however is something that must be assessed in all working environments.
As a minimum it is expected that:
- planning for a restart to be a joint effort between employers and employees with both parties fully contributing as part of an ongoing commitment to work together in ensuring a safe workplace
- a risk-based approach should be followed to protect the health and safety of employees and studio users, and ensure the longer-term economic viability of the business
You should make sure that the risk assessment for your business addresses the risks of COVID-19, using this guidance to inform your decisions and control measures. The outcome of the risk assessment is the identification of sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.
Employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety. Consultation should occur, where relevant, with full and part-time staff, contractors, shift workers, security staff and facilities and cleaning staff. You can do this by listening and talking to them about their work and how you will manage risks from COVID-19. This should be done in advance of re-opening.
All businesses must consult and involve their workers in this process, where appropriate. This should be through recognised trade union health and safety representatives, or relevant employee safety representatives. For workplaces without union representation, union health and safety representatives will be available upon request to support the development of workplace risk assessments. For businesses wishing to use this service please email email@example.com. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be. This process should be a continuation of an existing process in involving employees in optimising health and safety outcomes.
Employers should consider the following key issues:
- a full risk assessment should be undertaken in consultation with employees, and, where necessary, studio users and building representatives, neighbouring premises where common areas may be shared
- constructively engage with employees and studio users when carrying out a risk assessment
- ensure the result of the risk assessment is visible and communicated to employees and studio users.
- ensure that the actions taken as the result of the assessment do not disproportionately impact those with vulnerabilities and consider how to support those with additional needs to comply with physical distancing.
- the mental health of employees should be factored in to the risk assessment with signposting to employer-led, government and third sector support made available to staff to manage issues such as confrontation, stress and isolation as needed.
Plans to re-open a studio facility should be developed in consultation with relevant building representatives, staff and studio users and updated on an ongoing basis. That planning must be based around risk assessments and safe systems covering all aspects of working in and using studio facilities, including how people travel to and from studios. Fair work principles must also be in place. This will allow studio facilities open while protecting everyone’s health and well-being.
You should produce a restart plan that incorporates your physical distancing and hygiene solutions, and identifies what work is required to be carried out before a restart e. g. one-way systems, 2-metre zones, staff facilities, hand sanitisers and hand washing facilities, and processes for dealing with illness and environmental cleaning. As part of training, provide briefings and inductions into the new ways of working.
The NHS Inform website provides up-to-date information on physical distancing, hand washing and other steps that should be taken to ensure the safety of those working in the studio and those using it.
You should also think about studio user communication and what displays and signage will be needed to ensure studio users are able to comply with your requirements and that any concerns are addressed. Your preparation should also include what actions you will take if studio users do not comply with your requirements.
Where premises have been empty due to lockdown and furlough, thorough safety checks should be conducted on gas and electrical installations, water cooler and ventilation checks, particularly regarding Legionella risks, and pest control checks should be conducted to avoid infestation problems.
These all take time and require resourcing and commitment. These are fundamental steps and their importance must not be under-estimated.
There is an increased risk of Legionnaire’s Disease when buildings have been out of use, or not running at full capacity. This is because water systems may become stagnant when not in use, increasing the risk of legionella within water supplies. Many public and office buildings have been closed during the COVID-19 crisis, making legionella a legitimate concern as lockdown restrictions are eased.
The Health and Safety Executive have published advice on the risk of Legionella in buildings which are closed or running with reduced occupancy during the COVID-19 crisis. This can be found on the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) website.
Building owners or operators should undertake a health and safety check of buildings, and deep cleaning prior to reopening where necessary, to mitigate risks. More information can be found on the HSE website.
Experience confirms the value of trialling the new way of working before a fuller restart is attempted, so a limited-scale pilot to test systems, find weaknesses and make improvements before a fuller restart is essential.
A risk assessment or adoption of mitigation measures should not be a one-off exercise, rather part of a regular and ongoing dialogue and feedback loop between studio providers, their employees, studio users and trade union or workforce representatives to identify what measures are working, where refinements are possible and any gaps remaining. Reviews of measures and risks should be frequent, with daily assessments of progress initially not unusual. The open and ongoing engagement between studio providers and studio users as well as trade union or workforce representatives should enable adjustments to be made quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage, including potentially tightening workplace restrictions or reducing numbers onsite if the dynamic risk assessments indicate this is necessary.
Studio providers should ensure they have access to skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where they do not have access to these skills in-house, they should explore external support options where needed to put in place appropriate mitigation measures. This could be for example through their trade association, health and safety consultancies or trade union health and safety representatives. All can help companies understand the risks associated with different activities and situations within individual companies and offer the support managers and workers may require.