Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): general guidance for safer workplaces

Guidance on safer working during the coronavirus pandemic for businesses and organisations not covered by sectoral guidance, for example general offices.

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9 page DOCX

450.0 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): general guidance for safer workplaces
Risk assessment

9 page DOCX

450.0 kB

COVID-19 risk assessment

Workplace risk assessment for employers

The Scottish Government’s safer workplaces joint statement with Police Scotland, Health and Safety Executive and local authorities makes clear that it is essential that all employers carry out a workplace COVID-19 risk assessment.

The HSE document: what to include in your COVID-19 risk assessment  provides a useful template to help you undertake your own COVID-19 risk assessment.

Further advice can be sought from , Occupational Health Services, Health and Safety Professionals, Trade Unions, Infection Prevention Services, or the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

For workplaces without union representation, union health and safety representatives are available upon request to support the development of workplace risk assessments.

Regularly reviewing workplace risk assessments

Workplace risk assessments and mitigation measures should be part of frequent, ongoing dialogue between organisations and trade union or workforce representatives. Dialogue should identify what measures are working/ not working, where refinements are possible and identify any remaining gaps. Mitigation measures should be implemented as soon as they are identified.

This process incorporates an equality, human rights and risk-based approach which can be followed to help protect the health and safety of workers and others and ensure the longer-term economic viability of organisations. It requires all staff to be fully engaged in this process, through trade union or workforce representatives

Daily assessments of progress may be necessary with adjustments  being made quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage. This may include tightening of workplace restrictions or reducing the number of people on site if risk assessments show this is required.

The Health and Safety Executive’s Talking with your workers about preventing coronavirus explains how you can discuss with staff the best ways to prevent COVID-19 in your workplace.

Using expertise

Organisations should ensure their Health and Safety professionals and representatives have the skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where organisations and their workforce do not have access to these skills in-house, they should explore external support options through for example trade associations, health and safety consultancies, expert equalities organisations or trade union health and safety representatives.

Understand your individual occupational risk

Employers and employees in all sectors are encouraged to use the Individual Occupational Risk Assessment Guidance to  support shared understanding of the workplace and individual risks, with the aim of reaching an agreement about how the workplace can be made safer.

This guidance is relevant for all staff, but might be particularly relevant for those staff who are returning to work, those who have an underlying health condition but are not on the shielding list, or are anxious about risks in the workplace Some groups of people face increased risk of being infected by COVID-19 and experience greater outcome when infected . Individual risk assessment will outline additional mitigation measures which employers can put in place to further reduce this higher risk.

Supporting workers in higher-risk groups

The Individual Occupational Risk Assessment guidance, includes a  simple to use tool, based on published evidence for the main identified risk factors. The COVID-Age tool works by translating the risks according to age, ethnicity, gender, BMI, and health conditions into years which are added to an individual’s age. This allows for the calculation of a person’s “COVID-Age” and which vulnerability risk category they fall into if they catch the virus – low, moderate, high or very high.

Further information on protecting higher risk groups, including those who are pregnant or considered clinically extremely vulnerable can be accessed here:

Regularly reviewing individual risk assessments

Reviews of mitigation measures to address the risks should be frequent. By frequent we mean when required or when anything changes about the workplace, the activity or those involved, this could be daily in some circumstances . Mitigation measures should be implemented as soon as they are identified. HSE has an example COVID-19 risk assessment that provides a general framework for all business sectors. Healthy Working Lives has also published risk assessment advice .

Ongoing dialogue will allow adjustments to be made quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage such  as tightening of workplace restrictions or reducing the number of people on site if risk assessments show this is required.

It is important to keep up to date with  COVID-19 Protection Levels both relevant to the business and residence of employees.

Planning and preparation

Plans to re-open a workplace should be developed in consultation with the workforce and updated on an ongoing basis. Organisations should make every reasonable effort to facilitate working from home. Planning must be based around risk assessments and safe systems of work, emphasising 

 on mitigation measures may be required after reopening of premises that have been closed due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19 Protection Levels to address the transmissibility of the new variants . This will take time and require resource and commitment from organisations and workers.

Pilots and continuous reviewing

Pilots are a valuable way of testing new ways of working on a small scale. They should be used to:

  • test mitigation measures

  • find strengths and weaknesses

  • make improvements before being rolled out on a larger scale

Staggered start time to address the travel and childcare needs of individual workers should be taken into account by organisations in line with relevant COVID-19 Protection Levels .

Decisions regarding which workers to involve in pilots and a phased restarts should  be carefully considered with a joined involvement of trade unions or workforce representatives. 



First published: 8 Mar 2021 Last updated: 18 Jun 2021 -