As a minimum we expect:
- an equality, human rights and risk based approach to be followed to protect the health and safety of workers and service users and ensure the longer-term economic viability of organisations
- workers to be fully engaged in this process, through trade union or workforce representatives
Organisations have a legal responsibility to protect workers and service users from risk to their health and safety. Employers must take reasonable steps to identify, assess and manage the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down, although it may be helpful to do so.
Carrying out a robust risk assessment with full workforce involvement (through recognised trade union safety representatives or relevant worker safety representatives) will identify practical measures that can be put in place to minimise the spread of the virus.
The Health and Safety Executive’s short guide can help to support employers with what they need to do to comply with the law.
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 organisations also carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. These should be developed with trade union health and safety or workforce representatives.
For workplaces without union representation, union health and safety representatives are available upon request to support the development of workplace risk assessments.
A risk assessment and adoption of mitigation measures should not be a one off exercise. Rather this should be part of a regular and ongoing dialogue and feedback loop between employers and trade union or workforce representatives to identify what measures are working, where refinements are necessary and highlight any gaps remaining.
Reviews of measures and risks should be frequent, with daily assessments of progress initially expected. The open and ongoing engagement between trade union or workforce representatives will enable adjustments to be made quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage. This includes potentially tightening workplace restrictions or reducing numbers onsite if the dynamic risk assessments indicate this is necessary.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has an example COVID-19 risk assessment which provides a general framework for all business sectors. Health Protection Scotland (HPS) have provided additional guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings.
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, together, they should explore external support options. For example through trade associations, health and safety consultancies, expert equalities organisations or trade union health and safety representatives.