As a result of the significant risk posed by the new variant of the virus and the new restrictions imposed as a result of mainland Scotland entering Lockdown on 5 January, all employers should revise existing Risk Assessments to ensure that any new or increased risks are identified, recorded and mitigated.
Information about involving the workforce in a risk based approach.
- joint working
- implementation phases
- dynamic assessment
- implementing physical distancing measures across all areas of the business
- utilising expertise
- understanding the risks, building confidence, supporting wellbeing
- information for people who previously had to shield
As a minimum we expect:
- a risk based approach to be followed to protect health and safety of employees and ensure the longer-term economic viability of the business
- employees to be fully engaged in that process, through trade union or workforce representatives
This guidance has been developed in collaboration with industry and trade unions on the basis that both have essential roles to play in planning safe operations for restart. 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. Use of the accompanying operational checklist should aid this process, though the specific circumstances of individual businesses needs to be considered.
Manufacturing businesses and employees are familiar with a risk based approach to managing work and onsite activity. Carrying out a robust risk assessment with full workforce involvement (of recognised trade union safety representatives or relevant employee safety representatives) will identify the practical measures that can be put in place to minimise the spread of the virus at a workplace level. The assessment should include a phased implementation timetable, structured broadly as follows:
Plans to operate a workplace should be developed in consultation with the workforce and updated on an ongoing basis. That planning must be based around risk assessments and safe systems of work - physical distancing, hand washing, and fair work principles and be designed to enable safe operation that allows the business to trade while protecting employee health and well-being.
Physical distancing and hygiene measures require work to be carried out before any restart of business– for example screens, one-way systems, 2- metre zones, canteen re-arrangement, PPE provision, hand sanitisers etc. Then briefings and inductions into the new ways of working. These all take time and require resourcing and commitment.
Experience confirms the value of trialling the new way of working before a fuller restart or scale-up of activity is attempted, so a limited-scale pilot to test systems, find weaknesses and make improvements 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 employers 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 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.
COVID-19 is a new risk that must be incorporated into workplace risk assessments, and employers must therefore carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment if they have not already done so. It is critical that risk assessments cover all parts of the business where there may be a risk of COVID-19 transmission between staff and/or customers.
It is therefore important for all staff to understand that these risks do not apply only to production areas. Careful consideration must also be given to other parts of the workplace where there is scope for people to congregate in groups and physical distancing and hygiene measures will be needed to prevent the virus from spreading.
Employers will need to assess the high risk areas that apply to their own circumstances, taking account of arrangements for transporting staff to the workplace, and communal spaces on site such as toilet facilities, staff and changing rooms, canteens, smoking areas and hygiene stations. These are all areas where there are opportunities for staff to congregate and it is therefore essential for employers to ensure these are considered in the development of plans for controlling the spread of COVID-19.
Staff should also be reminded of the mandatory requirement to wear face coverings in indoor communal areas, including staff canteens and corridors.
Companies should ensure their health and safety professionals and representatives have the skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where companies and their workforce do not have access to these skills in-house they should together explore external support options to put in place appropriate mitigation measures, 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.
Returning workers may have some level of apprehension about how safe they may be and they may require reassurance and demonstration that measures recommended in workplace risk assessments have been put in place to ensure safety. Employers should ensure that communication with staff on COVID-19 risks and measures for preventing transmission are refreshed to take account of any updates to guidance and ensure levels of knowledge and understanding are maintained and that messages are not becoming stale. Updates should be provided at team meetings (weekly is suggested), and reinforced through all available channels for staff communications (e.g. TV screens/digital signage, intranet and newsletters).
Language is a critical factor when communicating with employees the importance of COVID-19 controls. It is important to ensure language is not a barrier. Simple, clear messaging should be used to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for which English may not be their first language and those with protected characteristics such as visual impairments. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available online which can be used to reinforce these messages throughout the workplace. NHS Inform also provides general advice on COVID-19 in a range of translated formats which will help to support employees for whom English is not their first language.
A clear message from employers and trade unions is that building and maintaining employee confidence is vitally important and a challenge that should not be underestimated.
Shielding was paused on 1 August 2020. Since then, advice for those who are at highest risk should they contract coronavirus, including those who were formerly asked to shield, was to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population stringently and with extra care.
While Level 4 restrictions across mainland Scotland increased protection for those who are at most clinical risk, we have considered what additional measures we can advise to reduce the increased risk of transmission of the new strain of coronavirus and further reduce opportunities for infection. One of the key areas we can focus on is the workplace.
We have added additional advice which is specific to going to work from 5 January 2021. Due to what we now know about the higher transmissibility of the new variant, the CMO has written to everyone on the shielding list to advise that that if you cannot work from home, you should not attend work for as long as these additional lockdown protective measures are in place in the area where you live or work.
This additional advice on going to work does not apply to areas that remain at Level 3. If you live or work in a Level 3 area, you can continue to go to work if the workplace can be made safe.
If you are not attending your workplace due to the advice from the Chief Medical Officer, your employer, at their discretion, may be able to furlough you through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has now been extended until April 2021. If you are furloughed, HMRC will give a grant to your employer to cover 80% of your normal salary, and your employer will need to pay National Insurance and pension contributions. I would encourage you to discuss this directly with your employer.
Otherwise you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Universal Credit, or other benefits, during this period. To find out further information about what benefits you may be entitled to, speak to your employer, visit gov.uk for information on benefits or contact Citizens Advice Scotland. Some employers may offer additional financial support for employees who are off work for coronavirus-related reasons which may be set out in your terms and conditions of employment. To find out what financial support you will get, you should contact your employer.
The Job Retention Scheme does not apply if you are self-employed or to any income from self-employment. However, you may qualify for support under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme.
Our additional advice to those who had previously shielded has not changed. Please consider all of the advice in the table and think about what is right for you
Advanced Manufacturing Policy Team