Operational guide and checklist
Information about improving the workplace environment to protect your workforce.
- safe workplace planning and communications
- enhanced hygiene
- physical distancing
- face coverings
- shift patterns
- dealing with emergencies
- travel to work
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- temperature checks
- Legionella testing
- COVID symptoms within the workplace
- safe home working
- shared accommodation
As a minimum we expect:
- enhanced health and safety measures to be in place upon return to work, including physical distancing guidance and hygiene measures, generally and at bottleneck situations
- the mandatory wearing of face coverings in staff canteens and communal areas by staff members
- safe travel to work arrangements to be considered as part of a risk assessment, with any relevant adjustments adopted
It is vital steps are taken to ensure a safe working environment and related workforce confidence. This is best done through early, regular and ongoing engagement between companies and trade union or workforce representatives. As it will take time to complete the necessary risk assessment, identify the relevant mitigation measures and put those measures in place, the engagement between employers, trade union or workforce representatives should have started well before a planned production restart date (or ramp-up where production of essential goods has continued at less than full capacity).
It is important everyone understands the measures taken to establish the safe working environment as this is likely to have a significant impact on workforce confidence. Being and feeling safe will play an integral role in supporting a recovery in productivity levels.
Enhanced hygiene measures should be a key plank of workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment, including for example:
- sanitiser and hand-washing facilities at key points, including on entry and exit points
- additional sanitiser and handwash facilities around communal areas
- regular cleaning of work equipment and work stations including considering how often and where deep cleans may be required
- minimising the use of touchpoints throughout buildings, including exploring where possible how digital processes or systems may replace the need for face to face discussion
Physical distancing is the other key plank of workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment. Factors companies should have considered include:
- facility layout and signage with clear marking of two metre boundaries around the workplace and workstations and signage which reinforces expectations of employees at relevant points. (As English may not be the first language for everyone onsite companies should consider how best to use visual material to reinforce messages)
- limiting access to parts of the workplace required by an individual to do their job as this will limit the chances for interaction with others
- staggering entry and exit times to prevent bottlenecks arising as people arrive or leave
- staggering break times and adjusting canteen arrangements to reduce opportunities for larger numbers of staff to interact on a face to face basis
- splitting the workforce into specific teams to avoid cross-team contamination and provide a level of operational resilience in case someone in one team develops COVID-19 symptoms
- considering opportunities to introduce additional technology support and systems to assist in managing the safe working practices and in particular physical distancing
Following the First Minister's statement to Parliament on 15 October 2020, regulations were laid to bring the rules on wearing face coverings in workplace canteens into line with rules in restaurants and cafes. From 16 October, anybody in a workplace canteen will have to wear a face covering when they are not seated at a table - for example if they are queueing, or are entering or leaving the canteen or going to the bathroom. From 19 October, face coverings must be worn in other communal areas, defined generally as an area where persons are away from their workspaces and mingle or gather, such as corridors, passageways, stairs, lifts, staff rooms, training rooms, changing rooms, or entrances.
The responsibility for complying with these measures rests with individuals. However, employers are urged to take steps in their workplaces to explain and promote the new regulations. The new rules are a proportionate additional step, which will help employees to keep themselves and their colleagues that bit safer.
It is important to note the difference between face masks and face coverings. Face coverings are not classified as PPE, such as surgical masks, which are used in some settings like hospitals to protect wearers against hazards and risks. Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.
We have issued guidance on the personal use of face coverings, which relates to use of face coverings by members of the public in specific circumstances. This advice is not intended as an infection prevention and control measure for the workplace where there are other health and safety considerations and measures in place, and must not be used an alternative to physical distancing and hygiene controls. Physical distancing, environmental cleaning along with good hand washing and respiratory hygiene, are the most important and effective measures we can all adopt to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The wearing of facial coverings must not be used as an alternative to any of these other precautions. The Scottish Government also encourages use of re-usable, washable face coverings, rather than single use masks.
Companies may develop or implement plans to change shift patterns to both protect the workforce and optimise productive capacity. This could include considering opportunities to reduce the need for travel at peak times and opportunities for flexible working patterns. While this might help boost production it requires proper negotiation with trade union or workforce representatives if it involves a change in employee terms and conditions.
Protocols for dealing with emergencies, evacuations and accidents will be impacted by the need to maintain physical distancing, while individuals who would normally lead or coordinate site responses in such situations may be amongst those working from home. Emergency, evacuation and accident response processes therefore should have been considered to ensure effective arrangements are in place. Everyone onsite should be familiar with new processes.
Health Protection Scotland (HPS) have provided COVID-19 information and guidance for general (non-healthcare) settings, which reiterates that people should not travel if they exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms. The HPS advice and any subsequent safe travelling advice outlined in Transport Scotland's Transition Plan, which sets out guidance on travel and transportation, should be factored into company decisions on returning to work.
All arrangements for those staff who need to travel to work should be reviewed and consideration given to the need for additional measures to ensure these staff are able to maintain physical distancing when using public or private transport and are applying effective hand hygiene before and after journeys. For employees who live a reasonable distance from their workplace, the best and advised option is to walk or cycle.
Employers currently offering staff transport may need to re-schedule trips or offer an enhanced service to facilitate appropriate physical distancing. In light of the requirements, managers should also discuss with staff the need to review other travel arrangements, such as car sharing.
Employees should be encouraged to avoid shared transport but in situations where this is unavoidable:
- encourage arrangements which ensure the number of workers in each vehicle is kept to a minimum, for example by organising more trips with fewer people in each vehicle
- where possible, restrict car sharing to groups of people who use the same work area
- all employees should be advised to wear face coverings in shared vehicles (as required when using public transport)
- vehicles should be well ventilated (i.e. by keeping the windows open), and passengers should face away from each other wherever possible
- all employees should be instructed not to use shared transport if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and should stay at home and follow government guidance on self-isolation. Encourage drivers or designated persons to check employees prior to boarding vehicles to ensure those who have suspected symptoms do not travel.
- shared vehicles, including minibuses, should be cleaned regularly using gloves, with particular emphasis on handles and other areas where passengers may touch surfaces
The HPS guidance also offers advice on the use of PPE, confirming workplaces should use PPE consistent with local policies and in line with measures justified by a risk assessment.
Both the Scottish Government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommend a risk based approach focused on a hierarchy of control which seeks to eliminate risks, combat risks at source, adapt workplaces to individual needs, ensure adequate staff training around processes to manage the risk and then use PPE where required. Where PPE is deemed necessary, an adequate supply and quality must be maintained which is provided free of charge to workers and which must fit properly.
We do not recommend the use of temperature checking employees as a means of testing for COVID-19 due to the low efficacy rate of this method.
Further information about the reliability of temperature checking as a test for COVID-19 can be found on the MHRA website.
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 on the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) website at
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.
The interpretation and use of any guidance should be considered in line with normal protective security operations and practices. Organisations should consult with and involve their security departments in the interpretation and implementation of the guidance. In particular, security should be considered in any revised risk assessment.
Under no circumstances is it advised to remove, or alter, or reduce existing protective security measures without providing clear recommendations (e.g. from the National Technical Authority/police CT specialists) on how to maintain effective protective security.
This should extend to measures not primarily intended to provide a protective security benefit, but nonetheless doing so, for example removal of street furniture that could make moving or queueing pedestrians more vulnerable to vehicle-as-a-weapon attacks. Security staff should remain focused on security duties. Where COVID-19 creates additional staffing requirements, e.g. for queue management employers should ensure additional suitable staff resource is made available. Employers should ensure security staff feel safe, e.g. having access to appropriate PPE and hand-washing facilities, and that they are able and confident to raise any concerns.
Further detailed guidance on managing security risks throughout COVID-19 can found on the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure website and the UK Government website.
The virus is expected to remain in the population for some time, even after lockdown restrictions have been eased and people begin to return to work. This will cause anxiety for people who will also want to understand how any outbreaks in the workplace will be handled. The approach of employers should be consistent with the guidance available on the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect web pages. As part of risk assessments companies should explore with trade union or workforce representatives how to respond should anyone develop symptoms while at work, including whether it is possible to identify any particular parts of the site the individual may have accessed or equipment used while symptomatic. As part of this consideration should be given how best to monitor health of all individuals in a workplace.
Employees have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to overall COVID-19 advice which says people with symptoms should remain at home and self-isolate. Companies and employees should remain in regular communication throughout any period of self-isolation with companies encouraged to work with trade union or workforce representatives to enable individuals to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate.
Home working will be new to many and may have been implemented at pace, without normal health and safety planning to ensure people have suitable working arrangements and equipment. Companies should consider that, and how to best support working from home (for example, provision of laptops, mobile phones, video conferencing services etc.). Read the Health and Safety Executive advice on home working and the Scottish Government guidance to support the continuation of homeworking.
Seasonal and migrant workers may rely on shared, self-catering accommodation for work. While the recommended position is for individual, self-contained accommodation for each employee, this is not always possible. Workers should only share accommodation:
- where it is not practicable for them to commute to and from home
- where separate accommodation is unavailable or impractical
- where assurance to workers and employers has been provided by accommodation providers that risk assessments have been undertaken and appropriate safety measures are in place and workers will comply with physical distancing and health measures
We have developed a checklist to support companies implement this guidance. The actions in the checklist should be fully considered and implemented where possible as part of procedures to ensure a safe workplace. Organisations who wish to increase workforce or public confidence are encouraged to display the checklist to help to communicate actions being implemented or undertaken.
Advanced Manufacturing Policy Team