Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): multi-purpose community facilities - guidance

Published: 21 Dec 2020
Last updated: 30 Apr 2021 - see all updates

Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): multi-purpose community facilities - guidance
Risk assessment

Risk assessments and arrangements for ensuring that risks are managed for reopening a community centre

Staying safe

This document should be used as a guide to inform local decision making. Professional and risk-informed judgements must be used to design your local COVID-19 action plans. Employers, managers, staff and volunteers must be satisfied that it is safe to open and resume service provision for everyone involved. Continued service delivery should be informed by regular review as behaviour requirements, needs or national guidance changes.

Think about the risks

As you go through the process of reopening your community centre by taking reasonable measures to minimise risk of exposure to and spread of coronavirus (including physical distancing, cleaning, hygiene, use of face coverings, collecting contact information) you should consider:

The protection level your local authority area falls into will be the most important factor in determining if you can open safely and what activities you can undertake.

Risk assessment and health and safety considerations

Anyone with control of non-domestic premises (such as a community centre, village or community hall) has legal responsibilities under health and safety law, and must take reasonable measures to ensure the premises, access to it, and any equipment or substances provided are safe for people using it, so far as is reasonably practicable. During the COVID-19 outbreak, duty holders continue to have obligations to comply with health and safety at work legislation and requirements to manage and control workplace risks, including protecting workers and others from the risk of COVID-19 infection in the workplace. Where HSE identifies that appropriate measures are not taken they will consider a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks including the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices. These actions will be taken under existing Health and Safety law.

To help decide which actions to take prior to reopening the building for permitted activity, a COVID-19 risk assessment should be completed, by the building owner/manager taking account of the core guidance on physical distancing and the points set out below. This will be in addition to any general risk assessment that is already in place for the community centre

Those responsible for the physical space or activity in a community centre have responsibility for managing risks arising from their own activities when they have control of premises and should undertake their own risk assessment as well as taking account of any guidance relevant to their specific activity or sector. 

Activity organisers/service managers (when not part of the management of the building) must also take account of the centre’s COVID-19 risk assessments and management systems when devising their own activity risk assessments. The risk assessment for the centre and activity should take account of each other and reviewed regularly to take account of all the services being delivered and the interaction between them.

If you have an outbreak of COVID-19 under RIDDOR - Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013, there is a duty on employers to report some circumstances of COVID-19 to the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE website outlines the circumstances of when the HSE should be informed and provides specific guidance on what constitutes a diagnosis and making a judgement on reasonable evidence of occupational exposure.

Deciding which activities can take place safely in the community centre.

The risk assessment will assist and guide those responsible to make decisions on which activities can be permitted in the community centre. However permitted activities will have their own specific guidance on if and how they can be carried out. If an activity cannot safely follow the advice in the relevant guidance for that activity it should not be undertaken. Individuals responsible for the community centre should make sure that:

  • those running the activity are aware of this guidance and understand the requirements of the regulations relevant to their activity
  • have seen the risk assessment for the community centre setting and made sure that it is workable in relation to their service
  • have undertaken a risk assessment for the activity they plan to undertake within the community centre including the nature of vulnerability as it affects their users

Physical distancing and capacity

Opening community centres for any of the permitted purposes remains subject to physical distancing, cleaning and hygiene safeguards. Read the Scottish Government guidance on staying safe and NHS Inform coronavirus general advice. In general, a distance of 2 metres is specified as the required physical distance in most circumstances and must be followed wherever reasonable to do so. Exceptions are listed in guidance for individual activities, for example for hospitality.

Community centres often provide services for vulnerable people and those with physical or mental disabilities. You should bear in mind that some people – for example those with sight loss, autism, learning disabilities, dementia or other communication or mobility needs – may find physical distancing rules more difficult to follow than others and may not be able to keep 2 metres away from others, such as those relying on a guide dog or another person for guide support.

The advice for people considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and previously shielding or in a ‘Higher-risk group’ is to strictly follow physical distancing guidance. However, they may decide for their wellbeing, to attend a community centre despite the additional risk this poses to them. In this case they and anyone with them should strictly follow the physical distancing guidance.

The size and circumstance of the premises will determine the maximum number of people and the number of activities that can be accommodated while also facilitating physical distancing. In defining the number of people that can reasonably follow 2 metre distancing guidelines, the total floor space to be used for each activity, as well as likely pinch points and busy areas should be taken into account (e.g. entrances, exits) and where possible alternative or one-way routes introduced to prevent the congregation of people in areas of high usage. 

Community centres that are open must also ensure that they admit people into their premises in sufficiently small numbers to maintain physical distancing rules and take steps to ensure that distance can also be maintained by people waiting to enter their premises.

A site risk assessment should determine the maximum capacity of a hall or hire space whilst able to maintain physical distancing according to the relevant guidelines. It should also identify points of high risk in the building (such as entrances, waiting areas etc.) and mitigating actions to address the identified risks. Those managing and using the centre should also consider what changes might be needed to enable safe access to the building. These may include:

  • making use of multiple exit and entry points: to introduce a one-way flow in and out of the premises, with appropriate floor markings or signage. Any changes to entrances, exits and queues should take into account the need to make reasonable adjustments for those who need them, such as disabled people.
  • managing the arrival and departure times of different groups to reduce the pressure at exits and entrances.
  • queue management: the flow of groups in and out of the premises should be carefully controlled to reduce the risk of congestion. It may be necessary to introduce physically distanced queuing systems.

Where a location has multiple rooms which could be in use at the same time the impact of this on moving through corridors, using toilets and other common areas must be taken into account in the risk assessments and planning. This will require those running activities to work together to achieve overall safety.

Responsibilities to staff and volunteers

Those responsible for the premises and the activity should take into account that community centres are also workplaces and be aware of the general guidance for safer workplaces. The government is clear that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe workplace. All workplaces and those responsible for premises are required to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to and the spread of coronavirus by those who have been on the premises.

They also have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety and are afforded the same level of protection as employees and the self-employed. Further advice is available in the Supporting Communities Safely resource which we would encourage you to read alongside this guidance. Advice for volunteers is also available from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) who are co-ordinating a range of information available in the Coronavirus Third Sector Information Hub.

Who should not attend a community centre

Those experiencing coronavirus symptoms which include those listed below should not attend a community centre in any capacity:

The most common symptoms are new:

  • continuous cough
  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

A new continuous cough is where you:

  • have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
  • have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
  • are coughing more than usual

A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.

If someone falls ill at a community centre

If anyone becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 in the community centre, they should be sent home and advised to follow the self-isolation guidance and arrange to be tested.

If they need clinical advice they should go online to NHS 24 (or call 111 if they don’t have internet access). In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. They should not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.

Other people who may have been in contact with the person who has become unwell should wash their hands thoroughly after the interaction, but they do not need to take any other specific action unless they develop symptoms themselves. If they develop symptoms they should follow the self-isolation guidance and arrange to be tested.

The areas used by these individuals should be thoroughly cleaned according to the guidance on environmental decontamination (cleaning and disinfection) after a possible case has left a community centre which can be found in the COVID-19: guidance for non-healthcare settings (Health Protection Scotland).

Cleaning and infection control

Cleaning protocols should be put in place to help reduce COVID-19 transmission in community centres.

COVID-19 is mainly spread between people who are in close contact with one another and by droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread through contact with a surface or object that has the virus on it.

If the setting is used for certain activities, for example childcare, higher levels of cleaning/ infection control will be required.

Objects and surfaces touched frequently, such as chairs, door handles, light switches, sinks and toilets, are particular areas of focus for increased cleaning.

All cleaning should be carried out in line with COVID-19: guidance for non-healthcare settings (Health Protection Scotland).

In deciding what cleaning arrangements to put in place, centre managers should consider:

  • how frequently cleaning should take place based on assessment of risk and use of the building
  • restricting access to certain parts of the building to reduce cleaning requirements
  • removing unnecessary items to reduce the need for cleaning
  • removing hard to clean items such as any soft furnishings
  • providing disinfectant wipes or appropriate alternative to enable community centre users to wipe down the chair/surfaces they have used before leaving the building

Face coverings

There is a legal requirement to wear face coverings in communal areas indoors, with certain exceptions. Any person who enters or remains within an indoor communal area in a workplace must wear a face covering. Detailed guidance is available at public use of face coverings.

Hand hygiene

Practicing good hand hygiene is important. Users of the facilities should have access to soap and water to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or access to hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the building or being in a public area. Handwashing is particularly important after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose before touching any surface. Managers will want to consider:

  • signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, advice to avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available with hand washing following straight afterwards
  • providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations, such as reception areas, in addition to washrooms
  • providing hand drying facilities (paper towels or electrical dryers). Towels and tea towels should not be shared.

The evidence remains clear that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow physical distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly.

Test and Protect

In line with guidance for other venues including the hospitality sector, those responsible for the community centre and service managers delivering permitted services within the centre are asked to keep a temporary register of contact details of all members of public and staff/volunteers accessing the community centre for a period of 21 days from the date of each access for Test and Protect. This is to support contact tracing as part of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system, in the event of an outbreak linked to a particular venue. Cooperation with Test and Protect measures will be crucial to national efforts to suppress the virus and our ability to open up access to community centres in the longer term and ensure that they can continue to operate for those who need them.

Centre managers and service managers should collect the following information and consider withholding access to the centre from anyone who is unwilling to provide it:

a) Staff/volunteers

  • the names of individuals who work or volunteer at the community centre
  • a contact phone number for each member of staff/volunteer
  • the dates and times that individuals are at work/volunteering

b) Members of the public

Read the guidance on collection of customer and visitor details, including information on how to collect, store and securely destroy data and on how information will be shared.

First published: 21 Dec 2020 Last updated: 30 Apr 2021 -