This guidance emphasises the importance of undertaking robust and regular risk assessments with full input from trade unions or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, as safe as possible.
Service providers should take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of staff and others from coronavirus. This is called a COVID-19 Risk Assessment and is something that organisations are required to do by law. It will help identify the likelihood of transmission within a particular activity / setting and identify measures which can then be implemented to reduce this risk. If you have fewer than five employees you do not have to write anything down. Although it may be helpful to do so.
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.
The information will help you to create a risk assessment that will:
- Identify the risks from coronavirus
- Inform any actions or mitigating measures needed to reduce the risk
It should involve staff in its development and completion, be reviewed regularly to ensure it remains relevant and appropriate
Practical measures which can help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the setting can include: physical distancing, good hand and respiratory hygiene, face coverings, adequate ventilation, and regular environmental cleaning.
Public Health Scotland’s COVID-19 information and guidance for non-health and care settings provides further information on key public health measures which can help to reduce the risk from COVID-19 in non-health care settings.
Consideration should be given within the risk assessment as to whether sector restart might have greater impact on some groups than others depending on social circumstances, health conditions or legally protected characteristics.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Scotland can provide advice on a range of issues such as:
- reasonable adjustments for disabled people and communication with employees on equality issues
- support for pregnant employees or employees on maternity leave
- flexible working for those with caring responsibilities
- how to deal with harassment at work
EHRC have also produced guidance for public sector employers about equality impact assessments and having due regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty and Scottish Specific Duties during the pandemic.’
The risk assessment should cover three distinct aspects.
1. The COVID-19 risk assessment
Service or activity providers must ensure that COVID-19 risk assessments take place for the activity and its location/site.
The assessment should identify activity or situation which increase the risk of viral transmissions. It should then highlight appropriate measures that can be put in place to control those risks for everyone. Mitigations could include, for example, changing the layout in order to maintain physical distancing and improving ventilation.
2. Higher risk groups
Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 shows that some groups of people may be at more risk of being infected and experience great adverse outcomes if infected. Higher-risk groups include older males, those with high body mass index (bmi), and those with health conditions, such as diabetes.
Further information on protecting higher risk groups, including those who are pregnant or considered clinically extremely vulnerable can be accessed here
3. Individual risk assessment
It is important that individuals know what their outcome is likely to be if they contract COVID-19. COVID-Age is a simple to use tool, based on published evidence for the main identified risk factors. It 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 . You can find out more information about the ALAMA COVID-Age tool here: Covid-19 Medical Risk Assessment – Alama
Taking account of higher risk groups an d individual risk assessments will help ensure the activity/setting is as safe as possible for all those involved in its delivery.
Health and safety law requires all employers to assess the risk of returning to work while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing and to put steps in place to manage that risk. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) short guide to working safely during the coronavirus outbreak can help you, including with a Risk Assessment template. (Please see, in particular, working safely during the pandemic).
If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do so. It will be important to make employees/volunteers aware of any new procedures in place, particularly around infection control, increased hygiene procedures and to aid test and protect. Risk is something that must be assessed in all working environments.
Employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety. Consultation should occur, where relevant, with full and part-time staff, contractors and facilities and cleaning staff. This should be done in advance of re-opening. Risk assessments should be communicated to parents and all staff and volunteers.
The HSE has also provided useful information on talking with your workers about working safely during the coronavirus outbreak.
We have provided further guidance on cleaning practices before reopening.
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.
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 shielding category consisted of those at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
People who were shielding should not go back to workplaces unless they cannot work from home. Working from home and working flexibly where possible should remain the best option for people who had been shielding. Employers should support people to safely return to work and ensure they can stringently follow public health guidance around physical distancing and hygiene.
Those who previously had to shield will be kept informed of any relevant health advice if things do change. You can also keep up to date with the most recent Shielding guidance
If those at increased risk cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to maintain physical distancing. Workplace activities should be carefully assessed to identify if they involve an unacceptable level of risk.
A revised individual risk assessment guidance and tool has been developed to help staff and managers consider the specific risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is relevant to all staff, but will be particularly relevant to those who are returning to normal duties after COVID-19 related restrictions, those who are returning to the workplace after working from home or anyone who has a concern about a particular vulnerability to COVID-19.
With regards those who have previously been shielding, we have made some changes to reflect the latest clinical advice on COVID-19. This means that some staff may wish to use the updated version of the tool to determine whether or not their occupational health risk from COVID-19 has changed. Employers and line managers should support staff to do this. This tool does not replace clinical evidence from a GP or medical specialist, where staff have a serious or complex medical condition or Occupational Health Services advice where it has been provided.