Training and compliance
As a minimum we expect:
- training around processes and working environment expectations should be essential for all staff particularly if a businesses is restarting following a period of closure or moving between the levels
- employers to establish measures, agreed with employees, to monitor compliance with relevant regulations and processes put in place to maintain a safe return to production
Every workplace should look and feel substantially different to pre-Covid operations for employees. Physical distancing, ventilation and enhanced hygiene requirements have changed how workplaces operate. Training is essential to build a common understanding of requirements within the new working norm and instil confidence that changes put in place will contribute to a safe working environment. Issues such as exemptions on wearing face coverings, awareness that some customers have unseen disabilities will be important in ensuring fair treatment of customers in these difficult circumstances.
Training methods will need to enable effective delivery of legislative and specific measures and the expectations of staff whilst at work in a way which maintains physical distancing in line with guidance. It is anticipated visual aids will be required as part of training and ongoing guidance and communications with staff to reinforce individual responsibilities in a new normal working environment.
Training is essential as a means to deliver assurance and compliance and as part of building confidence in the workplace that safety is paramount. Employers should put in place, with employee and/or trade union support, robust local arrangements to monitor compliance with operational arrangements. Remedial actions should flow from that monitoring and be augmented by advice, guidance and support from external enforcement authorities.
The co-regulators for health and safety at work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authority Environmental Health services are applying their expertise to ensure people at work are protected and utilising the powers at their disposal under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. HSE is treating COVID-19 as a workplace health issue with regard to the protection of workers from infection. HSE can and will use the Health and Safety Work Act to ensure physical distancing in the workplace in relation to workers.
These actions will be taken under existing health and safety law (HSWA). A framework agreement between Police Scotland and local authorities supports the referral of complaints about lack of reasonable physical distancing at work to the relevant local authority. Local authorities will ensure that those complaints relevant to HSE are referred quickly.
This would, for example, cover employers not taking appropriate action to physically distance or to ensure workers can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for a period specified. The actions enforcement agencies can take include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements or stop certain activities until issues are resolved, or in more extreme cases prosecution.
Employers and employees should always work together to resolve issues. If concerns still cannot be resolved, employees can raise them with HSE or their relevant local authority. A risk assessment or adoption of mitigation measures should not be a one off exercise, rather it should be part of a regular and ongoing dialogue and feedback loop between employers and trade unions or employee representatives to identify what measures are working, where refinements are possible and any gaps remaining. Reviews of measures and risks should be frequent. The ongoing engagement between business and trade unions will enable adjustments to measures to be made to create a safe working environment quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage.
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).
It is important to ensure language is not a barrier when communicating the importance of COVID-19 controls with employees. Simple, clear messaging and images should be used to explain guidelines, taking into consideration employees 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.