WHO criterion 4: Preventive measures are established in workplaces
WHO criterion 4: Preventive measures are established in workplaces, with physical distancing, handwashing facilities and respiratory etiquette in place, and potentially thermal monitoring.
We have been clear that our economic restart can only be achieved safely and this must be built around three pillars:
- Successful measures to suppress the virus.
- Guidance that promotes Fair and Safe workplaces and sectors.
- The right structures for workplace regulation.
Legislation and Regulation
Employers have a statutory duty under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, which is reserved to the UK Government. The regulatory authority is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE has recently reinterpreted the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to recognise that infection by the SARS-Cov-2 virus is an occupational risk and that employers must undertake a risk assessment for transmission and put in place appropriate mitigations, such as physical distancing. For those not covered by HSE, the enforcing authority is local authority Environmental Health, acting under HSE guidance.
Workplaces are required to achieve physical distancing under the emergency lockdown regulations. Again, the enforcing authority is local authority (Environmental Health and Trading Standards). Local authority officers can take action on either basis, depending on circumstances. Their approach is currently based on Engage, Explain, Encourage, Enforce (the 4 Es), so they seek to obtain compliance voluntarily where they can.
Officials are working with the wider health and safety community in Scotland, and specifically with Healthy Working Lives and Scottish Hazards around extending access to trustworthy information and advice on addressing the COVID-19 threat in the workplace, particularly for SMEs and for employees with concerns. A Healthy Working Lives mentoring network has been set up, providing an opportunity for professionals to provide peer support on a voluntary basis, in both the preparation required before returning to work and how to continue to work safely once returned to work during COVID-19.
The Scottish Government has issued a joint statement with HSE, local authorities and Police Scotland that sets out the importance of safe working, of the role of the regulators and the importance of engaging the workforce and trades unions in undertaking risk assessments and putting in place means of safe working.
Officials are also working with a wide range of stakeholders, including trades unions, Local Authorities and the Health and Safety Executive to consider ways to assure workers and the public that businesses are operating safely in accordance with guidance and regulations. Potential assurance options include building extra capacity within Local Authorities to check businesses are taking steps to implement guidance and regulations.
We have been working with business and industry organisations and trades unions to develop sectoral guidance on safe working. This is in addition to workplace guidance which has been developed by the UK Government and HSE. There are many examples of good practice which are being shared within and across sectors, particularly from essential businesses who have been operating throughout lockdown.
Guidance is being prioritised to support the phasing set out in our Route Map. We have already produced and updated guidance for retail, manufacturing, construction, forestry and environmental management, food and drink, transport, waste and recycling, parts of agriculture, energy, house moving, libraries, small and micro businesses, professional sports, research and labs, creative industries, safer public places, live drive in events, telecommunications, tourism and hospitality. Further guidance is in development for a range of other sectors including finance, technology, contact centres, and culture.
We have updated existing guidance following changes to policy in relation to physical distancing in hospitality, as well as face coverings in retail and transport, to ensure that workplaces are supported to implement these changes.
While many workplaces are re-opening our message remains that organisations should make every reasonable effort to make working from home the default position. We have published guidance to support employers and the self-employed with the continuation of homeworking. It has been developed to complement the suite of COVID-19 related guidance on safer workplaces and can be applied across any sector where homeworking is a feasible option for both workers and businesses.
In March we published a statement of Fair Work Principles, setting out our commitment to ensure that fair work is at the centre of our national response to COVID-19 during lockdown. The development of our guidance to date has been shaped by those principles. On 19 July we issued a new statement with organisations including the Institute of Directors, SCDI, STUC, COSLA and SCVO, underlining the continued collaborative approach that is required between employers, unions, and workers to ensure workplaces can operate safely.
On the basis of the evidence summarised above the assessment is that this Phase 3 criterion continues to be met at this review point.