Advice for people on the shielding list about how to keep yourself safe at work
Working from home remains the advice for everyone where possible.
The Chief Medical Officer sent updated advice in March 2021 to people who are on the shielding list about going to work. The advice at all levels is that you should work from home if you can.
Our advice is that if you live or work in an area that’s in Level 4 (now or in the future) and you can’t work from home, you should not go to work. The vaccine offers significant protection against the virus, but we do not yet have evidence of exactly how effective it is for the people on the shielding list. Our advice is to continue to be cautious to help keep yourself safe. We will let you know if this advice changes.
The advice at Level 3 is that you can return to work in the workplace if you can’t work from home as the infection rates will be low enough to greatly reduce your risk of catching coronavirus.
It is essential that employers conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment which will help them to identity measures which can be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace. Please see link to the Joint statement by the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, Health and Safety Executive and local authorities on safer workplaces
Speak to your employer to ensure all appropriate protections are in place.
Safety measures your employer should take
Workplace risk assessments
Employers have a legal duty to make the workplace a safe working environment for all staff. It is the employer’s responsibility to regularly carry out workplace risk assessments and put in place measures to make the workplace as safe as is reasonably practicable to try and minimise the risk to staff including contracting COVID-19.
If you are concerned, you should ask your employer for copies of the risk assessments for your workplace.
Employees also have a responsibility to follow safe working practices.
There’s guidance for employers about carrying out general workplace risk assessments and making the workplace safe.
Individual risk assessments
We also advise that you carry out an individual risk assessment to calculate your individual risk from COVID-19. This can help you to highlight your individual risk to your employer in order to discuss any additional changes needed to make your workplace and duties safe for you, if you cannot work from home. Find advice about individual risk assessments on gov.scot.
If you still feel unsafe after a workplace risk assessment
You should discuss any concerns with your manager or your employer. You can also get further advice from:
- Occupational Health Services (if your employer offers them)
- the Health and Safety representative in your workplace
- HR (your employer’s Human Resources team, if there is one)
- your trade union or professional body
- the Citizens Advice website or the free Citizens Advice Helpline on 0800 028 1456, (Monday to Friday, office hours)
- the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)
Follow the public health advice
FACTS helps us remember the key measures we need to adhere to:
- Face coverings in enclosed spaces
- Avoid crowded places
- Clean hands and surfaces regularly
- Two metre distancing
- Self-isolate and book a test – if you have symptoms
Physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene are the most important and effective things we can all do to prevent the spread of coronavirus and sticking to the FACTS are more important than ever.
Avoid coming within 2 metres of others.
Clean your hands regularly using soap and water or sanitising hand gel. It’s important to do this after touching hard surfaces and common touch points (such as hand rails, key pads or door handles). You should also do this after touching your face covering.
Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. Put used tissues into a bin and wash hands immediately. If you do not have tissues to hand, catch coughs and sneezes in the crook of your elbow.
If indoors ask to be near good ventilation such as by an open window and avoid crowded places, especially indoor spaces, or places where there is little natural ventilation.
Wear a face covering
Face coverings must be worn in any indoor communal area in a workplace where there are no measures in place to keep people separated by either a partition or distance of at least 2 metres.
If employees choose to wear a face covering in the workplace even where there is 2 metre distancing or a partition then they should be supported by employers to do so.
We also advise the use of face coverings outdoors where 2 metre distancing is difficult to maintain, such as at entrances and exits of buildings.
Find more information on face coverings at gov.scot.
You can also look at this video on how to use face coverings properly: a video on best practice.
Safety steps you can take yourself
We have some advice about additional steps you can take to keep yourself safe in the workplace. This has been developed in conjunction with the Faculty of Occupational Medicine. This advice is on top of the protections your employer should put in place. It does not replace your employer’s workplace risk assessments or your individual risk assessments. These are additional things which you could think about.
This advice may also be useful for your family or household members who are also thinking about how to keep safe for you.
Safety steps on your way to and from work
To help protect yourself while travelling, you could:
- drive, walk, or cycle alone, if you can. If you walk or cycle make sure you are at least 2 metres away from the closest person
- avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on travel and transport. If you have no other option, do so only with one person from another household. Sit in the diagonally opposite seat from them. Wear a face covering. Windows in the car should be opened as far as possible taking account of weather conditions to improve ventilation in the space.
- hand sanitise when you enter and exit the vehicle. Use alcohol or disinfectant wipes to wipe down any seats or items that any other person has touched
- wipe down the door handles of your car after touching or sanitise your hands
- our advice at Level 4 is not to use public transport. At other Levels on public transport, sit 2 metres away from the closest person to you wherever possible and wear a face covering. If you need to pass someone closer than 2 metres away, do so as quickly as you can. Sanitise your hands before entry and on exit from transport
- consider how you get from your transport to the front entrance of the workplace. If the entrance is crowded, wait until it’s empty, or clear enough for you to remain 2 metres away from others
- put on a face covering before you enter the building
- your manager should make reasonable adjustments for you to be able to negotiate the rush hour (while maintaining 2 metre distancing). This might mean arriving later or leaving earlier.
Safety steps in the workplace
To help protect yourself at work, you could:
- reduce tasks that could lead to contact with others. For example, save up photocopying jobs and do them in a batch rather than doing multiple trips.
- clean your phone and mobile phone regularly
- ask to work in a space that has natural ventilation (e.g. windows that can open)
- avoid stuffy areas that have no or little fresh air, if other people also use the room. Ceiling and desk fans are safe if there is a fresh air supply, otherwise try to avoid rooms where these are in use as they will just circulate used air. Use blower fan heaters with caution in areas where others also use the room, especially without face coverings
- wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching shared equipment
- if you cannot do this, hand sanitise at regular intervals during the day. You could set an alarm on your phone to remind you of this. For example every 10 minutes if you have touched a lot of things (as you might if you work in retail, hospitality or on a factory line), otherwise every 2 hours is advised.
- ask your manager if you can have your own equipment where possible, so you do not have to share
- keep alcohol gel in your pocket or bag for use at work. Your employer could also provide pump-action or automatically dispensed hand gel at all frequently used ‘touch points’ in the workplace according to their risk assessment.
- work alone if you can, or with as few other people in the room as possible. If there are several people in the room it’s important to try to keep windows open and wear face coverings
- if you are ever in a situation where another person at work (be it a service user or a colleague) is within 2m of you, try to step back, ask them to step back and put on a face covering. Think carefully about when at work this might happen, make a list and use this to help you discuss it with your manager.
Where you should pay extra attention
- if it’s not possible to stay 2 metres from others, point this out to your manager. Wait until the room is empty or do not change there
- change in another area if you can, and clean hands before and after leaving the changing area
- ask about staggering start times or limiting how many people can be in the room
- clean hands before touching any lockers and after use
- wear your face covering at all times in the toilet
- try to use the least frequented facility in the building where possible
- if possible flush with the lid down and immediately wash your hands with soap and water. Warm water is not essential, but soap is
- raise any issues about toilet supplies and cleanliness with your manager
- use paper hand towels to dry your hands or an electric hand dryer
- sanitise your hands after touching the toilet door handles and on exit from the toilets
Staff rooms and break times
- the most important thing to avoid in a break room (or elsewhere) is coming within 2 metres of anyone else
- people must wear a face covering in hospitality premises such as bars, pubs and cafes and restaurants, and canteens, including workplace canteens, but people are exempt from wearing a face covering to eat or drink
- face coverings should be worn in canteens and staff rooms except when seated and eating or drinking, and replaced immediately afterwards. It’s good practice to use your hand sanitiser before you replace your face covering. The virus can spread in canteens and staffrooms because if people are more relaxed, they can tend to stop following the FACTS rules. Particular care should be taken that the measures are followed in these spaces.
- during smoking or vape breaks stay 2 metres away from others at all times and put on your face covering immediately when you’re finished. Never share a cigarette or vape with others
- if possible take a home-made packed lunch and eat it safely in your car or outside while 2 metres away from others
- if you have to use a break room, keep 2 metres between you and others at all times. Watch carefully before you enter the room to make sure maximum room occupancy levels are not already exceeded (or it seems crowded). If they are you should not enter. Raise this with your manager
- seats should be spaced out at 2m distancing. They should not be placed closer than 2 metres from the door, or to shared items such as fridges, kettles, microwaves, sinks or work surfaces. If they are not spaced out, raise this with your manager or someone who is responsible for this.
- choose the seat furthest from these shared items if these areas are busier
- wipe down any shared items before touching. Clean your hands after cleaning and just before eating.
- bring in your own cutlery and crockery, but if this is not possible, wash these in soapy water before use and dry with a clean paper towel. Do not use a tea towel that has been used by others.
- never share food with another person (e.g. shared take away/ shared box of chocolates/shared homemade bakery)
- food prepared in a canteen or dining room is safe to eat if it is not shared with others. Takeaway food or drink should not be handled by any other person before you consume it (unless touch points have been wiped down first).
- you can safely remove your face covering and enjoy your food and drink, but have a face covering at the ready to put on at any point
Safety steps on your way home
To help protect yourself on the way home, you could:
- hand sanitise before entering and leaving your vehicle or other transport
- wash your hands when you get home
You can find more advice about the place or sector where you work at: Coronavirus (COVID-19): creating and maintaining safer workplaces - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Support with mental health and wellbeing
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, book a GP appointment or contact:
- Breathing Space - 0800 83 85 87 (Monday-Thursday: 6pm-2am; Friday-Monday: 6pm-6am)
- Samaritans - 116 123 (every day: 24 hours)
- British Red Cross - 0808 196 3651 (every day: 10am-6pm)
- Scottish Association for Mental Health