Appendix 3: Information for an IMT
The IMT may consider the following information to inform what control measures are required to manage the risks of COVID-19:
1. The controls which are already in place to minimise COVID-19 risks throughout the workplace
Workplaces should already have implemented control measures for controlling the spread of COVID-19, and in some cases these will have been assessed by relevant regulatory authority. Employers should have a record of their COVID-19 risk management plan based on relevant guidance, detailing the risk assessment, the workplace control measures in place and evidence that these measures are being maintained.
The IMT will also give particular attention to areas outwith the working environment where there may be an increased risk of staff coming into closer contact with one another including:
- means of transport to work (shared transport);
- access/entry areas to the sites;
- communal areas, including:
- Changing rooms;
- Break areas;
- Staff rooms;
- Other shared facilities such as smoking shelters.
2. The staff who may be affected and where they are working on the premises
Where members of the workforce test positive for COVID-19, their location and working pattern will be investigated to assess the potential for more widespread infection. It should not be assumed that an outbreak in a specific part of a workplace means that everyone in the workplace is a contact.
The IMT will consider whether cases are restricted to particular physical areas of the workplace or to those working the same shift. If the outbreak is largely confined to one particular segment of the workforce it may be possible to limit measures to that group. The cohorting of staff by function or area of work will help employers to manage the risks and prevent outbreaks of infection from spreading throughout the business.
Consideration will also need to be given to office based staff and other employees who do not routinely work on the factory/shop floor (as appropriate). This is important both to ensure that COVID-19 control measures are being implemented effectively within the office environment, and that these staff do not compromise any of the controls that are in place to prevent the spread of the virus elsewhere in the premises.
For the reasons outlined above, it is important to ensure that plans of the site, along with accurate information concerning the locations of staff, cohorts/groupings and shift pattern arrangements are made available to the IMT as early as possible during the investigation. This information is essential in enabling the IMT to undertake a risk assessment and determine the appropriate action required.
3. Transmission risk outside work
Consideration will be given as to whether staff could have become infected with the virus in the community rather than the workplace itself. Outbreaks identified in the workplace may be related to transmission and contact between staff outside work. This may include social mixing outside work, shared accommodation, car sharing or alternative types of home-to-work transport. Where evidence suggests that the spread of COVID-19 between staff could have occurred outside work, the solution is unlikely to be closure of the workplace.
Employers have an important role in ensuring staff are aware of the steps they need to take to reduce the risk spreading COVID-19 outside of the working environment and when travelling to and from the workplace. During an outbreak investigation, the IMT will consider the degree to which employees understand these risks and how the employer has communicated them to their staff.
The IMT will also consider the behaviour/actions of the workforce if the premises were to close. For example, if there are large numbers of agency workers affected by the outbreak they may feel the need to seek work elsewhere, resulting in them causing the virus to spread more widely in the community. For this reason, it is important for staff involved in an outbreak to understand the need to self-isolate and are aware of any financial assistance that is available to them during this period. Where staff are not eligible for sick pay, the IMT and HPT can provide advice on the welfare support that is available when a business is required to close as a result of an outbreak of COVID-19 (guidance is available from the Scottish Government website).
4. Potential for COVID-19 to be spread through public contacts and visitors to the workplace
The IMT will assess the extent to which workplaces are accessed by members of the public/visitors to the site, and whether appropriate measures are in place to prevent them from coming into contact with employees. Physical distancing measures and face covering requirements for staff, visitors and the public will be reviewed as part of the risk assessment. Consideration will also be given to the risk assessment and mitigation controls applied by central government/agencies and/or local authority staff who are required to work on site.
5. General hygiene measures
The IMT will review the facilities at the business which enable staff to follow good personal hygiene, including the adequate provision of hand sanitiser, toilets and hand-washing facilities, and regular environmental cleaning. The risk assessment will also take account of the procedures in place to monitor and verify the effectiveness of the cleaning and hygiene procedures.
6. Degree of confidence in the management team of the business
The leadership of the management team for the business is critically important in ensuring control measures are maintained to protect staff from COVID-19 in the workplace. The IMT will consider the extent to which team leaders and managers are engaging with staff on control measures. The degree of confidence is demonstrated by evidence of effective implementation of COVID-19 controls, the pace of action, the level of engagement with the Health Protection Team/ LA and the implementation of recommendations made by the IMT to improve these procedures.
7. Quality and ease of communication with staff
The IMT will consider the methods used by managers to communicate with staff and the frequency of communication. Good communication, training and engagement with staff is an important aspect in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. These should be regular, appropriate and effective. Two-way communication should be encouraged. Such communications should include consideration of members of staff for whom English is not their first language or who have poor literacy.
8. Intelligence from staff
An IMT will interview staff to seek understanding of the extent to which employees are content that measures for controlling the spread of COVID-19 are being maintained and are effective in protecting them from infection. This information can be collected either directly or indirectly through staff representatives or unions, and can be used to support improvements to existing control measures aimed at preventing future outbreaks.