What is a Covid-19 Risk Assessment?

image showing coronavirus under microscope with title what is a covid-19 risk assessment

On 19 June, the UK’s coronavirus alert level was downgraded from a level four to level three meaning that there is likely to be a “gradual relaxation of restrictions”. In accordance with the reduced alert levels and the government’s roadmap, many businesses will re-open over the coming weeks and months. What should business owners do to ensure the safety of their workers and customers as we settle into the “new normal”?

Employers have a legal duty to protect their employees, and other visitors to their business, from harm. Assessing risk is a vital element of controlling risks in the workplace and fulfilling this obligation. So, what should a Covid-19 Risk Assessment include?

How to Conduct a Risk Assessment

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets out five steps for completing workplace risk assessments:

  1. Identify hazards
  2. Assess the risks
  3. Control the risks
  4. Record your findings
  5. Review the controls

Consulting frontline workers can prove extremely valuable when identifying risks and planning strategies for mitigating these risks; workers are best placed to highlight areas of potential risk and to suggest practical procedures for addressing these.

Every workplace will have its own set of unique hazards and risk management requirements. It is common for large workplaces to require multiple risk assessments for different work areas and work roles on the same site. Using a generic risk assessment template could increase the chance of something important being missed. A professional and experienced consultancy service can work with you to conduct a Covid-19 risk assessment that is tailored to the specific needs of an individual business.

If you are new to the process of risk assessment have a look at our six part series that looks at the above five steps.  The introductory video to the series is listed below.

 

 Covid-Specific Areas to Consider in the Risk Assessment

A Covid-19 risk assessment is no different from conducting any other risk assessment in terms of the process.  This particular risk assessment should take into consideration several factors relating to exposure of staff and other to Coronavirus and to its potential spread in the workplace:

    • Who might be affected? This could include staff, suppliers, customers and contractors. Are there any vulnerable groups present, such as pregnant workers or those with underlying health conditions?
    • What controls might be required? This will vary depending on the workplace and the risks faced by different employees but could include – mandatory handwashing procedures and the provision of handwashing facilities, frequent cleaning of surfaces and equipment, wearing of face coverings, masks and gloves, social distancing, leaving deliveries on the doorstep etc.
    • What is the process if an employee shows symptoms? Information should be circulated to all employees to ensure that the workforce knows how to identify the symptoms. Employers should develop clear policies and procedures on reporting illness, staying home, returning to work, and getting tested.
    • What support will be provided for the mental well-being of workers? Many employees will be anxious about returning to work, especially if they are in a vulnerable group or have friends and family who fall into this category.
    • What about employees working from home? Many employers will want to bring workers back to work as soon as possible, however, the current guidance is that if workers can work from home, they should do so.  Therefore, the assessment should consider activities that are being undertaken at home and the help provided ensure they can work from home without an increased risk.
    • What about specific guidance for industries or sectors? The government has provided guidance to certain industries/sectors (currently 8) where additional guidance on measures to consider as part of a Covid-19 risk assessment.

The HSE provides a wealth of advice on working safely during the coronavirus outbreak. Employers, workers and self-employed people should be aware of their rights, responsibilities and the steps they must take to adapt business policies and practices when they resume business.

The government website provides the latest guidelines relating to managing Covid-19 in the workplace including a step-by-step guide to re-opening a business safely. Any business that re-opens without completing a satisfactory risk assessment the HSE or the local council has the authority to issue an enforcement notice.

Completing Your Covid-19 Risk Assessment

Businesses are entering a new era that is rapidly evolving. Keeping on top of the latest government regulations and advice is challenging and daunting for many employers. However, ensuring the safety of workers and customers must be paramount for every business owner.

How Can We Help?

There is no requirement to employ the services of a consultant to complete a Coronavirus risk assessment as sufficient guidance and information as seen in this blog is available.  If you do however need help and choose to use our services, Howlett Health and Safety Services has over 30 years of experience in providing occupational health and safety services.

We are working with employers to assist with completing their Covid-19 risk assessment that adheres to the latest government guidelines, thus ensuring a Covid-safe workplace. Contact us for a free quote and a 15-minute consultation today

 

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