Covid-19: Health & Safety Advice For Businesses
Covid-19 has presented an extremely worrying time for businesses, employers and employees. We have been inundated with employers voicing their questions and concerns about safe working – especially for those continuing to work away from home.
The health & safety of people, including employees and workers, remains paramount. Employers must provide employees, workers and anyone who comes into contact with your business with information about the health risks Covid-19 presents as well as the actions you are taking.
RIDDOR Reporting of Covid-19
You must only file a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) 2013 when:
An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to Covid-19. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence A worker has been diagnosed with having Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease. An example of this would be a healthcare professional who is diagnosed with Covid-19 after treating patients with Covid-19 A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to Covid-19. This must be reported as case of disease: biological exposure
You must also report any Covid-19 cases to the Care Quality Commission if you are a a healthcare organisation including care, residential and nursing home.
Social distancing is a key public health measure introduced by PHE (Public Health England) to reduce the spread of infection. Most employers are going to great lengths to ensure social distancing wherever possible. Businesses that can safely stay open and support livelihoods should not be forced to close by misunderstandings about government guidance.
However if it comes to the HSE’s attention that employers are not complying with the relevant PHE guidance (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so), the HSE will take action. This can range from providing specific Covid-19 advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices, including prohibition notices.
Where a person has a genuine health & safety concern which cannot be resolved through speaking with the employer then they should contact the relevant enforcement agency. This can be either the local authority or the HSE.
Essential and Non-Essential Work
With the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, the Government and HSE has not asked any other businesses to close. It’s important that we keep some level of normality through this challenging period.
Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home. Where it is not be possible to work from home you can still travel for work purposes, provided you are not showing Covid-19 symptoms and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating.
Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able, where possible, to follow PHE guidelines on social distancing and hygiene (washing hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds). It’s imperative that you stay up to date and follow government guidance on how to keep your employees safe.
Working From Home With DSE
For those working from home on a long-term basis, the risks associated with using DSE (display screen equipment) must be controlled. We suggest carrying out at-home workstation/DSE assessments.
The risks from working with DSE do not increase when working from home temporarily. If an employee is temporarily working from home then you do not need to carry out an at-home workstation/DSE assessment.
However, if you would like to ensure your team are comfortable and safe when working from home you could always ask them to complete their own basic risk assessment.
Here are some simple steps to reduce the risks from DSE. We recommend that you pass these on to your employees:
Breaking up long spells of DSE work with rest breaks (at least 5 minutes every hour) Avoid awkward, static postures by regularly changing position Get up and move or carry out stretching exercises Avoid eye fatigue by changing focus or blinking from time to time
Some employees may have specialised DSE equipment needs. If this is the case, then as an employer, you need to meet these needs where possible. It could mean that you allow your employees to take specialised equipment home, such as keyboards, mouse and riser. When it comes to larger equipment such as ergonomic chairs or height-adjustable desks then it may be impractical for the employee to take these home with them. We then suggest that you should encourage your employees to try alternative ways of creating a comfortable working environment form home.
Working From Home Health & Safety Considerations
Even if your employees are working from home, as an employer, you still have the same health & safety considerations and responsibilities. Key questions you should think about include:
How will you keep in touch with your employees working from home? How will you look after the mental health of employees working from home? What work will they be carrying out and how long will the work last for? Can the work be carried out safely? If not, how can you make it safe? Do you need to introduce control measures and risk assessments to protect your employees when working from home?
There will always be greater risks for those working from home with no direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong. Keep in touch with those working from home and ensure regular contact to make sure they are healthy and safe.
If contact is poor, workers may feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. This can affect stress levels and mental health.
For more information on ensuring your team remain fit and well throughout the Covid-19 pandemic contact our team of health & safety consultants on 08450 50 40 60.