September 15, 2020

COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidance Update

Since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been keeping people informed on how businesses and industries should operate in line with changing government guidance. Here is the latest guidance since lockdown measures were tightened again on 14th September.

Last week, the UK reported a significant increase in the rise of cases that match the rate of increase seen in March / April of this year.  This prompted the government to tighten up controls on social gatherings and there are some changes to the rules for certain workplaces too. The government remains keen to ensure the economy continues to recover but is balancing this against the risk of spreading infection. 

Employers now have increased pressure to ensure their workforce is protected.

Last week’s announcements included a scheme to increase the potential for local authority and police enforcement with new fines being announced. This was in addition to a less widely reported push to increase the number of Local Authority Environmental Health Officers, and a new position of COVID-Secure Marshals was announced.  

All steps taken by the government are designed to increase public knowledge and understanding of the requirements, but also increase the likelihood of none-compliance being penalised. Employers now have increased pressure to ensure their workforce is protected.

You can find out more about this and how to protect your employers in our webinar

How Businesses Should Protect Staff and Customershands face space coronavirus health and safety diagram

These are the priority actions to make your business safe during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment and share it with all your staff. This is a key elements of the government’s push to get employees back to working in their normal workplace in some form or another. Many employers will have already completed their risk assessments, however, the change in guidance published last week will require all business, by law, to review their risk assessments and procedures to ensure they take account of the update guidance and new information.
  • Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your visitors to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently. 
  • Ask your visitors to wear face coverings, at least where required to do so by law. That is especially important if your visitors are around people outside of their usual circles, such as in public places.
  • Make sure everyone is following social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that your staff and visitors can follow. 
  • Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times. 
  • Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all staff and contractors for 21 days. From 18 September, this will be enforced in law.  
  • Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a visitor has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating. 

Recommendations for Offices and Indoor Environments

In addition to the list above, there are four more things to be aware for people who work in offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments: 

  • Arrange work spaces to keep staff apart. Consider using barriers to separate people and introduce back-to-back or side-by-side working. 
  • Reduce face-to-face meetings. Encourage calls or video conferences to avoid in-person meetings with external contacts, or colleagues outside someone’s immediate team, wherever possible. 
  • Reduce crowding. Consider how many people can be in each space while remaining socially distant and consider using booking systems for desks or rooms. Reduce the maximum occupancy for lifts. 
  • Communicate and train. Make sure all staff and visitors are kept up to date with the safety measures. 

Additional Considerations for Pubs, Restaurants and Similar Businesses 

Restaurants and hospitality venues do not need to restrict their total occupancy levels to 6 and are still able to host larger numbers in total. The main new criteria for these spaces is that individual groups within the establishment must not exceed 6 (other than single family / household gatherings). In addition, these groups of up to 6 must not mix or form larger groups. Other work settings are unaffected.  

From Monday 14th September, this limit is enforceable in law with the potential for business owners to be fined for allowing breaches. 

From 18 September, it will be mandatory for certain businesses including the hospitality sector to have a system to collect NHS Test and Trace data, and keep this for 21 days.  

The additional requirements for pubs, restaurants and similar businesses to keep customers and staff safe are:

  • Ask customers indoors to remain seated. Provide table service where possible, and discourage customers from standing at the bar.*
  • Keep groups apart. Space out tables, and consider using barriers between groups. Some screens between tables may allow for reduced distancing between tables helping to better manage the number of customers in the venue. 
  • Manage food and drink service safely. Avoid situations where customers need to collect their own drinks, food, cutlery and condiments. During the serving process all possible measures should be taken to avoid direct contact between staff and guests. Consider also removing dinnerware from tables and ensure staff are suitably protected from the risk of handling potentially contaminated items that have been in direct contact with customers’ mouths and hands. 
  • Lower music and other background noise. Prevent shouting, singing and dancing in the venue by making sure music and broadcasts are played at a low volume.  With the return of football behind closed doors, many pubs will be tempted to open with live football on the big screens catering for a football deprived customer base. This perceived need and the requirement to keep to groups of 6 and minimise background noise will require careful consideration, planning and management.  

Note:  The references above are from the English guidance. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own rules which are broadly similar but have slight differences allowing for local variation. In addition, local lockdowns can and will require adaptations to the general country-wide requirements. 

*Although ‘where possible’ may seem to be a term open to interpretation, it is a strict requirement that requires something to be done unless it is not possible to do so. It should not be confused with the term ‘reasonably practicable’ (dating back to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974) which allows for a balance of cost against benefit. The tern ‘where possible’ does not consider costs a reason for not implementing health and safety requirements.

How Can Moorepay Help?

Our team of Health and Safety Professionals have been working with clients since the start of the COVID-19 in February, delivering support to clients in the UK through webinars and blogs. As a customer, you can access our 24/7 H&S advice line and onsite consultancy. 

Onsite consultancy allows our team to fully understand your business requirements and support employers as they adapt the Government Guidelines to suit the requirements of both premises and working procedures. 

If you’d like bespoke advice on this topic, download our free brochure about our COVID-19 consultancy service or see our upcoming webinars. 

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About the author

Philip Barker

About the author

Philip Barker

Philip has worked for Moorepay for over nine years, starting as a Health & Safety Consultant in February 2008 before taking up the position of Consultancy Manager in January 2015. Coming from a retail background, both as a store manager and health & safety professional, he already had a good cross industry experience. Working at Moorepay has provided an opportunity to broaden both knowledge and experience across a wide range of industry sectors. Philip started his health & safety career after a number of years managing retail stores and holds a HNC in Environmental Health Studies, a Diploma in Environmental Policy and a NEBOSH Diploma.

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