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COVID-19 Keeping Safe

Keeping safe is more than just ticking a box

Protection of vulnerable people

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reviewed this guidance following the removal of some restrictions in England. Employers have a legal duty to protect workers from harm.

This guidance advises that employers should make sure the risk to workers who are particularly vulnerable to Coronavirus (COVID-19) are considered and controls put in place to reduce that risk.

It covers supporting workers in higher-risk groups: Those in higher-risk groups include those who:

  • Are older males
  • Have a high body mass index (BMI)
  • Have health conditions such as diabetes
  • Are from some Black, Asian or minority ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds.

There are currently no expectations of additional controls specifically for these groups, says the HSE. However, existing controls identified by a risk assessment, for example, adequate ventilation, good hygiene, and cleaning, must be applied strictly. Employers can support these individuals/groups by ensuring:

  • The importance of individual and wider workforce engagement, buy-in and cooperation is emphasised to ensure controls are applied stringently
  • They have individual discussions with their managers around their particular concerns
  • You explain the controls you will put/already have in place to protect them and other workers
  • You/they discuss the risk management measures you have put in place to minimise transmission to keep them, and others, safe.

Accessing COVID-19 secure precautions

Access to all necessary protections, for example during night shifts, when working remotely or working alone. This might include access to personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks or cleaning materials.

Clinically extremely vulnerable workers

During the pandemic, the government has identified some people as clinically extremely vulnerable (previously described as shielded). These workers are at increased risk of severe illness from Coronavirus.

From the 1st of April 2021, the UK government says that anyone in England who is clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be advised to shield. From the 19th of July 2021, social distancing guidance no longer applies in England and the UK government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can.

Employers are encouraged to talk to any clinically extremely vulnerable workers returning to their workplace, so they can explain the measures being taken to ensure where they are working safely.

Pregnant workers

There is a long-standing requirement for employers to put in place measures to ensure workplace safety where a significant health and safety risk is identified for a new or expectant mother. Some pregnant workers will be at greater risk of severe illness from Coronavirus (e.g. not vaccinated). Employers will need to take this into account in their risk assessment.

Risk assessment

This Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice is up to date following the removal of some restrictions in England. The latest advice on keeping workplaces safe will help you assess the risks and continue to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Employers must protect people from harm. This includes doing a risk assessment to decide what reasonable steps you need to take to protect your workers and others from Coronavirus (COVID-19).

A generic risk assessment is unlikely to be specific or detailed enough. For example, it might not identify adequate ventilation requirements or sufficient cleaning controls for particular areas and circumstances. The risk assessment should reflect the public health regulations and guidelines for the nation you are in.

Workplace testing for COVID-19

ACAS has reviewed its guidance on workplace testing for coronavirus (COVID-19), suggesting that, while there is no law that says staff must be tested for COVID-19 and, in most situations, it is not necessary, some employers might want to bring in testing as part of their workplace policy.

If an employer wants to test staff for COVID-19, they should first talk with either their staff or a recognised trade union or other employee representatives.

Read more on the ACAS website

NOTE: Although we endeavour to keep the guidance up to date, government advice and guidance are ever-changing and as a result, these assessments are subject to change.