United Kingdom

31 October 2020

UK Government provides guidance on working safely, with 5 steps for businesses to consider as they reopen after coronavirus shutdown

As many businesses are soon to reopen again after they have been shut down temporarily due to the coronavirus lockdown in the UK, the government of the United Kingdom provides guidance on how to work safely and comply with legal obligations in terms of health and safety at the workplace. 

Although it is still too early to end the lockdown measures because of the danger of a second peak according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, there are a number of small steps that can be taken as part of a “conditional plan”, depending on a sustained decrease in the numbers of new COVID-19 infections and deaths. Johnson´s roadmap to ease Britain out of the lockdown includes the reopening of a variety of businesses. 

To ensure the safety when starting to work again after the shutdown, the UK government provides a series of guides on their website under the title “Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)”. The guidance has been published on the 11th and updated on the 19th of May, 2020, by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy of the UK government. The eight guides provided cover a range of different types of work and seek to help employers, employees and the self-employed in understanding how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.  

The guidance “5 steps to working safely” contains practical actions for businesses to take in order to work safely when reopening after the shutdown caused by the coronavirus crisis. 

According to the guidance, the 5 main steps to working safely are the following: 

1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment: Before restarting work, the safety of the workplace needs to be ensured. 

2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures: The frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning in the business should be increased. 

3. Help people to work from home: Reasonable steps should be taken by business owners to support people working from home, whenever possible. 

4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible: Businesses should make arrangements like signs or one-way traffic that can help employees with keeping the recommended distance of 2 meters. 

5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk: In case that maintaining the 2m distance is not possible in certain situations, businesses should take alternative steps to manage the transmission risk, for example by keeping the activity time involved short, or using “fixed teams or partnering” to reduce the number of people each person has contact with. 

To view detailed descriptions of the 5 steps to working safely, follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/5-steps-to-working-safely

Apart from the general guide on how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic, concrete guidance is provided for people working in construction and other outdoor work, factories, plants and warehouses, labs and research facilities, offices and contact centres, other people´s homes, restaurants offering takeaway or delivery, shops and branches, and vehicles. 

The UK government indicates that business owners as well as employees should ensure to read all the guides that are relevant to their particular workplace, as each guide contains specific actions for businesses to take based on the mentioned steps. They assure that further guidance will be published as more businesses are able to reopen. 

See the full UK guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

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