What should I do as a business
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Escalating quarantine measures which have come into force since the beginning of March are aimed at reducing the chances of exposure.
Many businesses considered to be non-essential have been closed, for example, all restaurants and pubs since 16 March. Only businesses specifically exempted from the ban are able to stay open. This is to support social distancing measures.
Public Health England (PHE) continue to recommend that the following general cold and flu precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
- put used tissues in the bin straight away
- wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
However these practices are no longer enough. Businesses unable to put in place social distancing measures and keep their workers at least 2 metres apart, as well as ensure sufficient hygiene practices, must close.
How do these measures apply to the manufacturing and construction sectors
Guidance from Government on how quarantine measures apply to the manufacturing and construction sectors is evolving, and there remain some differences between national and devolved Governments in the UK.
The Government’s key statement during this time has been that ‘construction sites are able to stay open as long as they can do so safely’, and this is reinforced by the recent publication of the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, Our plan to rebuild.
These documents do not radically change the Government strategy for businesses in England nor do they contradict the CLC site operating guidelines which TTF have been recommending to members since mid-April.
As expected, the documents reiterate that formal assessments must be undertaken to determine the COVID19 risk in each aspect of the business although, the fundamental messages about actions required remain the same:
- Anyone who can work from home should continue to do so
- Anyone with symptoms should not return to work, and should instead self-isolate, as should members of their household.
- Maintaining 2m distances throughout the working day
- Guidance and increased facilities for hand washing and hygiene
- Frequent cleaning of shared equipment and contact points
This means in order to commence or continue operations businesses must comply with new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines.
Advice for England
We believe TTF members will find these documents a logical and useful way to help undertake COVID19 risk assessments and demonstrate to staff, customers and if necessary HSE inspectors that the required actions have been put in place throughout the business. TTF members will probably find the most relevant of the documents to be:
(1) Factories, plants and warehouses, (2) Offices and contact centres, (3)Vehicles, and (4) where members have trade or retail counters Shops and branches.
It is important to appreciate that many workers will be anxious about the practicalities and safety of a return to work and so each of the above documents includes sections addressing some of these concerns.
Businesses should also consider the demographic of their specific workforce, their individual circumstances and vulnerabilities. The ACAS website and the TUC’s report on returning to work provide good insight into these considerations.
Advice for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales
Members with branches in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales who will have to wait a little longer before returning to work. HSE the Health and Safety Executive have published two new documents as below.
Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak – a short guide (PDF)
Talking with your workers about working safely during the coronavirus outbreak (PDF)
Given HSE have cross border responsibility for workplace safety it is reasonable to assume any guidance documents from Wales or Scotland coming along later will also use this base advice. Well worth a read for anyone looking to develop national return to work plans.
Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council released a revised guide on Site Operating Procedures (v3) on 15 April to help keep workers safe and minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
Managing risks while travelling
With a quarantine in place, all non-essential travel is no longer allowed. The only time you should be travelling is if you have to for work. Make sure to issue your employees with letters for this purpose, showing they are completing essential work.
Check the UK Government website if you are travelling internationally. Advice is in place for what to do if you have returned in the last 14 days from specified countries or areas and this is being updated on an ongoing basis.
What else should employers do to keep safe
The UK Government is regularly updating information for businesses and employers on what actions they should take in relation to Covid-19. We will also continue to check and update this page for short insights.
We also advise our members to check if they qualify for relief as part of the Government’s ongoing Covid-19 support measures, including loans, support for employees wages, and more, as detailed in the next section.