Becoming COVID-secure – FAQs

By Fiona Burns
09 Sep 2020

Every organisation has felt the impact of COVID-19. Now that most businesses have returned to normal, the HSE is starting to make spot checks. To avoid significant fines, you’ll need to ensure you’re taking the risks seriously.

You must follow social distancing guidelines and ensure everyone is aware of them. If you work in a sector that requires extra precautions, such as the care industry, employees must have the correct PPE & RPE and know how to use it.

But here’s the catch—compliance is just the start.

You can do everything right and still fall foul of the law. That’s because you need to maintain compliance until measures change. If employees are failing to abide by your workplace standards, then you must deal with this immediately.

In this section we’ll review some of the measures you can use to guarantee safety, and how to deal with problem staff.

Becoming COVID-secure - FAQs

How do I implement social distancing in my workplace?

As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure social distancing is observed in your workplace. Here’s how you do it:

  • Avoid gatherings - make meetings virtual or schedule a telephone call. Where meetings must be face-to-face, give adequate space for social distancing. Ensure only those essential to the meeting are present.
  • Avoid crowding – In communal areas, a build up of people can cause issues. Address this by staggering breaks or changing work patterns.
  • Restrict/limit customers – For businesses where customers on-site is essential, restrict the number of people on your premises. A one in, one out policy is acceptable for small businesses.
  • Avoid physical paperwork – Invoices, delivery notes, even memos. Where possible, you should transfer all of these digitally.
  • Use contactless payment – Use card terminals, phone payments, or pre-payment via online banking.
  • Use stickers – Where possible, use floor stickers to indicate safe distances and direct foot traffic.

How do I limit access and control?

You might want to limit site visitors and contractors for the moment. There are some statutory requirements you still have to meet, however. For example, the HSE have confirmed that there’s no relaxation of the statutory obligation on employers to continue examinations of lifting, pressure and LEV equipment. Also, you should carry out statutory examinations as per the normal requirements.

So how do you fulfill these requirements and still remain COVID-secure? Plan ahead.

Check due dates on any equipment that needs an inspection and arrange dates for them to be carried out. If you do this, you can implement control measures in advance. Such control measures include:

  • Assigning separate entrance and exit points for staff to prevent cross-contamination
  • Enhanced safety measures for inspectors and staff involved with the inspection. These include regular cleaning and disinfection of equipment and use of protective gloves

If you’re a public-facing business, there are other control measures you can implement. Such as:

  • Installing shields/screen at points of regular customer interaction
  • Regular cleaning and disinfecting of protective shields
  • Regulating entry and exit on to the premises
  • Mandatory hand-sanitising and mask-wearing upon entrance
  • Signs/stickers to control foot traffic, and enhanced floor markings

How do I guarantee workplace hygiene?

Hygiene is key to managing the risk of coronavirus. If you are still yet to open, a deep clean of the premises prior to opening is recommended. You may have to perform regular deep cleans, but this is dependent on the nature of the business.

Always communicate hygiene measures to your employees. This helps reinforce a culture of cleanliness and reassure them when they return.

A number of other in-house measures you can take, include:

  • Providing disinfectant sprays/wipes in communal areas and entrances/exits
  • Switching to low-touch or no-touch doors, switches, and other fittings
  • Remove any shared tools and equipment. Ensure staff have the resources they need do their jobs personally
  • Implement a clean desk and self-sanitising policy. Encourage employees to clean their own workspaces and equipment

The two main types of hygiene staff need to keep in mind are:

  1. Respiratory hygiene
  2. Hand hygiene

Respiratory hygiene means ensuring all sneezes, coughs or blow of the nose are caught in tissues and disposed of immediately. Then, employees should wash or sanitise their hands immediately afterwards. Which brings us on to the second type…

Hand hygiene is all about the correct hand-washing technique. The key steps are this:

  1. Wet hands with water
  2. Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces
  3. Rub soap to form a thick lather all over the hand, including between fingers, thumbs, wrists and nails
  4. This should be done for at least 20 seconds
  5. Rinse hands with water
  6. Dry hands with a disposable paper towel

The last point is very important. Wet hands can spread bacteria 1000 times more than dry hands.

How do I enforce my safety measures?

One way to maintain a culture of social distancing is to shift the workplace layout. For offices, this can mean changing desk arrangement and inserting dividers between them. For retail businesses, this means reorganising the shop floor to promote socially distanced traffic. You should revisit and revise any arrangements you make when appropriate.

Provide regular updates on the measures being taken by the business. Sometimes, you can update even if there’s no update. Reminding employees that social distancing still needs observing is vital to them maintaining it.

If you usually provide food on-site, consider stopping this service temporarily. Recommend that employees bring their own food to work where possible. Make sure, in communal areas, hand sanitising stations are clearly displayed. You could even go a step further and provide employees with wipes to clean their desks and a personal hand-sanitiser for each employee.

Finally, keep communication open with your employees. If individuals have concerns—address them. If others are not adhering to social distancing guidelines, have a conversation with them and see if you can find out why. Remind them of their duty under section 7a) of HASAWA 1974) to take reasonable care of their own Health & Safety and that of others and under section 7b) to enable their employer to remain compliant.

If an employee refuses to abide by your measures, you may go down a disciplinary route. However, we’d recommend trying to resolve the situation informally first, unless their behaviour is putting others at risk.

Expert support

If you need further support making your workplace COVID-secure, speak to a Croner health & safety expert today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Fiona Burns

Fiona Burns has practical experience in Health & Safety and Risk Management having worked for major insurer prior to joining Croner.

She has gained extensive helpline experience offering competent advice and timely support to large number of clients, in various industries and at all levels.  Completed the NEBOSH General Certificate, also passed NEBOSH Environmental Diploma Unit A, (IOSH Managing Environmental responsibilities). NEBOSH Fire and Risk Management Certificate, FPA Advance Fire Training, NCRQ Diploma – Distinction currently completing IPD and volunteering for Community project in Atherstone also as a Dementia support worker with CWPT.


Fiona Burns

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