How to Carry Out COVID-19 Risk Assessments

Fiona Burns

Fiona Burns

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28 May 2020

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With coronavirus lockdown limitations now lifting, your business may be looking to return employees to work.

And a legal requirement for that to happen involves a workplace risk assessment.

So, in this guide we take you through the health & safety needs ahead. But, don’t forget, you can call us on 01455 858 132 for quick answers to any of your questions.

There’s also our back to work guide for business owners for more advice. But we’ll now take you through the requirements you must complete.

Your duty of care to employees

You have a duty of care to your workforce—that’s outlined in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

And with the upcoming return to work in unprecedented circumstances, you must remain thorough in your approach to ensure staff wellbeing.

The first step is to carry out a risk assessment at your workplace. This’ll determine:

  • Issues that could lead to illness.
  • If an employee could face risk of infection.
  • The steps you can take to control (or remove) risks.

New government guidelines on COVID-19 risk assessments

With lockdown regulations starting to lift, from May 13th 2020 the UK will see more employees returning to work.

This is part of the COVID-19 Secure guidelines the government has introduced. These aim to make the UK workforce’s return to work as safe as possible.

But the first step you need to take, as we mention above, is to perform your risk assessment. But when is it time to carry out your COVID-19 risk assessment? Well, you must complete this before employees can return to work. So, as soon as possible.

However, there are extra requirements as part of the procedure.

A common question from employers right now is, “Do I have to publish risk assessment results for my business?” Yes. The UK government expects businesses with over 50 members of staff to publish the results online.

However, small and medium-sized businesses with fewer employees should also look to publish the results.

Why COVID-19 risk assessments are important for businesses

It’s essential for a number of reasons:

  • It’s a legal requirement for you, as an employer.
  • It’ll determine your capacity to reopen as a business.
  • You’ll understand which employees can return to work.
  • You’ll help to combat the risk of infection at your workplace.
  • You can establish procedures that’ll keep your workforce safe.

But do all businesses have to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments? Yes, you do. Regardless of the number of employees you have, or the size of your business, you must complete one.  

Doing so will help to keep your employees safe. And, ultimately, will help you to understand the scope in which your business can function.

For example, you may need to limit certain activities. Or allow some staff to continue remote working. Your assessment will determine such questions.

How Croner can help with COVID-19 risk assessments

With over 75 years’ experience in health & safety, we can help your business open its doors once again.

Our getting back to work after lockdown guide is a free download you can use to help assess your workplace. And it includes essential details on:

  • Building preparation.
  • Communication requirements with staff.
  • How to implement social distancing.
  • Limiting visitors and contractors.
  • Following new hygiene standards at your business.
  • Ensuring employees follow their hygiene responsibilities.

You can call us for advice on any of your coronavirus-related questions. Speak to an expert for instant support: 01455 858 132

How to carry out COVID-19 risk assessment at work

Unfortunately, due to the nature of coronavirus, you can’t eliminate the risk entirely.

As this is a biological hazard, you need to establish control measures instead. So, you must take precautions that are “reasonably practicable”.

A risk assessment helps to identify sensible measures you can use. And helps you to understand if you’re addressing present threats.

Remember, all other health & safety requirements still apply at your business. But you must now also factor in the danger coronavirus poses.

And you must take “reasonable” steps to protect your employees, customers, supplier, and visitors to your premises.

To help you understand your requirements further, here are practical steps for employers to identify COVID-19 risks:

  • Consider how employees can maintain social distancing at work.
  • Review your list of employees to understand who’s at risk.
  • Make an informed decision on the possibility of an individual becoming infected.
  • Take decisions on how to remove and/or control certain risks.

So, with the above in mind, what should a COVID-19 risk assessment at work cover? Here’s a breakdown of how you go about performing this task:

  • Business hazards: Investigate your business premises to determine the risks working in the environment will pose. Your findings will depend on the type of business you have, with regard to the UK government’s guidelines on social distancing and other safety measures.
  • Potential risks to employees: Once you’ve identified the risks present, you should consider how this affects your members of staff—on an individual basis. This’ll depend on the type of role each, respective, employee has. But you’ll need to make adjustments to suit their needs going ahead.
  • Potential risks to others: You should also review who else may have dealings with your business. This may be delivery drivers, customers, clients, visitors—again, consider how they interact with your business and the risks that poses.
  • The control measures you need: Finally, and importantly, you must review your findings and put in place the steps to manage the situation. Again, this’ll depend on the type of business you have. But social distancing will be a major priority—most businesses will have to take steps to maintain a two-metre rule. You just need to determine in which scenarios around your premises.

Ultimately, your risk assessment will only prove successful if your employees (and your business) adhere to it.

So, once you have the results available—and your plan of action—stick to your procedures.

If you don’t, this could result in an infection spreading. Which may result in your business needing to close its doors again.

So, it’s important to review your assessment regularly. You may need to adjust procedures on a regular basis.

Your coronavirus risk assessment for employees

It’s important to review your employees on an individual basis. This’ll help determine those more at risk of adverse consequences, should they catch the virus.

Remember, where possible the UK government advises employees who can work remotely to do so.

If you’re looking to return as many staff to work as possible, you should consider:

  • Whether an individual has an underlying health condition (if they’re of high or moderate risk, then you must not return them to work).
  • If they require personal protective equipment (PPE) to complete their role.
  • Whether they can continue to complete their job remotely.
  • If it’s essential to your business for the individual to return.

As well as undertaking an assessment as a business, you should encourage employees to have their say—and to voice any concerns.

But they also have responsibilities to follow the instructions you provide them. Such as maintaining social distancing—the two-metre rule. 

Coronavirus return to work risk assessment overview

In summary, you can review the below for the steps you need to take during this time:

  • Carry out your risk assessment.
  • Consider how you can effectively detail your findings to members of staff.
  • Publish your risk assessment findings online—this should include the results of your assessment. Not the actual document.
  • Publish your assessment onto your website.
  • Make adjustments to your workplace where necessary, based off your findings.
  • Determine which employees you can, and can’t, return to work.
  • Train employees where necessary to reduce the risk of infection.

And, remember, you may have to rapidly adjust your working environment as, and when, new government regulations are announced.

Or to react in the event employees begin to show signs of coronavirus.

Expert advice

Don’t worry about your return to work. Industry-leading health & safety advice is only a phone call away: 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.

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Fiona Burns

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