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Spot inspections by HSE to ensure workplaces are Covid-secure

Spot inspections by HSE to ensure workplaces are Covid-secure

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is currently carrying out spot inspections in cities and towns where there are coronavirus outbreaks, to check that businesses are Covid-secure.

An inspection process involves checking that businesses are aware of the guidance, and advising where necessary on improvements needed to ensure the workplace is Covid-secure. Most recently, HSE conducted spot inspections on businesses in Bradford.

Working with other public local and national government authorities, inspectors are currently out and about visiting businesses, putting employers on the spot and checking that they are complying with the latest guidance.

Here are some practical steps that businesses can take to be Covid-secure before spot inspections are carried out by the HSE to ensure workplaces are Covid-secure:

Practical steps

  • Step 1: Carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment
  • Step 2: Develop increased cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures
  • Step 3: Maintain 2m social distancing where possible
  • Step 4: Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.

HSE has been utilising a number of different ways to gather intelligence and reach out to businesses with a combination of site visits, phone calls and through collection of supporting visual evidence.

Some of the most common issues that HSE and local authority inspectors are finding, across the country, include failing to:

  • provide arrangements for monitoring, supervising and maintaining social distancing
  • introduce an adequate cleaning regime — particularly at busy times of the day
  • provide access to welfare facilities to allow employees to frequently wash their hands with warm water and soap.

You have an absolute legal duty to monitor, maintain and review all matters and arrangements of health and safety. By adhering to the Audit requirement and process an Organisation will be able to demonstrate that health and safety is pro-actively managed in accordance with legislative, Insurers and Fire Department requirements.

An Audit will also act as a suitable defence in a court of law, should either Civil or Criminal proceedings be instigated.

Contact us for further information.

Keep Safe!

 

 

Asthma and face coverings — understanding the exemptions!

PPE

Face coverings have become mandatory in some shops and supermarkets in England. In terms of the law, in England, people are required to wear face coverings:

  • on public transport
  • in airports, rail and tram stations, ports, bus and coach stations and terminals
  • in shops and supermarkets
  • at indoor shopping centres
  • in banks, building societies and post offices.

For members of the public, from 8 August the places where you will have to wear a face covering will be expanded to include:

  • funeral directors
  • premises providing professional, legal or financial services
  • cinemas
  • theatres
  • bingo halls
  • concert halls
  • museums, galleries, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, or other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural sites.
  • nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers – other than where necessary to remove for treatments
  • massage parlours
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • place of worship
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • community centres
  • social clubs
  • tattoo and piercing parlours
  • indoor entertainment venues (amusement arcades, funfairs, adventure activities e.g. laser quest, go-karting, escape rooms, heritage sites etc)
  • storage and distribution facilities
  • veterinary services.
  • auction houses

However, people with mental or physical illnesses or disabilities are exempt from the requirements — if wearing a face covering makes it difficult to breathe for example, such as in the case of respiratory conditions like asthma.

Asthma and Face Coverings – Understanding the Exemptions! A downloadable exemption card has been produced for people to show on their phones or elsewhere to explain why they’re not wearing a mask. However, people are not obliged by law to show the card if they are challenged on face masks.

The reason for using face coverings.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) usually spreads by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces, if you touch a surface and then your face without washing your hands first. This is why social distancing, regular hand hygiene, and covering coughs and sneezes is so important in controlling the spread of the virus.

The best available scientific evidence is that, when used correctly, wearing a face covering may reduce the spread of coronavirus droplets in certain circumstances, helping to protect others.

Face coverings are mainly intended to protect others, not the wearer, from coronavirus (COVID-19) they are not a replacement for social distancing and regular hand washing. It is important to follow all the other government advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) including staying safe outside your home. If you have recent onset of any of the most important symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

you and your household must isolate at home: wearing a face covering does not change this.

How to wear a face covering.

A face covering should:

  • cover your nose and mouth while allowing you to breathe comfortably
  • fit comfortably but securely against the side of the face
  • be secured to the head with ties or ear loops
  • be made of a material that you find to be comfortable and breathable, such as cotton
  • ideally include at least two layers of fabric (the World Health Organisation recommends three depending on the fabric used)
  • unless disposable, it should be able to be washed with other items of laundry according to fabric washing instructions and dried without causing the face covering to be damaged

When wearing a face covering you should:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on
  • avoid wearing on your neck or forehead
  • avoid touching the part of the face covering in contact with your mouth and nose, as it could be contaminated with the virus
  • change the face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession (for example, when leaving and entering shops on a high street)

When removing a face covering:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before removing
  • only handle the straps, ties or clips
  • do not give it to someone else to use
  • if single-use, dispose of it carefully in a residual waste bin and do not recycle
  • if reusable, wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric
  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser once removed

Contact us for further information.

Social Distancing in Emergencies

Social Distancing in Emergencies

Social Distancing in Emergencies

The UK Government’s guidance for working safely during Covid-19 states that “in an emergency, for example an accident or fire, people do not have to stay 2m apart if it would be unsafe”.

Covid-19 secure guidelines have the potential to change the fire risk profile of an organisation and the potential issues of workplace configurations during the pandemic will need to be taken into account from a fire safety perspective.

As there is a potential for change to the fire risk profile, organisations will need to review the fire risk assessment to ensure it identifies such changes and analyse the risk from the changes.

Social Distancing in Emergencies. Examples of such changes are:

  • reconfiguration of traffic routes and access/egress points to a one-way system
  • changes in staffing levels and limited “competent persons” to support fire evacuations
  • partial closure of parts of premises that may impact on means of escape
  • fire doors being secured in an open position to prevent handles being touched and increase air ventilation
  • repurposing of premises with occupiers who may be unfamiliar with premises.

The Fire Emergency Plan for the premises will need to be reviewed as part of the fire risk assessment review. Key issues in relation to social distancing are evacuation through means of escape that prevent social distancing, the evacuation of those who require assistance and the assembly point.

It is recognised that social distancing may not be possible during an evacuation due to the configuration of the means of escape. Organisations should not introduce any measures to mitigate this that make evacuation unsafe, for example by delaying evacuation.

A particular challenge may be social distancing where assistance is provided to those who require support to evacuate safely. Any Personal Emergency Egress Plan/s (PEEP) will need to be reviewed. In doing so, the organisation should take into account current official fire safety guidance and the UK Government Covid-19 secure guidelines in relation to those with “protected characteristics”.

Where close contact is necessary, immediate hygiene measures should be adopted for all those involved following the evacuation.

Assembly points

Assembly points assist in the control of occupants who have evacuated as well as enabling on-going communication and roll-call procedures, for example. The organisation should review the use of the assembly point and determine if social distancing can be maintained or whether alternative measures are required.

This could include the use of additional assembly points, marking the ground for social distancing, controlling dispersal, etc.

If you would like to have your fire risk assessment reviewed or have a new one created please contact us.

Stay Safe!

 

Benefits of Online Training – COVID-19

Online training benefits due to COVID-19

Online training

Since the UK lockdown due to COVID-19, classroom-based training has largely halted. Delegates sit indoors in very close proximity for long periods of time. There are additional risks associated with using public transport and mingling at break times. In short, classrooms can be petri dishes. Online training avoids these risks and, according to our beloved principles of prevention, should be considered before options such as distancing or barriers. It is also questionable how many delegates could fit into a venue if they must be physically distant.

There are subjects for which face-to-face training is unavoidable. If online training is an option, it is worth considering the benefits and potential pitfalls.

Online training

In the current climate of home working and skeleton staff in the workplace due to COVID-19, we look at the benefits of online training and the advantages that are offered.  These include:

  • Not incurring or passing on costs relating to travel, venue hire or catering and the administration time organising all this. This can reduce the cost of online training
  • Not incurring printing costs for electronic course materials
  • Training dates are not restricted by room availability
  • Delegates can attend regardless of where they are based, expanding the prospective market for courses. Delegates could find it interesting to attend events with people whom they might otherwise never meet
  • Most delegates log on at home. They turn up fresh and not agitated by the journey
  • Delegates are not delayed by traffic etc. so typically join the session on time
  • Participants are not worrying about getting home and remain focused throughout the session
  • Trainers are not battling a venue’s ventilation or heating controls.
Avoiding the pitfalls of online training

Delivering training online undoubtedly has potential pitfalls such as being let down by, or being unable to use, the technology. The pitfalls can be avoided or managed with some simple steps.

  • Make sure that the office/home has a good, stable internet connection. Use introductions to check everyone is clearly hearing you and each other. Inform the delegates what to do if you or they temporarily or permanently drop out.
  • Get comfortable with using the technology. Watch ‘how to’ videos, run practice sessions and attend online events as a delegate. Many of the ‘how to’ videos will help sort out the basics such as your backdrop, lighting, testing your audio and so on.
  • Amend the material to suit online delivery and the new options available to you.
  • Help delegates get comfortable with the technology. Host the training on simpler and popular platforms, send out a plain English user guide and take delegates through warm up exercises in the course introduction.
  • Cover the new rules of engagement in the introduction. For example, when delegates should be muted or the benefit of raising hands to join a conversation.
  • Delegates need to be physically comfortable. Programme in more regular breaks and provide simple reminders on comfortable DSE use.

Many organisations have little option but to consider online training. Rather than being an undesirable substitute, this approach offers tremendous benefits and could become the new normal regardless of how COVID-19 plays out.

Getting the best from it requires an initial investment of time and effort. As with most things in life, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.

Contact us for your training needs.

Keep Safe!

COVID-19 Risk Assessments

The Government have published guides to help businesses to open and work safely in regards to COVID-19. Some businesses may need more than one of the guides to ensure people are safe.

Looking through the guides they all offer similar solutions. Here we look at the top ten items to consider for your business in relation to the risk assessment.

  • HAND WASHING

We began the COVID-19 crisis light-heartedly washing our hands while singing a double rendition of ‘happy birthday’, but as the virus continues to hit hard, we find that hand hygiene remains front and centre. The science tells us adequate hand washing is effective but also simple, logical and cheap. It is difficult to imagine a reasonable excuse for an employer that fails in this respect.

  • WORKER ENGAGEMENT

While there have long been legal requirements to consult with employees, COVID-19 as a risk has grabbed the attention like few other hazards. The risk assessment reinforces the importance of worker input: ‘make sure you talk to your workers and their representatives to explain the measures you are taking. They can also provide valuable information on how you could control the risks’. Employers ignore this at their peril.

  • SOCIAL DISTANCING DURING COVID-19

Social distancing is becoming an increasingly elastic concept; sometimes two metres, sometimes ‘one metre plus’ and differing throughout the UK. The document reminds employers that local rules may differ which highlights the importance of nationwide organisations remaining abreast of local updates and being agile and responsive to changes at short notice.

  • REMOTE WORKING

Virtually all jobs have changed in some way. Many of our new working practices are no doubt here to stay. There is a hint of this in the new document, which encourages the increased use of online meeting facilities, even when people are working in the same building.

  • VENTILATION

Good ventilation is another basic control measure to reduce the risk. This is reflected in the risk assessment, which suggests propping open non-fire doors to improve air circulation, ushering in another important point: COVID-19 control measures should not adversely impact pre-existing safety regimes. Consider having the company fire risk assessment reviewed in light of these changes.

  • MENTAL WELL BEING

The document takes a huge step forward in identifying the detrimental impact of the pandemic on our collective mental health and well being. While the focus is on planning for those coming back into workplaces, huge numbers are still working from home and the importance of contact, time management and fatigue are among the hazards highlighted.

  • BACK PAIN

Thinking about those remote workers, the assessment also highlights the musculoskeletal disorders risked by lengthy DSE use at home. The HSE maintains that ‘there is no increased risk for people working at home temporarily’ but there is no question that this pandemic is testing the bounds of what ‘temporarily’ really means.

  • SHIELDING WORKERS

The all-encompassing task facing employers is laid bare by the need to identify those within the workforce who are vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable. The suggested control measures include an in house individual assessment of these employees and a discussion to identify what is needed in each case. Consider management and HR (If applicable) reviews.

  • TRAVELLING

Once again we see the attempt to stretch health and safety law beyond its typical boundaries. In identifying occasions when social distancing may be difficult, employers’ control measures are said to include the provision of facilities to keep people from public transport and creating working cohorts of those who already travel to work together.

  • FACE COVERINGS

The very last point, face coverings. These are ‘not required to be worn in the workplace’ but ‘where people choose to wear them you should support them’. The government guidance for those in close contact sectors such as hairdressing now requires the wearing of visors to ‘provide a barrier between the wearer and the client from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing or speaking’. Of course face coverings are also now mandatory on public transport too. Logically there is an acceptance that simple barriers (not PPE) have a part to play in reducing the transmission risk and a more sweeping change in the existing non-committal position feels almost inevitable.

Contact us if you require further information.

Keep safe!

(This blog was correct at time of release)