Face coverings — implications of the change in rules

Coronavirus has created the most challenging and difficult time for us all

Coronavirus has created the most challenging and difficult time for us all

With the Government confirming that face coverings will no longer be compulsory in shops, hospitality and on public transport in England from 19 July 2021, employers will be asking what this means for them.

From 19 July 2021, there will be a shift by the Government from instructing us all to follow strict rules to a greater emphasis on individuals making their own decisions on what steps they feel they should be taking to keep themselves safe. This shift of responsibility gives employers more flexibility when it comes to deciding whether to require staff to continue wearing face coverings in the workplace but also leaves employers with a difficult decision to make.

The Government will provide guidance on where individuals may still choose to wear a face covering, for example in places where they come into contact with those who are outside of their bubble. However, ultimately, in the workplace the decision will be left to the employer.

What does this mean in practice?

Should employers keep asking employees to wear face coverings at work when the Government guidance changes?

As an employer, your duty of care to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees does not change because the Government states that people no longer have to wear face coverings. When making their decision, employers should consider the nature of the workforce and listen to individual concerns. There are likely to be some employees who will be relieved to not have to wear face coverings; however, as they are worn to protect people around an individual, rather than the wearers themselves, there are also likely to be a number of employees who are concerned about the implications of not wearing one. Furthermore, you may have younger staff who have not had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, or vulnerable/extremely vulnerable staff who are concerned about colleagues not wearing face coverings.

The organisation should review its Covid risk assessments in view of the changes. This will help you decide on which controls, such as the continued use of face coverings, might need to be retained. You can then update your policy on face coverings in the workplace and communicate it to all staff, so employees know where they stand. If you decide to make face coverings mandatory in the workplace, remember that some employees may continue to be exempt.

Alternatively, your policy may be that face coverings are no longer required but staff can wear a face covering if they want to, or that face coverings are required only in certain circumstances, such as meetings over a certain size, etc.

Be prepared that you may receive some resistance from whichever group has not achieved their preferred outcome. Employees should be expected to comply with workplace rules set by the employer. However, to manage any such resistance, listen to individual circumstances and explain how these have been taken into account in your risk assessments.

Bear in mind that it is not just in the actual workplace that employees may be concerned; public transport may be a worry to some employees if others are no longer wearing face coverings, especially at peak travel times.

If we get rid of face coverings in the workplace, what practical things can employers do to alleviate concerns?

There are various measures that you can consider from a HR and health and safety point of view to help make employees feel more comfortable with the transition to a face covering free workplace.

  • Double down on hand sanitiser, hygiene measures and workplace cleanliness.
  • Consider keeping social distancing measures in place even after the removal of the Government’s social distancing guidance.
  • Keep the workplace well ventilated.
  • Continue with regular Covid testing in work.
  • Let employees wear face coverings if they wish to continue.
  • Have a rule in your Face Covering Policy that if an employee would like a colleague to wear a face covering when in close proximity, that they do so.
  • Empower employees to tell colleagues when they are not comfortable with someone being so close to them without a face covering on.
  • Remind employees to be respectful of their colleagues’ wishes; employees can have many reasons, which are not immediately apparent, for being cautious.
  • Do another vaccine awareness drive to increase the number of vaccinated employees.
  • Consider full pay for employees on sick leave with Covid (it is difficult for an employee to prove that they contracted Covid at work but it could alleviate some concerns if employees know that if they do fall ill with the virus (at work or otherwise) that they would not suffer financially).
  • Reconsider any stance on working from home, especially for vulnerable workers, until as much of the workforce as possible is vaccinated, despite the removal of the Government’s working from home guidance.
  • If employees are concerned about using public transport, consider allowing employees to adjust working hours so they can avoid peak travel.

Takeaway points

From 19 July 2021, it will be the employer’s choice whether to require employees to wear face coverings in the workplace or not. This will be a difficult decision for many employers trying to balance the individual circumstances of the workforce.

Whichever route the employer decides to take is likely to meet with some resistance from one group or another. Make sure you listen to employee concerns and redo your workplace coronavirus risk assessment. Review this regularly to ensure your risk control measures are working as expected. Have a clear, reasonable policy and be prepared to justify your approach.

Contact us if you require further information.


Toolbox Talk: Alcohol and Drugs at Work

Why have this talk? Statistics show that alcohol and drug misuse are increasing in the workplace. This talk is to make all employees aware of their responsibilities and understand that alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace can lead to accidents.

What will this talk cover? The effects of alcohol and drugs on your safety and that of others.

Toolbox Talk: Alcohol and Drugs at Work

Toolbox Talk: Alcohol and Drugs at Work


Alcohol is a depressant drug which reduces brain function. This means it does not mix well with work. In high risk industries, alcohol increases the risk of fatal accidents.

If you drink, don’t drive. Many drivers who are killed in road accidents are over the legal alcohol in blood limit.


All drugs can affect your ability to work safely because they can slow down your reaction times, affect your co-ordination making you clumsy, affect your decision making and distort your vision. As a result, the chance of having an accident at work is increased when you are under the influence of drugs.

If you become aware that somebody is on drugs in the workplace, inform your line manager. You may feel it has nothing to do with you but you need to prevent others getting hurt because of their actions.

If you get offered drugs, say no, it is far better to work safely. Drugs and work don’t mix. Don’t let it become a problem for you and if is, get some help.

What to look for?

Some signs of colleagues being under the influence of drugs include watery eyes, dilated pupils, running nose, constant sniffing, tight lips, sores, ulcers, trembling, fatigue and irritability. If you see it, report it.

Questions for employees

  • What effect can alcohol have on you?
  • How long can it take for a pint of beer to clear your system?
  • What effect could drugs have on you and your work colleagues?
  • What would you do if you saw a person taking drugs or you suspect someone is drunk at work?

Do you have any questions for me?

Contact us if you have any questions.


Raising Money For Liam

Weʼre raising £5,000 to To help Liam with his rehabilitation and to reach his full potential – fund activity for private physiotherapy sessions. John Evans is walking up the Wrekin every day in July to raise funds. Walker Health and Safety Services sponsored him for day 9 out of 31!

Crowdfunding to To help Liam with his rehabilitation and to reach his full potential – fund activity such as private physiotherapy sessions. on JustGiving


Liam had just turned 5 when he was diagnosed with burkitts leukaemia in December 2016.

During the chemotherapy, while neutropenic with no immune system, Liam contracted enterovirus in his spinal fluid which caused encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), resulting in a severe acquired brain injury.

Liam is now 9 years old and has been in remission from the leukaemia for 4 years. Unfortunately due to the brain injury Liam is wheelchair dependant, non verbal, tube fed and trying to relearn the skills he once had.


As the human brain isn’t fully developed until 25 years of age, the hope is that with the correct therapy input other parts of Liam’s brain will be able to learn to do the activities that the injured parts of the brain used to do.

Liam has come on so much in so many ways since he first suffered from the brain injury but there is still such a long way to go. Therapy on the NHS is very limited, therefore to help Liam with his rehabilitation and to reach his full potential we also need to fund private physiotherapy sessions.

Contact us if you would like to donate or follow this link, mention your business name to sponsor one of John’s walking days. Crowdfunding to To help Liam with his rehabilitation and to reach his full potential – fund activity such as private physiotherapy sessions. on JustGiving

Thank you.

Toolbox Talk: Health and Safety Policy

Why have this talk?

Part of our legal duties as an employer is to communicate our health and safety policy, while the legal duties for employees is to abide by the policy to ensure the health and safety of everyone.

What will this talk cover? 

The organisation’s policy on health and safety, why it is important and how employees can have an input into the ongoing development of the policy.

Toolbox Talk: Health and Safety Policy

Toolbox Talk: Health and Safety Policy

What is a health and safety policy?
  • An organisation’s health and safety policy sets out how it wants to manage health and safety in the workplace. By law, every organisation must have one.
  • The statement of intent sets objectives to work towards and is usually signed by the head of the organisation.
  • The policy also includes details of who will be responsible for what within the organisation and how the objectives will be achieved: who, what and how.
What does the health and safety policy mean for me?
  • Employees should understand the contents of the policy and follow the guidance and procedures set out by the organisation.
  • By understanding and following the health and safety policy, you help to reduce accidents and incidents at work.
  • As an employee, if you have a doubt or concern about your health and safety in the workplace, you have a legal duty to ask for an explanation from your employer.
  • You should have seen or been told where to find the written health and safety policy on your first day.
Employee consultation
  • Consultation is a two-way process and not just managers/supervisors providing information to you.
  • As an employer we need to listen to and take into account what you say.
  • Inductions, daily briefings and meetings give us a chance to explain what is happening, but we need feedback to ensure action can be taken to continually improve our performance.
Questions for employees
  • From what we have spoken about, what are you likely to see daily that is part of the organisation’s arrangements for managing health and safety?
  • If you wanted to know more about our health and safety policy, where would you find it/who would you ask?
  • How can an understanding of the health and safety policy help you as an employee?
  • When should you ask questions about our health and safety policy?
  • Can you think of any other ways the policy can be communicated to everyone?
  • Why is feedback on our health and safety policy so important?
Do you have any questions for me?

Contact us for further information.


Personal Protective Equipment Toolbox Talk

Accidents can happen on any day. The day they are most likely to happen is the day health and safety have been forgotten. Health and safety can’t have days off!

By starting each day with a quick 5-10 minute toolbox talk, it serves as a reminder about the importance of health and safety at work. It gets peoples minds focused on the hazards and risks they are about to face. It reminds them of what they need to do to stay safe. It starts the day with a positive health and safety attitude.

Informal toolbox talks can often be missed or carried out too infrequently. The benefit of a daily toolbox is that it becomes part of a routine. Part of the working day.

Carried out daily, toolbox talks become part of a habit. A habit that will help the team develop a positive health and safety attitude. A habit that creates a safer work environment.

Growing a positive health and safety culture.

What business doesn’t want a positive health and safety culture? It keeps your workers safe, keeps your business out of trouble, and can save you money. That’s a triple win! So why do some businesses have poor health and safety records? Because growing a positive health and safety culture takes time and effort, and everyone’s involvement.

Your health and safety culture is the values, attitudes, competency and behaviours of everyone in the business. Regular toolbox talks can form part of the health and safety management system to grow your health and safety culture in a positive way.

Why have this talk?

In some instances, dangers arising from hazardous activities can only be controlled using personal protective equipment, known as PPE.

What will this talk cover?

The importance of PPE and how to use it correctly to ensure effective protection.

Personal Protective Equipment Toolbox Talk

Personal Protective Equipment Toolbox Talk

Legal requirements

The legislation requires any employer who identifies it as necessary to supply PPE and ensure that it is used at work wherever the risk to health and safety cannot be controlled in other ways.

What you should know about PPE

PPE is equipment or clothing designed to protect the user from known hazards in the workplace. The most commonly worn items of PPE are safety footwear, gloves, safety glasses or goggles and hi-vis clothing. You might also use helmets, ear protection (for noise), respirators and safety harnesses.

PPE is designed to only protect the user.

All PPE must be worn in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and be in good condition to be fully effective.

Anyone using PPE needs to be aware of why it is needed, when it is to be used, repaired, or replaced. They should also be aware of the limitations of the PPE they use, for example safety gloves can come with different cut levels. A different cut level may be required depending on the risk involved of the task.

What must the employer do?
  • Organise work activities to avoid the use of PPE wherever practical, for example using local exhaust ventilation rather than asking workers to wear respirators.
  • Assess requirements and make sure the PPE selected is suitable for the task.
  • Ensure any necessary PPE fits the wearer and is made to the correct standards.
  • Supply the employee with the PPE and replace defective or lost PPE at no cost.
  • Instruct and train employees in the use of PPE and explain the limitations where necessary.
  • Where more than one type of PPE is used, to make sure they are compatible and can comfortably be used together.
  • Ensure that all PPE is maintained and stored properly.
What must the employee do?
  • Always wear the PPE supplied for the task.
  • Use the PPE in accordance with instructions given.
  • Return any PPE to the storage area after use.
  • Take reasonable care of your PPE.
  • Report any defects or loss to your manager.
Questions for employees
  • Can you name the PPE that is applicable to your workplace and work activities?
  • What should you consider when using multiple items of PPE at any one time?
  • Who has responsibility for the issue, use and maintenance of PPE?

Contact us if you have any questions.