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Work vehicles and COVID measures

Work vehicles and COVID measures

Work vehicles and COVID measures

Work vehicles, like other workplaces are subject to the relevant home nation Government secure guidelines.

In England, employers should be following the hierarchy of risk control measures for vehicles and, in particular, should avoid the sharing of vehicles if possible.

Where vehicles must be shared, social distancing requirements should be applied where this is practicable.

Additional measures that the employer should consider noted in the guidance include:

  • keeping numbers to a minimum required to undertake work activities
  • use of physical screening and increased ventilation
  • sitting side-by-side rather than face-to-face
  • regular cleaning of the vehicle
  • use of fixed pairing systems
  • use of face coverings if employees wish.

Employers implementing a shift or pairing system such as noted should be keeping appropriate records of employees in pairings so as to assist the NHS Test and Trace service where necessary.

Any employee showing symptoms of Covid-19 should clearly not attend work and should arrange for a Covid-19 test to be undertaken.

The employer should at this stage be identifying any person who is deemed to be a close contact so as to support Test and Trace in identifying close contacts. The definition of a close contact includes:

  • a person who has had any face-to-face contact (within one metre) with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, including contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 for more than 15 minutes
  • a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for Covid-19

Where the employee does test positive for Covid-19, those employee contacts falling within the above definitions will be required to self-isolate in accordance with Government guidelines.

It is therefore highly likely, based upon the above definition, that the paired employee may have to self-isolate but ultimately this decision will be made by the Test and Trace service, potentially in consultation with the local public health service.

If you require further information, please contact us.

 

Keeping home-based vulnerable workers safe

Keeping home-based vulnerable workers safe

Keeping home-based vulnerable workers safe

Due to Covid-19 and the various lockdowns, many more workers than previously are either entirely or partly home-based.

Employers must be particularly careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is vulnerable to coronavirus (Covid-19).

When infection rates are particularly high and the country is in a national lockdown, vulnerable workers are advised to work from home if at all possible and not to go to work even if they cannot work from home, i.e. to “shield”. So, if you can support your vulnerable workers in homeworking, what are some of the particular issues to consider?

What is a vulnerable worker?

To summarise, these are the broad categories.

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are those people with specific underlying health conditions that increase the risk of severe illness if they contract Covid-19. A full list of groups falling into this category can be found on GOV.UK.

Clinically vulnerable individuals include those over the age of 70 years and those with certain defined underlying health problems, eg diabetes. Pregnant women are considered to be clinically vulnerable under this definition.

In addition to vulnerable workers, the GOV.UK website also refers to higher-risk groups of employees and these include:

•those with a high body mass index (BMI), ie who are obese

•those who from some Black, Asian or minority ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds

•those with certain health conditions not included under the vulnerable categories

•older males.

While there are currently no official expectations of additional controls for these higher risk workers, it is worth factoring them into the organisation’s risk assessments, especially if the organisation’s own HR policies have a wider definition of what is a vulnerable worker.

Homeworking for vulnerable workers

There are four key areas to consider when looking at homeworking for vulnerable workers.

1.Risk assessment.

2.Understand the worker.

3.Understand the home working environment.

4.Understand internal communication and supervision.

Risk assessment

Do not assume your organisation’s current homeworking risk assessments for vulnerable workers are undertaken and are up to date.

This will be especially true in comparatively low-risk environments such as offices where additional adjustments such as display screen equipment may have been put in place for individual vulnerable workers. In other words, controls may have been applied piecemeal but not necessarily with a risk assessment to define them.

Conversely, has your risk assessment for home-based working actually considered vulnerable workers? If not, then adequate controls may not necessarily have been defined and, so, put into place.

Ensure that your homeworking risk assessment covers the specific requirements of vulnerable workers.

Understand the worker

In making adjustments for vulnerable workers at home, your organisation is not simply meeting legal requirements, it is encouraging better productivity, less staff sickness absence and positive staff relationships.

Understanding the vulnerable worker and seeking their input is key to effective management. For example, an employee who is 70 years of age or older (one of the definitions of a vulnerable worker) might not necessarily have the IT skills to work confidently on their own at home, whereas in the workplace environment where everything has been set up for them and there is on-call IT support they have no particular issue. Another example might be if they are diabetic; some (but not all) individuals suffer periods of depression or anxiety as a side effect of their condition. As such, working on their own from home may not necessarily be a positive environment without regular managerial support and supervision.

Just because an employee is not a vulnerable worker in terms of the definitions currently given by the four nations in the UK, this does not mean that there are not medical or other issues that need to be taken into account with their home-based working needs.

Understand the homeworking environment

Risk assessments often look at what a typical home environment might entail. However, the individual circumstances of a vulnerable worker need to be understood.

For example, the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) may be higher for some vulnerable workers, depending on their condition. This would require specific provision from the employer, eg adapting workstations to be used at home, specific chairs, footstools or, perhaps, enhanced technologies such as lighter laptops and better peripherals appropriate to their particular needs.

For some vulnerable workers, fire safety may be a greater consideration, eg if their vulnerable status is due to a heart condition or serious respiratory illness, then home evacuation might not be as straightforward as for other workers. Discussing the issue with the worker so that they can take steps to improve their own fire safety — moving their office to ground floor level, for example — might be sufficient. If electrical safety is a concern, an employer could provide the optimum items to minimise fire risks within the home’s existing electrical infrastructure. Risks might arise due, for example, to “daisy-chaining“ in the home (multiple extension leads) and/or using incorrect or counterfeit or chargers for electrical devices,

Other controls to consider might include providing an appropriate fire extinguisher and verifying the worker has an appropriate smoke detector in their home.

Understand internal communication and supervision

Discussions between the worker and their manager around their specific concerns is particularly important. Isolation, lack of team involvement and even lack of support from supervisors is a risk for all workers and especially so for some vulnerable workers.

It should be remembered that some managers and supervisors might be vulnerable workers themselves, so the communication processes should be designed to minimise stress, maximise productivity and encourage two-way communication. This is easy to say but an issue that needs to be given visible support by senior management. The risk assessment process should have identified all vulnerable workers and the support available to them should be made clear to their line management.

Review

It is strongly recommend that the risks and controls are regularly reviewed, for all workers. One approach is to consider the following questions.

  • Stop: what is not working?
  • Start: what could be improved and could be implemented?
  • Continue: What is working well and can continue?
  • Change: What is working to a degree, but could be modified slightly to work better?

Often problems with work-life balance or issues with connectivity can be resolved through reasonable adjustments by the employer and supervisors should be empowered to resolve matters quickly.

Contact us for further information.

 

Telford & Wrekin Council Working with the HSE to make sure Businesses are COVID-Secure

Telford & Wrekin Council Working with the HSE to make sure Businesses are COVID-Secure

Telford & Wrekin Council Working with the HSE to make sure Businesses are COVID-Secure

Telford & Wrekin Council is to become the first local authority in the country to work with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in a joint pilot project to check that businesses have COVID19 secure measures in place. We are sure that this will be rolled out to other local authorities soon!

Checks in Stafford Park, Hortonwood and Halesfield will begin from Monday 1st February 2021. Businesses will be given advice and guidance to manage risk and protect workers, customers, and visitors. Where some businesses are found to not be managing this effectively immediate action will be taken. This can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices and stopping certain work practices until they are made safe. Where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.

Being COVID-secure means that businesses need to put adjustments in place to manage the risk and protect workers and others from coronavirus. For further information on how to manage the risk of coronavirus in different business sectors please read the government guidance.

Legal Duty

It is a legal duty for businesses to protect their workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus. Section 7 of the HSWA puts a duty upon employees to take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and of other persons who may be affected by their acts and omissions at work. Your business needs to make the adjustments to become COVID-secure.

Ensure that as a business you have a risk assessment in place, you keep a contact log for people in the business, restrict visitors, remind employees about social distancing particularly at breaktimes. Introduce a cleaning regime, particularly at busy times of the day and keep a note of areas cleaned. Provide hand sanitiser (Anti-bacterial Gel) and remind employees to wash hands regularly.

Latest Information

Public protection updates, visit https://www.telford.gov.uk/info/20713/public_protection_-_covid-19_service_updates 

For the latest information and safer business guidance from the Government, visit www.gov.uk

For HSE’s working safely guidance see https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm

FSB for guidance for small businesses and the self employed. FSB

Check out our HSE / COVID blog here.

Contact us should you require further assistance.

 

Driving for Better Business

Driving for Better Business

Driving for Better Business

Driving for Better Business (DfBB), the Government campaign group which encourages work-related road safety, has shared a list of eight things to think about in 2021 when managing drivers at work.

The latest lockdown means those who are managing drivers and vehicles will have to continue to adapt to the current situation and possibly the following scenarios.

Increased demands: Increased demands on home delivery networks carry a high risk of driver fatigue and companies have a duty to manage this, and not impose unrealistic work schedules.

Driver recruitment: Many firms providing essential services have had to recruit large numbers of drivers to keep up with demand and this may well continue into 2021.

Wellbeing: At a highly confusing and stressful time, sensitive management of people is essential for their continued welfare and to keep the business running efficiently.

Unused vehicles: With many working from home, company cars may be getting little if any use. Where possible, these vehicles need to be regularly started and moved, and when the restrictions start to lift, plans need to be in place to ensure a thorough pre-use check, including tyres and fluids, for example.

Scheduled maintenance and servicing: Ensuring full vehicle roadworthiness at all times, including during increased workloads, is essential.

Modal shifts: Many changes in working and vehicle use are likely to become more permanent. For example, business car mileage is likely to stay lower overall, with more working from home and the use of online meeting software.

Outsourced deliveries: Smaller businesses have been supplementing their reduced incomes by taking on outsourced delivery work from the large courier firms and utilising their own vans for local deliveries. Vehicle operators need to make sure this is managed properly.

Housekeeping: The start of the new year is an opportunity to review fleet housekeeping, ensuring policies, procedures and record keeping as are as effective as possible, and look for opportunities to improve.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Employer’s Duty of Care

whss Employer’s duty of care

Employer’s duty of care

As an employer, you have a certain set of legal responsibilities for your staff. This includes ensuring their wellbeing and health and safety.

What is the duty of care?

An employer’s duty of care encompasses a number of duties. The first, and most obvious, is the main overarching duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all your employees, as far as is “reasonably practicable”, as laid out by the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974.

This includes providing them with a safe and healthy work environment, preventing:

•illness

•injury

•mental ill health.

This duty of care extends to the health, safety and welfare of non-employees as well, eg contractors, visitors, and clients.

The law also requires you to carry out a risk assessment. This will address the hazards in the workplace that may cause harm.

Another duty covers consultation. Legally, you must consult employees or their representatives on the health and safety risks they will face as part of their role, as well as the control measures you are putting into place to keep them safe.

Why is the duty of care important?

First, a safe work environment is a productive work environment. If staff are ill or injured, they will need to take time off work. If employees have concerns regarding their safety or wellbeing, their attitude towards work will be less positive. Actively promoting employee wellbeing will increase employee engagement, increase productivity and significantly improve your retention rate.

Second, an unsafe workplace will suffer major reputational damage, particularly if an incident occurs. If an employee suffers from a work-related illness or accident, you could be held responsible. It may also lead to employment tribunals and even criminal prosecution.

Duty of care is a legal duty. Failure to plan adequately for the health and safety of employees will constitute a breach of this duty and can lead to visits from the Health and Safety Executive and significant fines.

An organisation’s obligations to employees

An employer’s duty of care includes health and safety. You must ensure that suitable safety standards are created with associated safe systems of work. These should cover employees who work from home.

Within this definition is a duty for employee mental wellbeing. That means safeguarding your workers as far as is reasonably practicable from harassment and stress.

Here are some ways you can keep your staff safe, both mentally and physically:

•provide adequate equipment required to complete tasks

•provide health and safety training

•protect staff from discrimination

•have clear lines of communication

•manage and address staff misconduct and grievances.

What is “reasonably practicable”?

An employer only has to comply with the duty of care in so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so. The test of what is reasonably practicable is not merely whether preventive measures were physically possible, or even financially possible. The accused employer must be able to show that it has weighed the degree of risk against how much it would cost the organisation — whether in time or money — to put in place adequate precautions. If it would cost a great deal to reduce the risk by only a fraction, you do not need to do so.

Examples of reasonably practicable actions include the following.

1.An employee informs their manager they’re suffering from pain in their wrists from their keyboard. As an employer, you can then provide them with a specialist keyboard, which can help prevent repetitive strain injury.

2.Another example would be to provide extra access points for those in your business with a disability. This will ensure they don’t struggle to exit and enter your premises and shows that you take their wellbeing seriously.

Contact us if you require further information.