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CORONAVIRUS

 HEALTH AND SAFETY
Q&A FOR UK'S EMPLOYERS
 

As of 18 March 2020, there are over 198,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide with over 7,900 deaths reported. Currently, there are 1,950 confirmed cases in the UK.
As a business owner, you’re probably wondering how the escalating situation surrounding coronavirus is going to affect both your workforce and your workplace.
Southalls experts have gathered some of the most frequently asked questions around the health and safety implications of the spread of coronavirus and put together some practical steps on how to move forward safely and keep your people and premises safe.

H&S best practice 

If you’re wondering about what to consider when it comes to staff who frequently travel for work, here are practical steps you can take to reduce the spread of infection and how to implement a business continuity plan, especially if your business doesn’t already have one.

Shall I ask employees to keep a record of where they’ve been and who they’ve met with?

There’s no need to document employees’ whereabouts to this level of detail if you have remote or lone workers and already have measures in place to record details and locations of where they are working. Give reassurance to employees that they can come forward to raise any concerns about their exposure to the virus whilst at work just as would be the case if they had any other health and safety concern. If a diagnosed case of COVID-19 is reported, Public Health England will carry out contact tracing.

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We have employees who travel abroad for work – what should we do?

The first step is to review travel plans in terms of what is essential and what isn’t especially if it involves travel to an affected area. Reduce the risk as far as you can and consider whether trips need to be cancelled or rescheduled.
For travel that can’t be cancelled or rescheduled, as an employer, you have a duty to assess the risks of travelling and working in other countries, regardless of whether there is an acute situation as is the case with COVID-19, currently. Travel plans should always consider personal safety and security and health guidelines for the destination of travel. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publish up to date travel advice and this should be regularly checked in relation to COVID-19.
Communicate to all your employees regularly regarding travel risks, the consequences of travelling to an ‘at risk’ area and how the company would propose to deal with a period of self-isolation in these circumstances.

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What hygiene and infection control procedures should I have in place?

It would be sensible to review your current hygiene practices to make sure that you are taking all reasonable steps to reduce the risk of people spreading illness at work. This will include reminding staff that they should:
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with people
  • Work from home where possible
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their sleeve (not their hands) when they cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately
  • Wash hands with soap and water often (or sanitiser gel where this is not available)
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth with their hands if they are unclean
You may also want to step up cleaning practices within the business and supply additional hand sanitisers. If you work with people considered to be at heightened risk of COVID-19, consider plans for deep cleaning your premises.
Remember to review and update COSHH assessments if any new hazardous substances are purchased.

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Should we supply masks to employees?

There’s been an increase in the number of people wearing disposable masks around the world, particularly in China where the outbreak began. This leads the public, in general, to wonder if they should be doing the same even if the threat level is lower where they live. In the majority of workplaces, face masks are not necessary. According to Public Health England, there’s little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of a clinical setting such as hospitals.
The best way to reduce the spread of infections like coronavirus is to wash hands frequently with soap and water or use a sanitiser gel, as well as always carrying tissues and using them to catch coughs and sneezes, putting the tissue in a bin.
 
The World Health Organization’s advice on wearing masks states masks are only required if you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19.

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Can the virus survive on a cargo that has arrived from an infected area?

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted from post, packages or parcels.

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An employee/ customer/ supplier with a confirmed case of COVID-19 has recently been in the workplace. What should I do?

Current government advice is that closure of the workplace in these circumstances is not recommended. In cases of confirmed cases of COVID-19, Public Health England’s local protection team will be in contact with the employer to discuss the case, find out who has been in contact with the individual and advise on actions which should be taken including any quarantine arrangements which may be necessary and cleaning of communal areas which may need to be undertaken.

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Do I have to report any employee coronavirus cases under RIDDOR?

The government has announced that coronavirus is now a notifiable disease. This does not mean they are notifiable under RIDDOR, it simply means medical professionals have to report cases of it, so should one of your employees contract COVID-19 you don't have to report it.

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FREE E-GUIDE: Managing Risks To Your Staff and Workplace

You might be wondering what kind of risk such an outbreak might pose to your staff and your business, especially if you or your people travel to and from affected areas. In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the best ways to plan ahead to manage the spread of coronavirus and how to assess the risks of travelling to other countries, along with some of the best working practices around workplace hygiene.
Download our free e-guide to learn more.

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Questions?

The global situation surrounding coronavirus is developing at a rapid pace. It's always best to keep checking the government's official guidance, which is updated daily and frequently under review.

 

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If you still have any questions regarding this pandemic and wish to discuss them further, please contact your health and safety consultant. You can also email us directly at help@southalls.com or call our office on 0345 257 4015.

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