Here is a link to the latest government guidance to making workplaces safer ‘Covid-19: Working Through This Together’.
Working from Home
The TUC have also produced union rep guidance on this.
The government, in partnership with 15 leading mental and wellbeing health charities and the Healthy Living Centre Alliance, representing 28 local Healthy Living Centres, have developed a virtual wellbeing hub to promote mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Every employer irrespective of the size or nature of their business has a statutory obligation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees as laid down in the Health and Safety at Work Order NI (1978). Also under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations NI (2000) an employer is required to carry out a risk assessment to establish potential risks and ensure that measures are put in place to minimise these risks. Covid-19 presents a risk to everyone but this in no way reduces your employer’s obligation to manage that risk while in the workplace. The HSENI have produced a covid-19 specific risk assessment to help employers.
This should be completed by your employer, and must be carried out in consultation with trade unions and include all measures that your employer will take to limit risks that may occur due to the nature of your work. This document should then be shared with all their employees so that they are aware of all the measures which should be in place.
Employers must consider ways of ensuring that all movement around the premises and between sites supports social distancing. Recommended measures include, one person at a time in lifts, and making entrances, corridors, stairways and aisles 'one-way' to prevent the risk of congestion. Employers must, where appropriate, stagger start/finish times, shift patterns, and lunch, tea and smoking breaks to reduce the number of employees in an area or using entrances/corridors at any given time.
Cleaning and Decontamination
If a person in the workplace tests positive for Covid -19 this guidance should be followed.
There is also evidence to suggest that flushing the toilet with the lid up creates a cloud of spray that can be breathed in and may spread the coronavirus infection. Ensuring the lid is closed would avoid this. See BBC article.
Heating and Cooling Systems
The risk of air conditioning systems spreading coronavirus in the workplace is extremely low. Most types of air conditioning systems can continue to be used as normal. But if a centralised ventilation system that removes and circulates air to different rooms is used it is recommended that recirculation is turned off and fresh air supply is used.
Good ventilation can help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, so focus on improving general ventilation, preferably through fresh air or mechanical systems. See guide produced by HSE on ventilation.
CIBSE (the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers) and REHVA (the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning association) have issued guidance relating to the operation and use of building services in helping to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19. The guidance centres on seeking to supply into buildings as much outside air as reasonably possible.
Legionella Risks Because of Water Stagnation
Employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to identify and control risks associated with legionella. If your building has been closed or had reduced occupancy during the coronavirus outbreak, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of legionnaires’ disease.
The HSENI website has detailed guidance on managing legionella risks during the outbreak and how to protect people when the water system is reinstated or returned to use.
See also guidance produced by HSE managing legionella risks during the outbreak.
If employees have no alternative but to use to use public transport to travel to work, they should be advised to observe social distancing and wear face masks.
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Ensuring Your Workplace Is Covid Secure