Covid19 Government Plan B: what employers need to do

As you will almost certainly already be aware, the Government has now enacted their Plan B to address additional risks from Covid19 this winter.

The main change for business is a return to the requirement to “work from home if you can.” This does not mean you have to send everyone home, but it does mean you have to consider whether your staff can physically and technically do their jobs from home, or whether you need them to be at work for a good reason. As before you should discuss this with your employees on an individual basis and no-one should feel unsafe coming to work.

Changes to the rules on the wearing of face coverings will also already be affecting those in retail or buildings to which the public have access. Clients in other types of settings may wish to consider whether they want their staff to wear face coverings in certain circumstances but remember they are not generally considered as a control measure at work outside of a clinical setting.

Changes to the rules on self-isolation, for those exposed as close contacts of people suffering from the new Omicron variant, have also been announced. Daily testing will replace the current requirement to self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status, but no date for this to come into effect has been given yet.

You must continue to consider other control measures and should include specific points on each in your Risk Assessment for Covid19. This includes:

  • Hand hygiene:
    Make sure facilities are provided for staff to wash their hands frequently or that hand sanitiser is provided at locations where hand washing is not practical. Think about providing hand sanitiser at any location where people have to touch items that are frequently touched by others; such as in reception, at shared printers in offices, in the canteen, kitchen or break room, etc. You need to identify
    in your Risk Assessment where these areas are in your workplace and what provision you will make.

  • Cleaning:
    Make sure that you continue to carry out thorough cleaning of the workplace. In particular you must consider how shared items will be cleaned down between users and provide wipes, sprays, etc. so staff can actually do this cleaning. Areas where this applies might include: canteen or break room tables, hot desks, shared machinery, fork lift truck controls, meeting rooms, etc. You need to identify in your Risk Assessment where these areas are in your workplace and what provision you will make.
  • Ventilation:
    Make sure you have identified any areas in your workplace which have poor ventilation. As the colder weather arrives, it will be more difficult to simply tell people to open windows. Even having windows open a few inches or having windows open in a room between users (when a meeting room is unoccupied for example) can make a significant difference. Air conditioning should not be switched to recirculate between different areas in a building. Portable desk fans or ceiling fans which simply move air around should not be used in poorly ventilated areas.

The HSE website has excellent practical advice on all these areas: Coronavirus: latest information and advice – HSE news

If you need help on any aspect of Covid19 risk assessment and control, please contact us.

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