There are many health and Safety processes you will need to put in place to be COVID-19 Secure and comply with the new Coronavirus Health and Safety Regulations.
In times of COVID-19 as a freelancer or small business you may be struggling to know what to do in terms of health and safety to reopen your business and start working again.
As the owner of KomQAT Health & Safety my job is to help small businesses and freelancers such as you keep safe and comply with all health and safety legislation and guidance. I adopt a very simple and common sense approach to Health and Safety by understanding that in the majority of cases the risk cannot be eliminated completely, but can be greatly reduced by proper risk assessment and management.
Although there is not much information about how COVID-19 spreads it has been identified currently that the main transmission routes are by respiratory droplets, by direct contact with infected persons, or by contact with contaminated objects and surfaces.
If you are a small business or self-employed and allowed to re-open or start trading again now, or a small business or self-employed and allowed to re-open or start trading again shortly there are five key points which you must implement as soon as you possibly can. These are:
- Carry out a COVID-19 Risk Assessment
You need to complete a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to understand how your business or you will reduce the risk to all persons of contracting COVID-19 who may be affected by your actions. These persons will include you, your staff, your clients, and anyone else that will potentially come into contact with those people.
I can provide you with a COVID-19 risk assessment template which will help you to identify the types of controls that need to go into the assessment. I am also able to provide you with a procedure note which will tell you in detail how to complete a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in order to comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and also the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.
If you have five or more employees then this risk assessment will need to be formally written down, documented, and shared with all relevant persons. If you employ less than five people then you may find it easier to formally document and write it down as well, but you do not have to.
- Develop cleaning, handwashing, and hygiene procedures
You must make sure that you develop a regular and frequent cleaning regime so that all surfaces are wiped down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as much as possible and you must make sure that you and your staff have access to handwashing facilities and make sure that hand washing is carried out at regular intervals.
Posters should be displayed in the workplace where possible to remind people to wash their hands using the correct washing technique and hand sanitisers should also be provided in each work area if possible. But hand sanitiser should be used no more than three times before washing your hands with soap and water.
- Help people work from home
If staff can work from home then they should be encouraged to do so. But remember that if they do work from home then extra measures must be taken to further protect their health and safety. As an employer you are responsible for the health, safety, and welfare of your staff at home just as if they are present in the workplace. If they are Display Screen Equipment (DSE) users they must carry out a Display Screen Equipment Self-Assessment of their home work station and any recommendations must be carried out by you as an employer. The definition of a DSE user is someone that uses their computer for an hour or more in a day.
They may also become a lone worker if they are at home whereas they may not have been in the workplace and therefore additional controls must be adopted to ensure their safety.
I can provide you with a DSE Self-Assessment template and a lone-worker procedure note if you so require them.
- Maintain two-metres social distancing, where possible
Because one of the main ways in which COVID-19 can be transmitted is by respiratory droplets and by direct contact with other persons it is vitally important that a minimum of two metres is kept between all persons if at all possible. Your risk assessment must identify how you are to achieve this. For example, you could have one person to an office, stagger breaks or stagger start and finish times to minimise the number of persons in any one place at the same time.
- Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk
If it is not possible to maintain a two-metre distance then your risk assessment must state how the risk of transmission will be reduced to as low as possible. First you must determine whether the activity needs to be carried out or not. If it does not, then do not do it! If it does then you could, for example, put perspex screens up at pinch points where people are forced to come together.
Once all the above have been completed and actions put into place then you must train your staff if you have any on all systems in place that are there to protect themselves and others.
I can provide you with a short Toolbox talk on Covid-19 Awareness.
To prove that you comply with the above you will need to display the poster, “Staying Covid-19 Secure in 2020” in a prominent place”.
The above all may look a little bit daunting but with cooperation and a common sense approach which I bring to health and safety in abundance you will be up and running before you know it!