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COVID-19 July Guidance – Offices, Factories, Labs and similar indoor environments

July 22, 2021 | By: Richard Lyons

From July 19th, this guidance is for those people who work in or run offices, factories, plants, warehouses, labs and research facilities and similar indoor environments.
Factories, plants and warehouses include industrial environments such as:

  • manufacturing and chemical plants
  • food and other large processing plants
  • warehouses
  • distribution centres
  • port operations

Labs include indoor research environments such as:

  • engineering centres
  • clean rooms
  • prototyping centres
  • wet labs
  • wind tunnels
  • computer labs
  • simulators
  • material development labs
  • specialist testing rooms

1. Complete a health & safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19
1.  Consider the measures set out in this guidance.
2. Consider reasonable adjustments needed for employees and customers with disabilities.
3. Ensure all employees have seen a copy of the risk assessment.
4. Keep it updated.
5. You do not have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment if you:

  1. Have fewer than 5 workers.
  2. Are self-employed.

2. Provide Adequate Ventilation
1. Ensue that there is a supply of fresh air to indoor spaces where there are people present i.e. natural ventilation through opening windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.
2. Identify any poor ventilated spaces in your premises and take steps to improve fresh air flow.
3. You can use a CO2 monitor to identify if the space is poorly ventilated.
3. Clean More Often
1. Clean surfaces that people touch a lot.
2. Ask employees and customers to use hand sanitiser and to clean their hands frequently.
4. Turn Away People with COVID-19 Symptoms
1. Employees or customers should self-isolate if they or someone in their household has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell.
2. They must also self-isolate if they or a close contact has a positive COVID19 result or if they have been told to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace.
3. If you know that an employee is self-isolating, you must not allow them to come to work.
5. Enable People to Check in at your Venue
1. It is no longer a legal requirement to collect customer contact details but doing so will help the NHS Test and Trace to contact those who may have been exposed for COVID-19.
2. You can enable people to check in to your venue by displaying the NHS QR Code Poster.
3. You do not have to ask people to check in or turn people away if they refuse.
4. If you chose to display a QR code, you should also have a system in place to record contact details for people who want to check in but do not have the app.
6. Communicate and Train
Keep all employees, contractors and visitors up to date on how you are using and updating safety measures.
Enforcing authorities identify employers who do not take action to comply with the relevant law and guidance to control public health risks. When they do, they can take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. The HSE and your local authority are examples of enforcing authorities.
When they identify serious breaches, enforcing authorities can do a number of things:

  • send you a letter.
  • Serve you with an improvement or prohibition notice.
  • Bring a prosecution against you, in cases where they identify significant breaches.

When an enforcing authority issues you with any advice or notices, you should respond rapidly and within their timescales.
7. Managing risk and completing your risk assessment
To carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, you should consider the different ways the virus can spread and put in place measures to reduce the risk of each of these different ways.
To reduce the risk of the virus spreading through aerosols, consider:
Providing adequate ventilation:
Through doors, windows and vents by mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts through a combination of both:

  • Identifying any poorly ventilated spaces and taking steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas. A CO2 monitor could help you assess whether a space is poorly ventilated. If you cannot improve ventilation in poorly ventilated spaces, minimise use of these spaces.
  • Encouraging use of outside space where practical. Identifying any areas of congestion in your venue and considering if any reasonable steps could be taken to avoid this.

To reduce the risk of the virus spreading through droplets, consider:
Putting in place measures to reduce contact between people, particularly between customers and workers. Where practical, measures could include:
1. Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ or ‘cohorting’ (so each person works with only a few others):
2.Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, or using back-to-back or side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face.

  • Screens are only likely to be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close proximity with each other.
  • Encouraging the use of face coverings by workers or customers in enclosed and crowded spaces.

3. To reduce the risk of the virus spreading through contaminated surfaces, consider:
4. Advising customers and workers to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser frequently.
5. Maintaining regular cleaning of surfaces, particularly surfaces that people touch regularly.
6. You should also make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the venue.
7. By law, businesses must not allow a self-isolating worker to come to work.
8. If your building has been unoccupied for a period during any lockdowns, you should read the HSE guidance on Legionella risks.

    • You should share your risk assessment results with your workforce.
    • If possible, consider publishing the results on your website. The government expect all employers with over 50 workers to do so.

8. Workplaces and workstations
Reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 by reducing the number of people workers come into contact with.
Social distancing guidance no longer applies and there are no limits on social contact between people from different households. You can mitigate this risk by reducing the number of people your workers come into contact with.

  1. Reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ or ‘cohorting’ (so each person works with only a few others).
  2. Reviewing layouts, using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, or using back-to-back or side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face (screens are only likely to be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close proximity with each other).

You should take account of those with protected characteristics and discuss with disabled workers what reasonable adjustments can be made to the workplace so they can work safely.
Workstations should be assigned to an individual if possible. Often this will not be possible, and if they need to be shared, there should be ways to clean them between each user.
9. Providing and explaining available guidance
1. To make sure people understand what they need to do to maintain safety, consider:
2. Providing clear guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to people when they arrive. For example, by phone, on the website or by email or with on-site signage and visual aids.
3. Consider the particular needs of those with protected characteristics, such as those who are hearing or visually impaired.
4. Establish host responsibilities related to COVID-19. Provide any necessary training for people who act as hosts for visitors.
5. Review entry and exit routes for visitors and contractors.
6. Coordinating and cooperating with other occupiers if you share facilities with other businesses. This includes landlords and other tenants.
7. Tell visitors they should be prepared to remove face coverings if asked to do so by police officers and employees for identification.
8. Ensure the information you provide to visitors does not compromise their safety.
10.nWorking in other people’s homes
To work safely in other people’s homes
1. If you are going to someone else’s home to work, for example to provide professional services, you should communicate with households before any visits to discuss how the work will be carried out to reduce risk for all parties.
2. You should not carry out work in households that are isolating because one or more family members has symptoms unless you are remedying a direct risk to the safety of the household or the public.
3. When you are working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable, make prior arrangements to avoid any face-to-face contact. You should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.

  • Ask households to leave all internal doors open, to minimise contact with door handles.
  • Identifying busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through. For example, stairs and corridors. Minimise movement within these areas.
  • Taking breaks outside where possible.
  • Limit the number of workers within a confined space.
  • Arrange methods of safely disposing of waste with the householder.
  • Allocate the same worker to the same household each time there is a visit where possible. For example, the same cleaner each time.

12. Before reopening
To make sure any site or location that has been closed or partially operated is clean, and ready to restart.  Before you restart work, you should:
1. Assess all sites, or parts of sites, that have been closed.
2. Review cleaning procedures and provide hand sanitiser.
3. Check if you need to service or adjust ventilation systems.

  • Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment if they draw in a supply of fresh air. See the HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning for more information.
  • Positive pressure systems can operate as normal.
  • Restart and test specialist equipment which may have been unused for longer than usual.

13. Keeping the workplace clean
To keep the workplace clean and prevent the spread of COVID-19 from touching contaminated surfaces.  You should consider:
1. Cleaning work areas and equipment between uses. Use your usual cleaning products.
2. Determining the required cleaning process for expensive equipment that cannot be washed down. Design protection around machines and equipment.
3. Frequently cleaning objects and surfaces that people touch regularly. This includes door handles and keyboards.
4. Make sure there are adequate disposal arrangements for cleaning products.
5. Clearing workspaces and remove waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift.
6. If you are cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19, refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-health care settings.
7. Provide extra non recycling bins for workers and visitors to dispose of single use face coverings and personal protection equipment.
14. Hygiene: handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets
To help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day, you should consider:
1. Using signs and posters to make people aware of how to wash their hands well, that they should wash their hands frequently and that they should not touch their faces. they should cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into their arms if a tissue is not available.
2. Provide regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards.
3. Provide hand sanitiser in multiple accessible locations, as well as washrooms.
4. Consider the needs of people with disabilities.
5. Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets. This is to ensure they are kept clean.
6. Enhancing cleaning for busy areas.
7. Taking special care when cleaning portable toilets.
8. Providing more waste facilities, and more frequent rubbish collection.
9. Providing hand drying facilities. Provide paper towels, continuous roller towels, or electrical dryers.
10. Keeping the facilities well ventilated. For example, by ensuring any mechanical ventilation work effectively and opening windows and vents where possible.
15. Changing rooms and showers
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in customer changing rooms.  The enclosed nature of changing rooms may result in increased risk of COVID-19 spreading.
1. You should manage them carefully to reduce that risk. You should update your risk assessments for each premises where changing rooms are being used.
2. You should ensure adequate ventilation in changing rooms. For example, by ensuring mechanical ventilation works effectively and opening windows and vents where possible. Read the HSE advice on air conditioning and ventilation.
3. Set clear use and cleaning guidance for showers, lockers and changing rooms. This is to ensure they are kept clean and clear of personal items.
4. Enhance cleaning of all facilities regularly during the day and at the end of the day. Use normal cleaning products. Pay attention to frequently hand touched surfaces and consider using disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.
5. Keep the facilities well ventilated. For example, by ensuring any mechanical ventilation works effectively and opening windows and vents where possible.
6. Making hand sanitiser available on entry and exit.
16. Handling goods, merchandise and other materials, and onsite vehicles
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 through contact with objects coming into the workplace, and vehicles at the worksite, you should consider:
1. Put in place cleaning procedures for goods and merchandise entering the site.
2. Put in place cleaning procedures for the parts of shared equipment people touch after each use. Consider all equipment, tools and vehicles. For example, pallet trucks and forklift trucks.
3. Encourage people to wash their hands more often. Put in place more handwashing facilities for workers who handle goods and merchandise. Provide hand sanitiser where this is not practical.
4. Regularly clean vehicles employers may take home.
17. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should keep doing so. Any use of PPE should be determined by an assessment of risks in the workplace.
1. Do not encourage the precautionary use of PPE to protect against COVID-19 unless you are in a clinical setting or responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
2. Unless you are in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that PPE has an extremely limited role in providing extra protection.
3. If your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it.
4. Any PPE provided must fit properly.
18. Face coverings
A face covering is something which safely covers your mouth and nose.  Face coverings are no longer required by law. However, the government expects and recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces.
Where worn correctly, this may reduce the risk of transmission to themselves and others. Be aware that workers may choose to wear a face covering in the workplace.  You should consider:
1. Encouraging the use of face coverings by workers (for example through signage), particularly in indoor areas where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet. This is especially important in enclosed and crowded spaces.
2. When deciding whether you will ask workers or customers to wear a face covering, you would need to consider the reasonable adjustments needed for employees and clients with disabilities.
3. You would also need to consider carefully how this fits with other obligations to employees and customers arising from the law on employment rights, health and safety and equality legislation.
Some people are not able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances. Be aware that face coverings may make it harder to communicate with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.
1. If your workers choose to wear a face covering, you should support them in using face coverings safely. This means telling them:

  • To wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting on face coverings. They should also do this before and after removing them avoid touching their faces or face coverings. Otherwise they could contaminate them with germs from their hands.
  • Change their face coverings if they become damp or they have touched them.
  • Continue to wash their hands regularly.
  • Change or wash their face coverings daily, if the material is washable, to wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it is not washable, to dispose of it carefully in their usual waste

19. Outbreaks in the workplace
To provide guidance if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your workplace.  You will usually need to:
1. Make sure your risk assessment includes an up-to-date plan in case there is a COVID-19 outbreak. This plan should nominate a single point of contact (SPOC) where possible. The SPOC should lead on contacting local Public Health teams.
2. If you become aware of any positive cases of COVID-19 in your workplace, you should inform your Local Authority Public Health Team.
3.You should immediately identify any close workplace contacts and ask them to self-isolate. You should not wait for NHS Test and Trace. This prompt action will help reduce the risk of a workplace outbreak.

  • If your local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak, you will be asked to:
  • Record details of symptomatic Employees.
  • Assist with identifying contacts.
  • Ensure all employment records are up to date.

You will be provided with information about the outbreak management process. This will help you to:

  • Implement control measures.
  • Assist with communications to employees.
  • Reinforce prevention messages.

20. Work-related travel
Cars, accommodation and visits
To keep people safe when they travel between locations.  You need to consider:
1. Encourage people travelling together in any one vehicle to, wherever possible:

  • Use fixed travel partners.
  • Do not sit face-to-face.
  • Open windows.
  • Providing adequate ventilation by switching on ventilation systems that draw in fresh air or opening windows.
  • You could open windows only partially if it is cold. For more information on ventilation in vehicles read the guidance on ventilation and air conditioning.
  • Cleaning shared vehicles between shifts or on handover.
About the Author
Richard Lyons
Richard Lyons
Richard Lyons, Author at Wirehouse Employer Services

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