Making your workplace COVID-secure

How to ensure your premises are safe for staff, visitors, tradespeople and others during coronavirus.

When the Government announced plans in May 2020 for businesses to return to work after the COVID-19 shutdown, it emphasised the need for all workplaces to be “COVID-secure”. But what does this mean in practice?

Simply put, a COVID-secure workplace is one which has been made as safe as possible for staff, visitors, tradespeople and anyone else who might spend time there while the coronavirus risk remains.

But because businesses vary so widely, and operate from such diverse premises and sites, there’s no one way to make a workplace COVID-secure. Instead, each business must consider the official government rules and guidance and take from it what specific measures it should implement to protect its workers, visitors and other people.

View the official government rules and guidance at GOV.UKLink opens in a new window

As an employer, you already have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of your employees, visitors and others.

But a key element of the new government guidance around COVID-19 is the need to:

  • assess the risks of coronavirus transmission within your workplace
  • put measures in place to control them

Carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment means taking the following steps:

Identifying the hazards

In a COVID-19 risk assessment, there’s ultimately only one hazard, and that’s the spread of coronavirus.

As a result, you need to consider all the ways in which people could transmit COVID-19 once they are on the premises. For example, it might be through:

  • poor handwashing
  • inadequate procedures for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment
  • insufficient social distancing

Learn what to include in your COVID-19 risk assessment (HSE)Link opens in a new window

Identifying who is at risk and how

Once you know the risks, you must then establish who they could harm. Obviously, you’re going to include employees in your assessment, but also consider people such as:

  • customers and visitors
  • cleaning staff
  • contractors
  • drivers
  • passers-by (if this applies)

Also be mindful of those individuals who might be particularly vulnerable, such as:

  • elderly people
  • pregnant women
  • people with existing underlying health conditions

As you identify who is at risk, you’ll also be thinking about how. Make sure you consider the ways in which employees come into contact with other people, whether that’s travelling to work, at work or at home.

Evaluating and controlling the risks

Now you have a clear idea of the risks and who they might harm, you must take measures to reduce them as much as possible.

If you’ve done risk assessments before, you might be familiar with the hierarchy of hazard control. This system ranks the different types of controls for reducing risk, from most effective to least effective, as follows:

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering controls
  • Administrative controls
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)

When it comes to COVID-19, the general thinking is that you won’t be able to eliminate or substitute the risks completely. That means you can focus on implementing the other three measures:

  • Engineering controls – physical changes to the workplace, such as erecting screens between workers or installing additional ventilation
  • Administrative controls – for example, cleaning procedures, adding signage, putting social distancing markings in place, and making adjustments to certain work tasks
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) – providing and using equipment such as masks, respirators, gloves and hand sanitiser

Read more about COVID-19 controls (Institution of Occupational Health and Safety)Link opens in a new window

Recording and sharing your findings

The Government’s advice is to record the findings of your risk assessment and share them with your workforce. You might do this by:

The idea is to reassure employees that they are going to be safe at work and to involve them in managing the risks around COVID-19. Your staff have their own role to play in making sure your workplace is COVID-secure.

Learn how to talk to your staff about working safely (HSE)Link opens in a new window

Social distancing remains essential in the Government’s drive to restrict the spread of COVID-19. Part of your COVID-19 risk assessment will be determining how you can keep your employees a safe distance (at least two metres) apart at all times.

This means considering where and how your staff come into contact with each other, then working out ways to maintain the necessary distancing. Measures you can implement here include:

  • using social distancing markers
  • introducing one-way systems
  • displaying signs to remind workers to distance
  • keeping communal areas (such as kitchens) closed
  • taking desks out of use, and prohibiting hot-desking

There may be factors that prevent you from properly maintaining social distancing. In this case, you must do everything possible to prevent the risk of coronavirus transmission. Measures you can take include:

  • asking staff to wear face coverings
  • making them work beside each other rather than opposite
  • erecting dividing screens or barriers
  • staggering working hours, so groups of workers arrive and leave at different times

Read the Health and Safety Executive’s detailed guidance on social distancingLink opens in a new window

COVID-19 can spread between people via contact with infected surfaces. Making your workplace COVID-secure means introducing strict procedures around hand-washing, cleaning and hygiene, and making sure people follow them at all times.

These procedures include:

  • making hand sanitiser available around the premises
  • cleaning and disinfecting working areas and equipment between uses
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • setting clear guidance for how toilets are used and cleaned
  • using signs and posters to promote good handwashing and hygiene practice

You might also choose to deep-clean the whole building before staff, visitors and others return.

Read the Government’s guidance on cleaning, hand-washing and hygieneLink opens in a new window

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Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.