COVID-19 Safety Measures - Advice For Businesses

The Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE) are leading the UK government response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.On 23 March the government, stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and save lives with all non-essential businesses requiring to close.Advice from central government is changing daily so we advise you to regularly check for updates which can be done by visiting the Goverment website.

Premises that are permitted to trade and those that are not

Guidance on which premises are permitted to remain open and those that must close can be found on the Government website.

Protecting staff from COVID-19 and risk assessment 

Health and safety law requires employers, who continue to operate under current circumstances, to do ‘what is reasonably practicable’ to protect their staff and members of the public.

To fulfil this duty in addressing the risk from COVID-19 all companies must review their risk assessments and put in place measures to ensure the guidance available from the GOV website is implemented. Please read full guidance on the Government website.

Specifically, all employers should:

  • Encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.
  • Have systems in place to ensure that if someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home.
  • Employees should be reminded to wash their hands regularly throughout the day for at least 20 seconds on each occasion, and to sneeze into tissues and dispose of the tissues promptly – Catch it, Bin it, Kill it (suitable washing facilities with soap and warm water or hand sanitisers must be provided).
  • Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.

Companies should also take account of measures in the risk assessment, to follow general advice regarding distancing and ensure that it is observed between employees both at their workstations and in other areas of their premises. 

Where this cannot be achieved within the normal working environment additional means of protection should be considered. For example:

  1. Reduce number of workers on site at any one time.
  2. Relocating workers to other tasks.
  3. Redesigning processes to allow social distancing in place.
  4. Put in place temporary barriers between staff.
  5. Utilise technology such as teleconferencing instead of face to face meetings.
  6. Adjust workflow or production line speeds.

Public Health guidance on the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) relates to health care settings. In all other settings individuals are asked to observe social distancing measures and practice good hand hygiene behaviours.

Where this cannot be achieved within the normal working environment additional means of protection should be considered.

Further advice is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Preparing for reopening

You should consider the following checks and considerations before reopening:-

  • Review your Covid safe measures and risk assessment, including refresher training for staff, signage and queue management
  • If you intend to open for outdoor service on or after the 12th April, you must assess how many customers you can safely accommodate, seated, allowing for adequate Social Distancing, queue management, ordering and payment. 
  • Make sure you have enough trained staff to manage your customers safely and in accordance with the regulations and guidance. Make sure your customers understand your rules and maximum capacity. 
  • Where possible, let customers know about your rules and seating capacity before you open. Using Social Media is a good way to get the message out and manage customer expectations.
  • Make sure you have systems in place to take orders and payments at the table
  • If you provide food, ensure your kitchen staff review your food supplies for durability dates, condition and labelling
  • Check for any pest activity
  • Make sure your staff have the necessary food, safety and Covid awareness training. Refreshers courses are recommended for all.
  • Carry out a deep clean of your Kitchen ready for trading
  • Review your menu and allergens controls. It’s recommended to keep your menu simple
  • Consider introducing Covid testing for your staff

Reopening - Legionella risk 

Legionnaires Disease can affect anyone and is of particular danger to the frail and elderly and those people who may have reduced or suppressed immune systems. It requires hospitalisation for treatment and can be fatal. In the current coronavirus crisis, it is imperative that our health service is not put under any additional strain.

Since the government is now advising home working, there is a chance of legionella risks in vacant properties where water is allowed to stagnate within water systems.

As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold-water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and to minimise the chances of stagnation.

To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consideration should be given to implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures such as draining the system if it is to remain vacant for long periods see the HSE website.

Guidance has also been produced by the European Society for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious disease on managing Legionella in building water systems during the COVID-19 pandemic

In addition, consideration is required of other water systems that are no longer in use, such as leisure, sports and swimming and spa pool facilities.

PHE suggest that for these facilities, you should follow the procedures described in the Pool Water Treatment Advisory Group Code of Practice.

Please note that PHE remain on hand to support you with any advice and guidance, so please do not hesitate to contact your local laboratory if you need any advice or support.

Where plant has been closed down all the necessary steps should be taken in keeping with HSG L8 and HSG 274 part 1 to ensure it is properly cleaned and prepared before restarting.

Further advice can be read on CIEH website.

Ensuring your water system is safe

Please read our advice letter on maintaining drinking water quality when reinstating water supplies after temporary closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

For food businesses looking to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, Food Standard Agency have produced guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely in the food sector.

This guidance will give you a practical framework to identify what you need to do to continue, adapt, or restart operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the hygiene processes and requirements you must follow to safely operate your food business.

Working safely during the Coronavirus outbreak 

Following the easing of lock down, further detailed guidance has been produced and available on gov.uk for the following specific work settings:

  • construction and other outdoor work
  • factories, plants and warehouses
  • homes
  • labs and research facilities
  • offices and contact centres
  • restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  • shops and branches
  • vehicles

Putting in place plans to work safely

The plans businesses put in place mean that work is likely to be organised differently from how it was before lockdown. These guides are designed to help you to know what you can do to control risks associated with running your business during this time. 

These guides should not be used on their own, to decide on the actions that you need to take, but as a starting point to consider what you can do. Further detailed guidance is also available on the Government website.

Find information on the HSE website about making your workplace COVID-secure during the coronavirus pandemic.

A guide to the steps you should take to help manage the risks of coronavirus in your business. These include taking measures to work at home where possible, maintaining social distancing, cleaning and hygiene. 

A short guide is avaialble on the HSE website about talking with your workers about working safely during the Coronavirus outbreak.

By consulting and involving people in steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace you can:

  • explain the changes you are planning to work safely
  • make sure changes will work and hear their ideas
  • continue to operate your business safely during the outbreak

You should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website (and the government expects all employers with over 50 workers to do so).

You can find a notice to download, print and display in your workplace to show you have followed this guidance at gov.uk.

Test and Trace Information for Businesses

The NHS Test and Trace service will support businesses and economic recovery by:

  • Providing free testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus
  • Asking those that test positive and their close contacts to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus in the workplace
  • Enabling the government to go further in safely lifting lockdown measures.

For more information in regards to Covid-19 testing for businesses please visit the Surrey County Council website.

Further guidance 

Visit the CIEH website to view  a quick guide to safe shopping during coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Visit the CIEH website to view their food delivery and takeaway guidance.

Visit YouTube and watch this video on how to hand wash.