With the planned reopening of many leisure and hospitality facilities from 4 July, new guidance has been published to help ensure safe operation.
There is new guidance for the visitor economy. It does not replace existing health and safety duties, but should be considered by employers when assessing risk and implementing control measures. Employers have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risks to their health and safety.
WHAT IS THE VISITOR ECONOMY?
The visitor economy encompasses all staying and non-staying visitors and the activities and expenditure involved in supplying products and services for visitors by both the private and public sectors. This covers a range of working environments, from outdoor attractions such as theme parks to indoor attractions like stately homes. It also includes activities and events at venues such as hotels, convention centres and conference halls.
The guidance is aimed at business owners, operators and workers across the following areas:
- hotel and guest accommodation e.g. self-catering accommodation, B&Bs, hostels, camping, holiday homes, caravan parks, boats and other types of accommodation including short-term lettings. The guidance should be read in conjunction with the specific guidance on working safely in hotels and other accommodation (in particular the sections on shared facilities, some of which should remain closed after 4 July).
- indoor and outdoor attractions e.g. arcades, walking tours, theme parks, family entertainment centres, static funfairs, zoos and aquariums. The guidance should be read in conjunction with specific guidance on events and entertainment (to be published shortly).
- business events and consumer shows e.g. events taking place in meetings, conferences, conventions, exhibition centres and trade fairs. These events are not currently permitted in England and the steps in this guidance are suggested only as preparatory measures ahead of reopening.
The guidance should be read alongside other more specific guidance on working safely during coronavirus which is relevant to your business including that relating to bars and restaurants, museums and arts (some of which is to be published shortly). Note that where a variety of services is normally provided from the same premises, only those services permitted to be open should be available (e.g. leisure centres should not host indoor sports activities).
THINKING ABOUT MANAGING RISK
Each business will need to consider how this guidance applies to its particular operations. This will be different for each business and will depend on the nature of the activities and how the business operates. In the visitor economy, premises or parts of premises may be let to third party contractors and operators for specific usage. In these circumstances, whilst the premises remain under the direct control of the owner, the actual event or function is under the control of the event planner/organiser.
Employers must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment (which should be shared with employees after consultation) and take appropriate preventative measures. That means working through steps in the guidance in order and translating it into specific actions your business needs to take. In particular, employers must: increase the frequency of handwashing/surface cleaning, make every reasonable effort to work from home where possible and where not possible comply with social distancing (2m or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable). Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate and if so, further mitigating actions are listed in the guidance. If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then employers will need to assess whether the activity can safely proceed. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe environment. The recommendations in the rest of the guide should be considered by employers as they go through this process. Employers are also directed to consider any sector specific advice e.g. from trade associations such as UK Hospitality.
Whilst health risks from COVID-19 are at the forefront of everyone's minds, the threat of terrorism nonetheless remains substantial and businesses must consider the security implications of any changes in respect of COVID-19 (e.g. around screening/searching). More detailed information on security considerations is included within the guidance.
Where HSE identifies employers not complying with guidance to control public health risks, it will consider taking a range of actions using advice and ultimately its enforcement powers.
WHO SHOULD GO TO WORK
The guidance remains that everyone should work from home where they can. This is typically less possible in the visitor economy but employers should consider who is essential to have on the premises and plan for the minimum number of people necessary on site. Those working remotely should be provided with equipment to allow them to do so safely and effectively and their wellbeing should be monitored. Other considerations are required to protect those at higher risk (i.e. clinically extremely vulnerable and clinically vulnerable individuals) and in relation to those self-isolating. Whilst considering necessary adjustments, care must be taken not to infringe on the rights to any employees under equality laws.
SOCIAL DISTANCING AT WORK
The guide sets out detailed actions to maintain social distancing (2m or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable) wherever possible, including increased entry points to avoid congestion, staggered arrival and departure times, use of floor markings, one way flows, reducing movements and policies for high traffic areas such as lifts or corridors. Hand washing/sanitising facilities should be provided at entry/exit points and where people work in one place, workstations should be reconfigured to enable social distancing, including assigning workstations to individual workers where possible. Where the guidelines cannot be followed in full, suggested mitigations include reducing activity time, use of screens, use of fixed teams, avoiding face-to-face working, avoiding meetings, minimising contacts around transactions (e.g. contactless payments and encouraging online booking and pre-payment) and rethinking demonstrations and promotions to minimise direct contact. Employees should be remain in clearly designated positions from which they can provide assistance to guests whilst maintaining social distance.
MANAGING YOUR GUESTS, VISITORS AND CONTRACTORS
An assessment should be made of the number of guests and crowd density that can reasonably enable social distancing. This will depend on layout or use of a space and requires consideration of total floor space as well as pinch points and busy areas. Measures to limit guest numbers should be considered (e.g. timed ticketing or booking ahead). You should think about how guests and employees will move in areas of potential congestion (e.g. doorways and toilets) and how to adjust the flow to reduce congestion and contact through queue management and one-way flow measures. Any changes should take into account the needs of disabled guests. Guests should be encouraged to use hand sanitiser/hand washing facilities on entry to reduce the risk of transmission. Guests with children should be reminded that children must be supervised in adhering to social distancing. Advice is given on any activities which involve passing objects around (e.g. in casinos or indoor attractions).
The limitations on gatherings set out by the Government (i.e. up to 2 households or support bubbles indoors, and up to 2 households or support bubbles outdoors or up to 6 people from any number of households outdoors) should be emphasised to guests to encourage compliance (e.g. at booking or on arrival). Businesses should also assist the NHS Test and Trace service by keeping a temporary record of guests and visitors for 21 days. Venue operators should take additional steps to prevent large gatherings/mass events and local authorities have been advised not to issue licences for such events. If appropriate, the government has powers under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to close venues hosting large gatherings or prohibit certain types of event. Indoor performances (e.g. drama, music or comedy) should not yet be permitted in front of a live audience to reduce the risk from aerosol transmission of COVID-19. There is an additional risk of infection where people are singing, shouting or chanting (even where at a distance) and so venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting. Entertainment spaces should be reconfigured to enable guests to be seated rather than standing.
It may be relevant to work with your local authority and/or landlord to take into account the impact of your processes and to work with neighbouring businesses to consider how to stagger the number of people arriving throughout the day, which could help to reduce the demand on public transport and avoid overcrowding in the area.
CLEANING AND SANITISING THE WORKPLACE
The guide considers how to ensure that a location that has been closed is clean and ready to restart, with procedures in place for cleaning and providing hand sanitiser. It also provides guidance on: how to keep the workplace clean and prevent transmission, limiting or restricting use of high touch items, how to help everyone keep good hygiene, enhanced cleaning for busy areas, more waste facilities and more frequent collection and how to reduce transmission through contact with objects that come into the workplace. Special consideration should be given to how to minimise the risk of transmission in shared facilities such as public toilets.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) AND FACE COVERINGS
COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks staff normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene measures and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE. Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 in most circumstances (there is an exception for clinical settings). Wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one.
MANAGING YOUR WORKFORCE
The guide advises on how to change the way work is organised to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each worker has including the use of shift patterns and working groups and during work related travel. It deals with communications and training including when returning to work and ongoing communications and signage to make sure all are kept up to date with safety measures.
INBOUND AND OUTBOUND GOODS
The guide considers how to maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave premises, especially in high volume situations.
For any further support or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the AG Health & Safety team.