The government has produced guidance to help ensure safety during the pandemic. The guides cover a range of workplaces including for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes.
Update - The Government guidance was updated on 24 June 2020 to reflect a relaxation of the 2m social distancing guidance in England to 1m plus risk mitigation where 2m is not viable, and to include references to support bubbles where relevant. The updated guidance also stresses the requirement for employers to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19.
Examples of 'in home workers' include repair services, fitters, meter readers, plumbers, cleaners, cooks and surveyors, whereas 'to home services' include delivery drivers momentarily at the door. The guidance does not directly apply to nannies or their employer. The guides do not replace existing health and safety duties, but they should be considered by employers when assessing risk and implementing control measures. As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety.
Thinking About and Managing Risk
Employers must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment (which should be shared with employees after consultation) and take preventative measures. That means working through steps in the guide in order i.e. increasing hand washing/surface cleaning, making every reasonable effort to work from home where possible and, where not possible, complying with social distancing (where that is not possible and the activity needs to continue, further actions are listed). Further mitigations include increasing cleaning, reducing activity time, using screens, using fixed teams and avoiding face to face working. 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 are ones that employers should consider as they go through this process. They can also consider any sector specific advice e.g. from trade associations.
Who should go to work
Everyone should work from home, unless they cannot work from home. Employers should consider who needs to go to work as well as how to protect those at higher risk. The guide sets out steps to consider including planning for minimum numbers and the monitoring of staff and protecting those at higher risk.
Social distancing at work
The guide sets out detailed actions to maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, including while arriving at and departing from work, as well as how to reduce risk when the guidelines cannot be followed in full including reducing activity time, limiting the number of workers in a confined space, the use of fixed teams if people have to work in close proximity, allocating the same workers to a household where jobs are repetitive and avoiding face to face working. It is also recommended that workers bring their own food and drink to households and that breaks should be taken outside, where possible. Where workers, such as delivery teams, are required to work together, journeys should be with the same individuals, good ventilation should be maintained by keeping windows open and vehicles should be regularly cleaned.
Managing your customers
The guide recommends discussing with households ahead of a visit to make arrangements. It should be requested that a 2m distance is kept, all internal doors should be left open to minimise contact with door handles and movement should be minimised in busy areas, such as stairs and corridors. Meetings should be held outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms, where possible.
Cleaning and sanitising the workplace
The guide considers how to keep work areas in a home clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces; how to help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day; the removal of all waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift or day; and how to reduce transmission through contact with objects that come into the workplace and vehicles, such as avoiding the sharing of pens and other objects.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings
Where workers are already using PPE to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, they should continue to do so - additional PPE beyond what is usually worn is not beneficial. Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 in most circumstances. 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. Hygiene advice is particularly important where workers need to move between different homes. The guidance 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.
Deliveries to the home
The guide considers how to maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave a home. Contact should be minimised and it is recommended that calls should be made to inform of your arrival, rather than ringing the doorbell. Contact should also be minimised during payments and the exchange of documentation – this should be done electronically, where possible. Single workers should load or unload vehicles where possible and safe to do so and, where more than one person is needed, the same pairs of people should be used.
Where HSE identifies employers who are not complying with guidance to control public health risks, they will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks including enforcement.