As the lockdown eases, we all need to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19, especially in relation to work. Sensible plans need to be put in place to keep everyone safe.
If you’re an employer, you have a legal responsibility for the health and safety of your workers as well as the public and must do everything you can, within reason, to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. Failure to make efforts to protect staff from COVID-19 could result in prosecution, hefty fines and even a prison sentence of up to two years.
If you’re a sole trader, your responsibility is to your customers and to other contractors who may be working alongside you. Particular care should be taken by those working in other people’s homes.
What should I do to protect myself and my customers from Coronavirus?
There’s lots of practical advice out there and several trade bodies have put together good online resources to help you undertake a risk assessment so that you can plan effective control measures.
Perhaps the first place to look is to the Government, which has drawn up a list of steps to help those at work comply with the latest legislation.
There is guidance on what to do if you are unwell, or called to work at a household that is isolating, or where someone is shielding; advice on the correct hygiene measures to follow as well as what to do if you can’t avoid working in close proximity to someone else.
Every business should make a clear risk assessment so that challenges can be met and dealt with sensibly.
The Government guidelines state:
‘No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment’
The full guidance is available here. There are also useful checklists, which can be downloaded and specific advice for different industry sectors.
Who else is offering safe working guidance?
Here are some other places you can look for help – and for advice on how to manage he concerns of your customers:
The HSA (Health and Safety Authority) has prepared a range of checklists and templates to help get businesses up and running again. They are based on the government’s Return to Work Safely protocol and can be found here.
Gas Safe Register has published a set of guidelines, which is available here. It also gives advice to householders on what to expect during a visit from an engineer.
Worscester Bosch has launched the ‘Safe in Your Home’ initiative, including a useful checklist that you can email customers before your visit. The checklist includes a reminder to ventilate all working areas and to take your own towels, refreshments and cleaning products. There’s also a van sticker, so you can clearly signal that you are taking things seriously.
Trust Mark has launched a >Work Safe, Safe Work campaign. It has produced an eight-page booklet aimed at householders, which provides simple and clear information on tasks that should be completed by visiting tradespeople and a list of helpful questions to ask. Available online, it’s hoped that contractors will also deliver it to their customers so that everyone is informed about new safety measures.
As the Coronavirus crisis is an ever-changing situation, information and guidance is being updated, amended and added to on a regular basis. Ignore gossip on social media and keep up to date with the latest advice by checking in regularly with websites you trust.
We’ll aim to keep you updated too!