Foreword: This article applies primarily to requirements in Commercial Buildings & Workplaces. If you are a Residential Property Professional then there is a paragraph specifically for this below which can be read in isolation from the remainder of the article. You may, however, still find it useful to read the whole article to apply it to your own offices.

Empty office building

In accordance with latest government guidance, people may now leave home in order to go to work, but only if working from home is simply not possible and their workplace has been made safe in respect of COVID-19 transmission.

To aid this process, the Government has released useful guidance that helps employers, employees and the self-employed to understand the controls that they must implement in order to work safely and, importantly, to limit the risk of spreading the virus as they do so.

Man wearing a medical face mask standing outside of an office building

Employers who choose to open their workplaces have a legal obligation to apply these guidelines and introduce controls to minimise the risk to an acceptable level. If they don’t do this, then they may ultimately find themselves at risk of costly enforcement action from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Indeed, the HSE will effectively be policing the application of this guidance via both random spot checking and reacting to reports from any employees or members of the public who have felt at risk within a workplace.


The first place to begin is the COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment.



What is a COVID-19 Risk Assessment?


A COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment is an assessment of your workplace to specifically identify the risk of transmission of COVID-19 as a result of your organisational operation and is compiled in accordance with the issued guidance.  

Clean white sink with soap dispenser

The Risk Assessment will seek to review a multitude of factors, including the configuration of your workspace, adequacy of welfare/handwashing facilities and will review any work activity or situations that may aid the transmission of Coronavirus. It will also recommend control measures on how best to mitigate any identified risk.

Importantly, it is not a substitute for your existing Health and Safety Risk Assessments but will, instead, supplement it.

Ultimately, the resulting document will provide a guide that is bespoke to your operation and will detail how to work safely during the pandemic to limit the potential exposure to COVID-19.




Can I Complete a COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment?

gov website logo, black background with a white crown

Yes. The guidance, available from via the GOV website, is free for anyone to download and read and explains exactly what is needed. If you do decide to attempt this, it is important to note that you must review it regularly and, if you have five or more employees, you have a legal duty to ensure that the Risk Assessment is recorded.

This is important since authorities may need to check records of your Risk Assessments to ensure they have been carried out effectively, and that your workplace is indeed safe to operate.



How 4site are helping


If we’ve recently completed a general Health & Safety Risk Assessment of your workplace or building, then you may have already noticed that we are actively highlighting any concerns we may have noted in respect of the adequacy of social distancing control measures, in accordance with this new guidance.

The inclusion of this within the scope of our general building Health & Safety Risk Assessments will certainly be enough to satisfy your compliance with the new guidance (providing you complete the recommended actions, of course!). If you haven’t had a Risk Assessment from us in this period and may not require one quite yet, then you may be interested to know that we have developed a standalone COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment service in order to expedite the safe re-opening of your workplaces.

With that in mind, should you not feel entirely comfortable or certain of preparing your own COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment, then outsourcing this task would be a positive and safer step forward – it is also surprisingly inexpensive.



Is there Guidance for Residential Communal Areas?


There is no guidance at present that is aimed specifically for the communal areas of blocks for flats, however, since social distancing rules should be applied generally to any public setting in the UK, your H&S risk assessment of your communal area should now highlight any situation or configuration within a property that is conducive to either inadequate hygiene practices or poor social distancing.

Alongside their usual observations, Risk Assessments for residential communal areas should now also highlight any areas of significant risk of COVID-19 transmission within their findings, such as those presented by the use of communal lifts and gyms.



Finally

If you are planning to return to your workplace, then it is vital (and a legal requirement) that you have a COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessment completed with any recommended action implemented in order to ensure that the work place is safe for the return of your employees.

For more information on any of the information above then please do get in touch with our expert team today.