Coronavirus: Workplace safety guidelines

Guide

As an employer, you must protect the safety and health of everyone in your workplace. There are many practical steps that you can take to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

Where staff are going or returning to workplaces, employers are encouraged to carefully consider what practical mitigations might be put in place. Best practice workplace measures include:

  • hygiene and sanitary measures, such as regular handwashing - see welfare facilities at work for information on the handwashing facilities you must provide
  • some form of social distancing, ideally of no less than one metre where practicable
  • mechanical or natural ventilation
  • the use of physical barriers
  • wearing face coverings in shared spaces
  • testing

Employers and employees should discuss the balance of office and flexible/ hybrid working to put in place working arrangements that best meet organisational needs.

Working from home is a very effective way of reducing social contacts and breaking chains of transmission and employers may still wish to consider how remote or flexible working could be used effectively.

Employees from vulnerable groups should be supported to work from home.

Review your risk assessment

As an employer, you must complete a risk assessment to spot potential hazards and make any changes possible to reduce the risk of accidents. You should regularly review your risk assessment to make sure it still meets all requirements and complies with health and safety laws.

See assess the health and safety risks in your business and review your health and safety risk assessment.

You should ensure that you follow the latest advice from the Public Health Agency and incorporate this information into your risk assessment.

Follow social distancing rules

Social distancing can help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Measures could include:

  • reducing the number of workers on-site at any one time
  • relocating workers to other tasks
  • redesigning processes to allow social distancing in place
  • put in place temporary barriers between staff
  • use technology such as teleconferencing instead of face to face meetings
  • adjust workflow or production line speeds

Employers must consult with employees on health and safety.

This does not need to be complicated. It can be done by simply listening and talking to staff

Employees are often the best people to understand the risks in the workplace.

See consult your employees on health and safety.

Ventilation in the workplace

Good ventilation is widely recognised as a way to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of coronavirus, particularly in enclosed areas.

You should look at ways to improve how your ventilation system operates and increase the supply of fresh air where you work.

Steps to improve ventilation in your premises might include:

  • keeping doors and windows open, if possible
  • running your ventilation system longer and/or at a higher speed
  • increasing the frequency of filter changes
  • servicing your existing ventilation systems

It is important that fresh air is drawn into your ventilation system, otherwise, you risk just recirculating stagnant air from one space to another.

See ventilation in the workplace.

Workforce testing

Employers and employees should be aware of the key COVID-19 symptoms.

Employees who have COVID-19 symptoms should follow the latest guidance on testing and isolation:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): testing
Coronavirus (COVID-19): self-isolating and close contacts

Using personal protective equipment

Employers must continue to provide PPE as required by their risk assessments.

Public Health guidance is available on the use of PPE for health and social care settings. In all other settings, individuals are asked to observe social distancing measures and practice good hand hygiene behaviours.

Report a health and safety issue

If you see something in a workplace that you think is breaking health and safety law and is likely to cause serious harm, you can report it.

HSENI is responsible for enforcing health and safety at workplaces including, factories; farms; building sites; mines; schools and colleges; fairgrounds; gas, electricity and water systems; hospitals and nursing homes; central and local government premises.

To report an unsafe or unhealthy work activity on workplace premises that HSENI enforces health and safety - email mail@hseni.gov.uk or use HSENI's online form.

To make a complaint about retail premises such as shops, food takeaways, garages or hairdressers, barbers or beauty salons, you should contact the environmental health department of the local council where the business is based.