COVID-19 Impacts on EH&S Compliance
SEL Group Ltd have chosen to provide an online EHS consultancy and training service only during this COVID-19 period to reduce the risk of transmission of infection, however as part of our commitment to compliance we have provided the following summary of requirements to assist businesses that are NOT involved in any healthcare or social care activity. This guidance is based on the UK Government, HSE and EA statements.
The UK Government guidance is being routinely updated to reflect changes in scientific information and readers are strongly advised to review the UK Government, PHE and HSE websites when developing their plans and arrangements.
On 7th April 2020 the UK Government updated the guidance for employers and companies on COVID-19. The full document is available on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19
1 Business Closure
The UK Government has been clear that it is not asking all businesses to shut. The full list of businesses that are required to close is listed on: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 provide powers to enforce closure or restrictions on specified businesses.
2 Open for business
The Government in recognition of the concerns about how to remain open for business safely whilst preventing the spread of the virus recommends that all employees should be encouraged to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so.
There is a list of tailored advice for different workplace scenarios regarding social distancing and other measures to be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade. This is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance#overview.
Guidance is provided for the following scenarios:
Shops running a pick-up or delivery service, Tradespeople and working in people’s homes, Construction, Manufacturing and processing businesses, Retail, Logistics businesses, Outdoor businesses, Farming, visiting farms for animal health and welfare, Fishing or other short-term offshore work, Cargo-shipping or other long-term offshore work, Transport businesses and Waste management businesses
Businesses are also advised to look to the advice being published by trade associations and similar groups on how to work out government guidance in their sector.
HSE guidance is available at https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm
The HSE states that “if it identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant PHE guidance to control public health risks, e.g. employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance or ensure workers in the shielded category can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for the period specified, we will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. These actions include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements with the PHE guidance on social distancing, shift working and staggering work activities.”
As an employer, there are the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider communication, the work activity, safety, use of DSE and other relevant control measures. HSE Guidance is available from: https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm
4 PPE – Respiratory Protection Equipment
HSE states that tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable FFP3 masks and reusable half masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) can protect the wearer.
The user should then carry out a pre-use seal check or fit check and the HSE have provided a poster that gives guidance on how to put on disposable respirators and how to do a pre-use seal check or fit check. The poster can be downloaded from: https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/disposable-respirator.pdf
5 Health & Safety as usual
Employers will be expected to comply with all standard health & safety requirements unless specific exemptions have been issued.
5.1 Temporary and limited relaxation of drivers’ hours rules
The Department for Transport (DfT) have announced that there will be a temporary and limited relaxation of the enforcement of drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland, and Wales for the drivers of vehicles involved in the delivery of food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning) and over the counter pharmaceuticals.
5.2 Driver access to welfare facilities
The HSE states that all drivers must have access to welfare facilities in the premises they visit as part of their work.
5.3 First aid certificate extensions
If a first aid certificate expires on or after 16 March 2020 and you cannot access requalification training because of coronavirus you may qualify for a 3-month extension. This applies to Offshore Medic (OM), Offshore First Aid (OFA), First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW)
To qualify for the extension, you must be able to explain why you haven’t been able to requalify and demonstrate what steps you have taken to access the training, if asked to do so.
5.4 Statutory Inspections
The HSE Statement on COVID-19 and equipment inspections states that
“Duty-holders have a legal responsibility to maintain work equipment and carry out thorough examinations, written schemes and Statutory Inspections. These legal duties exist to help manage the significant hazard that the failure of such equipment can pose, not complying with these duties can significantly increase the risk of harm to workers and members of the public. Under certain circumstances with the agreement of a suitable competent person, some legislation does allow thorough examinations/statutory inspections to be postponed to a later date. Even if such options are taken, it remains the duty-holders responsibility to ensure that the equipment is safe to use.” There is currently no exemption in place regarding the requirements for statutory inspection.
5.5 Materials Handling and Plant Equipment
The HSE has issued a joint statement with the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) which stresses the importance to protect staff as much as possible, which has sometimes involved banning external parties from entering a site. Whilst this is commendable, there is a concern that this could lead to important considerations being ignored. Whilst equipment remains operational, it is imperative for the safety of your staff and the overall legal compliance of your business, that you allow your service and maintenance provider – and where applicable – your Thorough Examination provider, ready access to the equipment in order to keep it safe and compliant.”
There is no statutory requirement to report cases of COVID-19 in the workplace under RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), unless there is a direct link between an employee’s work and contracting COVID-19. The HSE have a specific page to report COVID-19 RIDDORs on https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/riddor-reporting-coronavirus.htm
Guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings
- Cleaning an area with normal household disinfectant after someone with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) has left will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.
- Personnel should wear disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons for cleaning. These should be double-bagged, then stored securely for 72 hours then thrown away in the regular rubbish after cleaning is finished.
- The method of cleaning is prescribed as: using a disposable cloth, first clean hard surfaces with warm soapy water. Then disinfect these surfaces with the cleaning products you normally use. Pay particular attention to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as bathrooms, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells and door handles.
- If an area has been heavily contaminated, such as with visible bodily fluids, from a person with coronavirus (COVID-19), use protection for the eyes, mouth and nose, as well as wearing gloves and an apron
- wash hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, and after removing gloves, aprons and other protection used while cleaning
Storing or treating COVID-19 cleansing waste at a healthcare waste management facility: RPS C1
When you can store or treat COVID-19 (coronavirus) cleansing waste (waste code 15 02 02*) without having this waste code on your permit.
Exceeding waste storage limits at permitted sites because of COVID 19 RPS C2
This COVID-19 regulatory position statement (RPS) allows you to temporarily exceed those limits if you cannot remove waste from your site because of COVID-19 restrictions.
WISH Guidance (Waste Industry safety & Health Forum) Covid 19 and waste management activities.
It is advisable for the employer to be able to demonstrate that:
- A COVID-19 risk assessment has been conducted,
- Compliance with PHE guidance regarding social distancing etc can be demonstrated, and
- Work activities conducted are consistent with the good practice scenarios.
Where home working is required the employer should be able to demonstrate:
- A home worker assessment has been completed
- Necessary controls have been applied to minimise health & safety risks.
Where the employer is providing RPE
- Ensure Fit test conducted
- Ensure staff are trained in use and maintenance of RPE
- Ensure staff conduct pre-use fit check
- Ensure RPE is regularly changed or cleaned and not shared
- Ensure used PPE is disposed of properly
The usual health and safety requirements still apply
- Ensure competency requirements are maintained or exempted
- Ensure statutory inspections are completed
- Ensure incidents are reported.
Where cleaning is conducted
- Comply with cleaning guidance
- If an infection is suspected apply additional infection controls and ensure waste is double bagged.
Waste management. Employers should be aware of:
- Wastes no longer being collected
- Requirements for waste segregation, labelling or containment.
- Any exemptions regarding waste storage.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy COVID-19 confinement and looking forward to us all being able to enjoy our freedoms again soon.
The SEL Group Team