Assessing health & safety risks through the pandemic and beyond
When changing operations and ways of working, a key part of the decision-making process involves the assessment and management of risks.
During this unprecedented time, it is crucial to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessment. Organisations must do all they can to keep up with the rapidly changing environment and guidance issued, and review risk assessments accordingly.
You should be able to demonstrate that all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection have been taken, and also be able to illustrate formally that you have referred to all current and relevant guidance and customised the guidance to the work and services you carry out.
Below you’ll find:
- A step-by-step guide to risk assessments
- Frequently asked questions. The Health and safety Executive website offers further guidance on compliance, together with risk assessment templates.
- The Government also maintains and regularly updates a range of documents giving guidance on managing the impact of COVID-19 You should check and refer to the current versions on www.gov.uk each time you review your services. It would be prudent to refer to specialist sector guidance such as by NALC, SLCC, NCVO as appropriate too.
How to do a risk assessment
Identify the hazards associated with the work / services.
Top of your list should be the additional hazard resulting from potential exposure to COVID-19 virus.
Identify who might be harmed and how.
This might include your staff / volunteers, service users, members of the public, contractors, drivers, vulnerable people, young people, expectant mothers etc.
How might the health and safety of each of these groups be affected by changes in your organisation as a result of COVID-19?
Evaluate the risks and controls
- What are you already doing, what measures are in place, to control the risks? What measures are no longer in place? How might your control measures be impacted by shortages of supplies, staff and contract services?
- What further action do you need to take? (e.g. moving desks to meet the 2m rule, staggering break times, restricting entry to the public, installing more welfare facilities, etc. Who is responsible for ensuring that safe systems of work are implemented?
- When should controls be implemented? This may be over a period of time or immediately, depending on level of risk.
- The most effective controls should be implemented as a priority.
- Control measures should be evaluated using the ‘Hierarchy of Controls’ principles:
Record, communicate and retain documentation. It’s important to keep a record of the controls you put in place. This is key to demonstrating that your organisation considered all guidance and took reasonable measures to manage risks. Common risk management documentation may include, risk assessments, safe systems of work records, files on instruction and training given, inspections carried out of your buildings or apparatus etc.
Monitor and review
Formally monitor the controls you have implemented and review them as work practices and Government, Public Health England (PHE) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance change.
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