Assessing health & safety risks through the pandemic and beyond FAQ
What COVID-19 hygiene plans need to be implemented?
A risk-based approach should be applied to cleaning areas likely to be contaminated. The findings of the work activity and site risk assessment should influence cleaning and disinfecting plans (what, how, when, who, etc). Reference should also be made to Government and Public Health England guidance.
What should be added to our risk register?
You should have a strategic risk register and an operational risk register. Your strategic risk register should consider high level risksthat could impact your organisation’s aims and objectives, such as the pandemic risk. Operational risk registers should consider the risks associated with day to day work activities and services provided, including risk of infection, as well as detailing the controls that are put in place.
How frequently should risk assessmentsfor volunteer involvement be reviewed in the current climate where change is continual?
Risk assessments should be reviewed periodically, when activities change, following accidents/near misses and where legal or good practice advice is updated. Therefore, with regards to COVID-19, risk assessments should also be reviewed as frequently as the changed guidance has an impact on the way work and services are carried out. It would be no defence to not keep up with developments.
Are there any useful templates that we can use when conducting a risk assessment?
Risk assessments covering exposure to COVID-19 will differ from one organisation to another. The assessor must first ask who is doing what and how, where they are doing it, why they are doing it and what they are using. Understanding the tasks or activities is vital to assess exposure and to qualify any subsequent control decisions.
Useful references include:
• HSE: Managing risksand risk assessment at work
• Zurich Municipal: Local Community Advisory Service (LCAS) Guide
Don’t be static at this time! Access specialist health and safety legal advice and/or refer to Government, Public Health England, Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and industry guides. The pandemic impacts all employers and service providers, and all are expected to respond and react to assess the adequacy of their health and safety arrangements.
Staff required to carry out dynamic risk assessments must be competent to do so. They must be provided with all necessary information, instruction and training and be competent to carry out dynamic risk assessments and implement safe systems of work.
Many small not-for-profit organisations have had a static approach to risk management. What advice/organisational development/frameworks would you suggest for improving our understanding of responsive-risk-based decision-making given the COVID-19 environment is so dynamic?
How do we manage the risk of allowing volunteers who are in higher risk categories (e.g. over 70), to return to their volunteering roles? We have specific policies and guidance for employees, but can we apply the same to volunteers or do we need to think about risk and volunteers differently?
Under health and safety legislation (Health & Safety at Work Act, Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations, etc.) and the Health Protection (Coronavirus restrictions) Regulations, volunteers must be afforded the same level of protection as employees. This requires the same level of commitment to risk assessing work, providing safe systems of work, information instruction and training and monitoring how work is being carried out and services provided. Given the often- transient nature of volunteer services, extra vigilance in ensuring adequate training and monitoring of work should be considered.
Specific consideration should be given to any individuals in your workforce, including volunteers, who are more at risk and whether work practices and risk controls can provide reasonable protection in-line with guidance issued by the Government, Public Health England, HSE and industry.
Exposing a twenty-year-old employee to potential infection will not be the same risk as for someone whose age or underlying health condition makes them more vulnerable. Follow all relevant guidance and risk assess carefully any derogations from it.
A key risk for driving schemes (involving employees and volunteers) is the proximity of a passenger. Is it safe to continue transport services?
Health and safety legislation applies to employees and volunteers and such tasks will have to be subject to a risk assessment, with a safe system in place that ratifies the risk assessment. Considerations should include asking the following questions:
• Can a suitable and well fitted barrier be provided?
• Can social distancing be achieved?
• Is PPE available/used/replaced frequently?
• Can the vehicle be cleaned between passengers?
• Is the health status of the passenger(s) known?
• Has all relevant guidance been considered and applied?
The outcome of a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, with a safe system in place, should leave the organisation with a residual risk that is tolerable if the service is to be provided. If the risk is not tolerable, the service should not be provided.
Have any questions? please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team