Last week, the government published new guidance on social distancing in workplaces that remain open during the Coronavirus pandemic. It provides tailored advice to employers across a range of sectors including retail, construction and transport. 

The general rules are now familiar:

  • All individuals must keep a distance of two metres between each other and regularly wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds. If there are no hand washing facilities, they should be provided with hand-sanitiser.
  • If a two metre distance cannot be maintained, staff should work side by side or facing away from each other, if possible.
  • Signage and floor markings should be put up to encourage two metre distance from colleagues/customers where it is at all feasible
  • Remind staff not to come into work if they have symptoms or are living with someone who has them

If these rules can't be followed, the onus is on the employer to consider whether it's safe for staff to continue to work. Employers are reminded to take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

Shops running a pick-up/delivery service

Employers must ensure no orders are taken in person on the premises. Orders should be taken online or by telephone and communicated clearly to customers by clear signage in store/online.

For customers who are collecting items, they should have staggered collection times and where queuing is taking place, there should be a queue management system to maintain a safe distance.

For employers running a delivery service, all delivery drivers should be advised that no goods or food should be physically handed over to the customer.

Retail

Entry into the store must be managed, allowing only a limited number of people into the store at any given time. Signage should be displayed asking customers who have symptoms not to enter the store.

If feasible, plexiglass barriers should be put up at all points of regular interaction to further reduce risk of infection which should also be cleaned regularly.

Tradespeople and working in people’s homes

A tradesperson carrying out essential repairs/maintenance in people’s homes can continue to work provided they are well and have no symptoms. They must maintain safe distance from any household occupants at all times.

No work should be carried out in any household where someone is isolating or are being shielded, unless the work is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.

Construction

Work needs to be planned to minimise contact between workers and avoid skin-to-skin contact. Where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less.

Workers should be kept in groups that are as small as possible e.g. vehicle crews work together rather than mixing crew members on different shifts.

Employers should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations, providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser. The inside of cabs should be regularly cleaned and try to use stairs in preference to lifts/hoists.

Manufacturing/processing businesses

The frequency of cleaning procedures should be increased e.g. by pausing production in the day for cleaning staff to wide down workstations with disinfectant. Staff should be assigned to the same shift to limit social interaction.

Outdoor businesses e.g. market stalls

In customer-facing roles, employers have to consider how staff can safely sell products/services without encouraging crowds and ensure hygiene measures are in place. It recommends that orders are taken online or by telephone in advance and pre-packing orders to limit face-to-face time.

Waste management businesses

When staff are sharing an enclosed space, such as in refuse and waste collection vehicle cabs and are unable to maintain a 2 metre distance, they should wash their hands before getting into or after getting out of the vehicle. Where it is not possible to avoid having more than one person in the vehicle, individuals should keep the windows of the vehicle open for ventilation and be careful to avoid touching their face at all times.

Our view

This guidance is useful, but doesn't supersede the duties every employer has to protect the health and safety of their staff. That means undertaking specific risk assessments and taking all necessary precautions to protect staff interacting with the public or each other.

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