Re-Opening during the COVID-19 outbreak will require a three-pronged approach to achieving a safe and healthy operating environment:
1. Carry out a risk assessment for COVID 19 before re-opening
2. Consider the risks from restarting processes and ensure protocols are in place
3. Review existing risk assessments where social distancing measures are required, a change in operating patterns is needed and/or PPE supply shortage has been identified
Understanding how COVID-19 is spread and how control measures work is key to preventing infection from occurring. There are two main ways in which coronavirus can be spread:
• From contaminated surfaces, i.e. when an individual touches the surface with their hands and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.
• From contaminated respiratory droplets released by individuals who are currently infectious. This mainly happens when someone coughs, sneezes, or blows their nose but can also occur during normal respiration.
Respiratory droplets are not airborne for long and is the reason for the government’s emphasis on social distancing involving people not coming within 2m of each other.
The 2m rule means that:
• People cannot reach each other and therefore not spread infection by direct touching.
• Allows space for exhaled droplets to dissipate reducing the likelihood of inhaling them.
A thorough in-depth risk assessment must be carried out.
There are 5 steps to be carried out
Evaluate and decide on precautions and controls
The first thing to do when carrying out a risk assessment is to identify potential hazards. I recommend hiring an experienced assessor as by missing some important hazards we may put people at risk. If you are doing it yourself, I would recommend using a check list
Identify those at risk. Think about how these hazards might affect individuals or groups of people such as office staff, maintenance personnel, members of the public, machine operators. Particular attention must be paid to disabled staff, lone workers, temporary staff and young inexperienced workers.
When deciding what new control measures will be required, it is helpful to work through the ‘hierarchy’ of controls. The hierarchy is as follows:
Record your risk assessment, ensure the information is passed on to those that it affects and implement the controls
Regularly review the assessment and controls to ensure that it does what it is intended to do, protect the staff and public. Amend and update as necessary to ensure that it continues to protect.
A deep clean may be appropriate and more frequent cleaning procedures should be put in place, particularly in communal areas and at touch points including:
• Taps and washing facilities,
• Toilet flush and seats,
• Door handles and push plates,
• Machinery and equipment controls,
• All areas used for eating must be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each break and shift, including chairs, door handles, vending machines, and payment devices,
• Telephone equipment,
• Keyboards, photocopiers, and other office equipment,
• Rubbish collection and storage points should be increased and emptied regularly throughout and at the end of each day,
You need to consider the risks associated with restarting processes and equipment which have not been used for some time.
As control measures are introduced to cope with COVID-19, there will be a need to review existing risk assessments. Introducing social distancing and changing procedures may give rise to new and increased risks. It is important to consider the above and the hierarchy of control as not all problems can be solved by introducing the wearing of PPE in close proximity areas. It is important to accept a level of change and adapt accordingly.
The risk assessments and measures that are introduced should be continuously reviewed. Government guidance on social distancing is likely to change over time and you should ensure that you comply with this. The Health and Safety Executive are also likely to introduce sector specific guidance.
In the early stages it is advisable to conduct a daily review which examines whether:
• The changes you have implemented have been effective and are being complied with.
• What new guidance has been issued will this have a bearing on the way you are currently working.
• Whether there are any improvements you can make.