News

COVID-19 advice
Published: 29 May 2020

Here at Cedrec, we have received many queries in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and compliance with health and safety legislation.

In order to help you all out, we've put together this In Focus to address some of your main areas of concern, and provide links to useful guidance on Government and relevant agency websites.

This In Focus will cover:

If health and safety law still applies
Derogations and exemptions
Risk assessments
Social distancing
Homeworking
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Statutory testing and inspections
RIDDOR reporting
Construction sector advice
COMAH sites
Transport
Guidance on reopening some workplaces
Legionella risks
NHS test and trace: workplace guidance
Useful sites

We'll also keep this page updated as things progress.

Does health and safety law still apply?

Now more than ever, the health, safety and well-being of employees should be paramount.

The employer's duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order SI 1978/1039 is arguably more important in this current crisis than it ever has been before, not only to ensure the health and safety of their employees directly, but also because of the potential impact it can have on their families and loved ones.

This means that health and safety legislation still applies as it did prior to the outbreak.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued two joint statements:

  • one joint statement alongside the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British industry (CBI); 
  • a second joint statement with the Partnership on Health and Safety in Scotland (PHASS),

in order to express their regulatory position in relation to the current COVID-19 pandemic. They have stressed the importance of maintaining the health and safety of workers, and enforcement action that they will pursue in light of organisations breaching guidance of Public Health England on social distancing.

There will be some derogations and exemptions to this which will be provided for by either the Government or agencies like the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI) or Environment Agency.

Derogations and exemptions

Unless specifically stated in Government or a relevant agencies guidance that there is a derogation or exemption to the law due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the law will continue to apply as it always has done.

These are current derogations and exemptions that have been published so far:

Risk assessments

Due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, employers need to continue to make sure that an appropriate assessment of the risk is carried out and measures put in place in line with current Government advice.

Control measures will depend on the level of risk and type of workplace and should not reduce the level of protection afforded by existing measures. For example, keeping fire doors open to reduce touching potentially contaminated door handles may seem like a sensible idea, but it creates increased risk. Instead, appropriate regular cleaning and advice on hand hygiene is more appropriate.

Remember to communicate these new measures put in place to all relevant employees and others at the place of work.

If any work needs to be carried out at locations outside of the employer’s workplace, employees should:

  • comply with site rules;
  • take into account the Government guidance on good hygiene practices and social distancing;
  • consider any other persons who may be affected by their work. 

For the most up-to-date COVID-19 guidance for businesses in your country, see the links in the Useful Sites section of this In Focus.

Social distancing

One of the main areas of concern we've had from our customers relates to maintaining social distancing in the workplace. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to work from home and particularly in workplaces where their job roles make them key workers, a lot of you have been asking if the two metre social distance measure announced by the Government is mandatory in the workplace.

So for businesses we advise that you review your risk assessments in line with the advice on social distancing and consider safe working practices. If a task is critical and must be carried out, can it be undertaken in a different way that allows for social distancing and employee/contractor safety, or are there other measures you can implement to reduce and control the risk.

Certain work tasks will make a two metre distancing between employees difficult. Government guidance says that "where possible, maintain a two metre distance from others". This stance has also been backed by the HSE and seemingly the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSE NI).

Remember to check if you have contractors on-site, what additional safety measures are in place for them.

In Wales the Government have gone one step further and announced legislation applying the two metre social distancing rule to any workplace in attempts to protect workers from the virus.

All businesses will have to take all reasonable measures to ensure the two metre rule is maintained between people on their premises whenever work is being carried out. This rule also applies to work at homes, where work and repairs are being carried out, and any work in outdoor spaces.

For more information, see:

Homeworking

Ideally, if you can work from home, then you should.

Remember as an employer your duty of care still extends to employees when they are working from home.

The HSE has a specific page on protecting home workers. The HSE NI also has a useful homeworking advice page which is informed by the HSE.

In relation to display screen equipment assessments, the HSE and HSE NI say that those working from home on a long term basis must have a workstation assessment.

Those working from home temporarily are not an increased risk, so employers in this instance do not need to do home workstation assessments. With many of us now working from home on a temporary basis, we are also aware that we may be doing so for months to come, however, there is currently no further guidance as to what constitutes working form home on a long term basis when the requirement for a DSE assessment would kick in.

We have a specific In Focus covering this topic: Homeworking and COVID-19.

This provides information on:

  • things to consider;
  • flexibility;
  • remote and home working without supervision;
  • equipment and technology; and
  • stress and mental health.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Requirements for any additional PPE will be informed by a revision of your risk assessments. Current guidance only requires social distancing and hygiene measures for hand washing or sanitising.

Some job roles may require additional PPE as a control measure identified in a risk assessment. Where this is the case it is important to ensure these are suitable and appropriate for the task and do not increase the overall risk to the employee.

For more information, see:

The Environment Agency has also issued a temporary exemption in a regulatory position statement:

Where additional PPE has been used and it may have been contaminated with the virus, or you do decide to use disposable PPE as an extra precaution, you should adhere to the following Government advice for disposal of it:

  • double bag the PPE;
  • leave it for 72 hours; and
  • dispose of it in the normal waste stream.

For more information, see:

Statutory testing and inspections

Many businesses will have upcoming equipment inspection deadlines, thorough examinations and planned maintenance and are uncertain about what to do in such circumstances. 

Currently there are no exemptions or relaxation of the requirements on inspections for work equipment, statutory inspections and maintenance.

Employers legal duties remain in place as a failure to undertake inspections 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 allows the postponement of examinations and statutory inspections, but the duty-holder is still responsible for ensuring the equipment is safe to use.

The HSE has issued the following to clarify dutyholders obligations at this time, see:

The HSE NI has also produced a statement on statutory inspections, acknowledging that it may not be possible to keep equipment inspections on schedule. If this is the case, businesses remain duty bound to ensure plant is safe to use. In all cases, businesses should seek advice from a competent person responsible for maintaining and inspecting the equipment.

RIDDOR reporting

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 SI 2013/1471 and the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 1997/455), unless there is a direct link between an employee’s work and contracting COVID-19.

Examples of this would include:

  • health care workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 after treating patients with COVID-19 - they would need to report an exposure of a biological agent;
  • a lab worker accidentally smashing a glass vial containing coronavirus, leading to people being exposed - they would need to report a dangerous occurrence.

There are specific advice pages regarding COVID-19 and RIDDOR:

Construction sector advice

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has issued specific advice for the construction sector for protecting the workforce during coronavirus. Version 3 of their site operating procedures is based on Public Health England guidance and intends to introduce consistent measures on construction sites of all types and sizes.

It contains advice on:

  • when to travel to work;
  • travelling to work;
  • driving at work;
  • site access and egress points;
  • hand washing;
  • toilet facilities;
  • canteens and rest areas;
  • changing facilities, showers and drying rooms;
  • work planning to avoid close working;
  • first-aid and emergency service response; and
  • cleaning.

Health and safety requirements for construction activities should not be compromised. If a task can't be carried out safely, it should not be undertaken at all.

In Northern Ireland, the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) has issued an update on safe working which largely supports and references the advice provided by the CLC in version 3 of their site operating procedures. The CEF advises:

  • using the lockdown period to adopt and implement the CLC version 3 procedures across the business;
  • maintain social distancing;
  • make detailed preparations, including return-to-site induction training for everyone on a site, site safety and welfare preparation, PPE procurement and safe transport arrangements for staff;
  • returning to work should only be considered when the above guidance has been fully and consistently applied

For more information, see:

COMAH Sites

The HSE has published a series of guidance pages for operators of major hazard establishments, COMAH sites, under the Control of Major Accident Regulations SI 2015/483. The guidance covers specific COMAH requirements during the coronavirus outbreak.

For more information, see:

Transport

The Government have published specific guidance for the private and public transport sector in England to help address the risk of COVID-19 and provide safer workplaces and services.

For more information, see:

Guidance on reopening some workplaces

The Government has published guidance for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely. 

It sets out practical steps for businesses, which is focused on five key points, and should be implemented as soon as possible:

  • work from home if you can;
  • carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions;
  • maintain two metres social distancing, wherever possible;
  • where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk;
  • reinforcing cleaning processes.

The new guidance covers 8 workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.

For more information, see:

In addition, the HSE has produced two guides to work alongside the above guidance:

Legionella risks

The HSE has reminded employers, self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, to identify and control risks associated with legionella. If your building was closed or has reduced occupancy during the COVID-19 outbreak, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use, increasing the risks of Legionnaires' disease.

You should review your risk assessment and manage the legionella risks to protect people when the water system is reinstated or returned to use. 

For more information, see:

NHS test and trace: workplace guidance

The NHS guidance on the test and trace service forms a central part of the Government's coronavirus recovery strategy. It explains how employers and businesses can play their part in the NHS test and trace programme to slow the spread of the virus.

The test and trace service is designed to support businesses and economic recovery by, providing testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus, so if they have been tested positive, and they and their household member know to continue to self-isolate. This should help to reduce the number of people needing to self-isolate.

This service also aims to help the Government to go further in safely easing or lifting lockdown measures, once it is safe to do.

This guidance also provides information on:

  • contract tracing;
  • NHS COVID-19 app;
  • guidance for workers and self-employed.

For more information, see:

Useful Sites

England

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

Other

Cedrec and COVID-19
Published: 20 Mar 2020

In these uncertain times, we feel its right to let you all know what we're doing here at Cedrec in light of the on-going development of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health and wellbeing of our staff is the most important thing. So we have made sure that we follow the Government's advice, and as of today, everyone at Cedrec will be working from home until further notice.

Business as usual

We wanted to reassure you that you won't see any disruption in our services.

Our Writers are still writing, our Consultants are still consulting and our customer care and sales teams are still...well, available to help you with anything you need!

Also, our phone system and all our phone numbers are working as normal, so if you have a point of contact you can ring though and speak to them. Any general queries you may have will be forwarded, as they always are, to the right person.

Our Consultancy services

If you've contacted us about Registers of legislation or Aspects and Impacts, our Consultants can work through everything with you over the phone and email your reports to you as we would normally.

Any site visits that may be necessary for us to get a better look at things are postponed for now, and we'll pick them up again when Government advice changes and things are back to "normal."

So if you had one booked in with us, or wanted one, don't worry you won't miss out! We'll make sure you get one later.

Training courses

All of our Recharge Courses and our Environmental and Safety Manager courses are unavailable until July. We'll review the situation then, in line with Government advice, and hopefully be able to start offering them again.

Monthly online demos

Our monthly online demos of Cedrec will continue as normal, albeit potentially from someone's kitchen!

You can book onto those as normal here.

Stay safe!

So there you go. Whether you're in the office or working from home, Cedrec is still there to keep you updated!

As usual, if you need anything, or we can help in any way, just drop us a line.

To coincide with the UK Government's COVID-19 guidance for transport operators and providers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Department for Transport have published a letter to reassure drivers, and to remind businesses of their obligations to provide suitable toilet and hand washing facilities to drivers visiting their premises. 

Its a legal requirement under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations SI 1992/3004 that businesses which make or receive deliveries ensure that drivers have easy and safe access to toilets and hand washing facilities to support their health and wellbeing whilst carrying out their important work, which supports the economy.

The full letter reads as follows:

"To whom it may concern,

Access to hygiene facilities for drivers

This letter has been produced by the Department for Transport and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), to reassure drivers, and to remind businesses of their obligations under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, to provide suitable toilet and hand washing facilities to drivers visiting their premises.

Businesses which make or receive deliveries, should ensure that drivers have easy and safe access to toilets and hand washing facilities to support their health and wellbeing whilst carrying out their important work, which supports the economy.

Preventing access is against the law.

Regulations 20 and 21 state that suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences and washing facilities shall be provided at readily accessible places and that hot and cold running water and soap must be available to use. Whilst this obligation for business is not new, ensuring that hygiene facilities are made available to visiting drivers is especially important during the current COVID-19 crisis, to avoid unwanted public health implications and to help tackle the spread of the virus, at a time when there are fewer locations operating with facilities that drivers can access.

HSE guidance states that drivers must have access to welfare facilities located in the premises they visit as part of their work. The responsibility in law to provide access rests with the person in control of the premises.

You can obtain more information on infection control by contacting:

Public Health England: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england
Public Health Wales: www.wales.nhs.uk
Health Protection Scotland: www.hps.scot.nhs.uk"

For more information, see:

Guidance has been issued on the NHS test and trace service, which explains how employers and businesses can play their part in slowing the spread of the virus, protecting the health and care system and saving lives.

What is NHS test and trace?

The NHS test and trace service forms a central part of the Government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery strategy, which aims to help the nation return to normal as soon as possible for as many people as possible, in a way that is safe and protects the NHS and social care sector.

Once launched, the service will also play a vital role in providing an early warning if COVID-19 activity is increasing locally, regionally or nationally.

This information will then be used to inform the Government’s approach to stop the spread of the virus.

The NHS test and trace service:

  • provides testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus to find out if they have the virus;
  • gets in touch with anyone who has had a positive test result to help them share information about any close recent contacts they have had;
  • alerts those contacts, where necessary, and notifies them they need to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus.

The role of employers

It is vital that employers play their part by:

  • making their workplaces as safe as possible;
  • encouraging workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate and supporting them when in isolation.

Although this may seem disruptive for businesses, it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace will be, and far less disruptive than periods in lockdown.

Employers must continue to follow health and safety workplace guidance for their sector such as:

  • making every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option;
  • where working from home isn’t possible, identifying sensible measures to control the risks in the workplace;
  • keeping the workplace clean, maintaining safe working separation, and preventing transmission through unnecessary touching of potentially contaminated surfaces.

The measures employers put in place to maintain social distancing will depend on their individual business circumstances, including their working environment, the size of the site and the number of workers.

Workplace risk

COVID-19 is a new risk that must be incorporated into workplace risk assessments. Employers must therefore carry out a new COVID-19 risk assessment if they have not already done so.

The NHS test and trace service supplements the risk mitigation measures taken by employers by identifying people who have had close recent contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and advising them to self-isolate.

This will reduce the risk of a rise in infections among the general population.

Supporting employers with a workplace outbreak

If multiple cases of coronavirus appear in a workplace, an outbreak control team from either the local authority or Public Health England will, if necessary, be assigned to help the employer manage the outbreak.

Employers should seek advice from their local authority as a first step.

Supporting workers who need to self-isolate

Employers should support workers who need to self-isolate and must not ask them to attend the workplace.

They should continue to communicate with workers in self-isolation and provide support. This includes allowing people to work from home if they remain well and if it is practicable to do so. This might include finding alternative work that can be completed at home during the period of self-isolation.

If people can’t work from home, employers must ensure any self-isolating employee is receiving sick pay and give them the option to use their paid leave days if they prefer.

The NHS test and trace service will provide a notification that can be used as evidence that someone has been told to self-isolate.

Contact tracing: contact with co-workers

The NHS test and trace service will follow up with people who need to self-isolate because they have had close recent contact with someone, who might be a colleague, who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Guidance for workers

Workers who are self-isolating because they have symptoms of coronavirus or live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, can get an isolation note through NHS111 online.

Anyone who is told to self-isolate should share the evidence provided by NHS test and trace to show that they have been told to self-isolate and explain to their employer that this means that they cannot come to work.

Workers must self-isolate whenever they receive a notification from the NHS test and trace service asking them to do so. If this happens on multiple occasions, they should consider how to better follow social distancing requirements.

Workers who think the contacts that have triggered these notifications are workplace contacts, should ask their employer to consider what further mitigating actions could be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19, such as using screens to separate people or "cohorting" to reduce the number of people each person has contact with.

For more information, see the:

The Scottish Conservation Finance Project, a report by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), has proposed a series of measures that could provide £1 billion in new investment for Scottish nature conservation.

The project aims to generate new forms of investment in Scotland’s stocks of natural capital in ways that will deliver significant environmental, social and economic benefits, as well as returns for investors. It seeks to achieve this by bringing together organisations from the private, public and non-profit sectors to develop investment and funding models for large-scale nature conservation activities.

One of the measures proposed includes a new green bond scheme that could be offered by local councils to investors to raise money for sustainable drainage schemes and green spaces.

There are also other measures including a marine fund, a vacant and derelict land fund, as well as nature-based carbon payments.

The report seeks to set out a road map of how investments, loans, levies and 'blended' finance opportunities could generate a massive financial boost for biodiversity.

Chief Executive of SEPA, Terry A’Hearn, commented: ''The global pandemic has drawn into sharp focus the connection between social, environmental and economic prosperity. As we start to focus on recovery, we must recognise the opportunity to be more inclusive and more sustainable. The £1 billion challenge provides a real opportunity to bring together real-world projects that spark regeneration of communities, build green businesses and create new jobs, with investors that understand that a successful, resilient economy depends not just on achieving financial returns - but on creating social and environmental value and success.''

Homes England are undertaking research into how the country's housing targets could be met by modern methods of construction. The government housing agency has an objective to improve construction productivity and encourage the uptake of modern construction methods.

They will monitor construction of around 1,500 homes across different sites in England over the course of several years. The study will look at the performance of different methods of construction over the long term to help provide in-depth data that can help inform decisions about emerging construction technologies.

A range of themes will be considered in the study, including:

  • build cost;
  • pace of build;
  • required skills;
  • safety performance;
  • snagging and defects;
  • construction wastage;
  • energy efficiency performance; and
  • performance post-occupancy.

Chief Executive of Homes England, Nick Walkley, commented: ''If we are to deliver homes at the scale, pace and quality the country needs, we have to seriously shake up how we build homes in England. This is at the very heart of our mission and it means embracing new technologies like modern methods of construction. Despite the impact of coronavirus being felt across the housebuilding sector, Homes England is open for business.''

''We can be certain that the demand for high-quality homes will remain and concerns about labour supply or quality will not go away. “Now more than ever, we recognise that more needs to be done to share learning and build confidence in modern methods of construction. This large-scale, long-term and in-depth research project will provide the sector with the critical evidence it needs to make informed decisions about modern methods of construction and deliver better homes faster.''


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