Managing public safety in light of COVID-19
COVID-19 is upon us and it is everyone’s responsibility to keep each other safe. Employers are responsible for the health and wellbeing of their staff and of everyone in their workplace. This includes contractors, part-time staff, suppliers, visitors and the public.
In this article, we will concentrate on visitors to your workplace, including the public. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 is the basis of much of how safety is managed in the workplace. And the Safety Statement is a pivot in this H&S system. A risk assessment must be carried out when there is a change in process, in this case COVID-19, which is causing massive change on how we do our work.
Along with more standard risk assessments on work, the Government and the HSE issue advice on what measures should be put in place to reduce the spread of the disease. Employers and Health and Safety personnel should ensure they follow the most recent advice, and ensure relevant measures are adopted.
What steps can you take?
- Clean and sanitise regularly. Implement a regimented cleaning schedule, paying particular attention to surfaces and objects that are most frequently touched. Ensure hand sanitising stations are provided at the entrance to your business and throughout the premises. Ensure staff and visitors use them. Discourage visitors from touching objects as much as possible, e.g. touching clothing or products on sale.
- Ensure staff and visitors wear a face covering if required by law or if it is deemed necessary from your risk assessment. Decide who will enforce this measure. Will you supply face coverings?
- Make sure that everyone is socially distancing. This is a very important in our tool against the spread of Corona-19. Determine how many customers can be accommodated while maintaining social distancing. Make this easy by introducing one-way systems in the premises, limiting the number of people on the premises at any one time, extending opening hours, introducing a booking system and taking into account any pinch points and busy areas where people may gather. Consider introducing a click and collect or phone and collect system to eliminate the need for customers to enter the workplace. Can your business deliver products to the customer?
- You may request that all visitors first report to reception. Visitors may be asked to complete a questionnaire detailing that they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19, are not a close contact, or whether they have travelled internationally in the past 14 days. This could also outline any procedures that are in place to reduce the spread of the virus. Pre-screening may also be suitable, where visitors complete an on-line questionnaire before visiting your premises. This can also be used to limit the number of visitors to your business at any one time. Receptionists should be protected from contact with visitors by a screen. Arrange that visitors have as little contact with staff as possible, e.g. meetings with visitors may be held in a room close to where they enter the building. This room should be well-ventilated and regularly cleaned.
- Where queuing is implemented, ensure it is safe for visitors and other businesses, by, for example, using barriers if outside in a carpark. Take into consideration people with a disability, elderly or other at-risk people, such as ensuring disabled parking spaces are kept free or designating specific times when their needs can be best met. Emergency exits should be kept free and ensure queuing on public footpaths allows other pedestrians safe passage. Work with your local authority and other businesses to find what works best.
- Remind customers with children that they are responsible for their behaviour, including social distancing.
- Increase ventilation of your premises. Keep windows and doors open where possible. Examine your ventilation system to determine if its use reduces the risk of infection and does not add to it. Recirculating air should be avoided where possible, and filters used and cleaned where necessary.
- Keep track of visitors and the public by keeping a record of them along with their contact details. This is for “track and trace” purposes. Have a track and trace procedure in place as part of your COVID-19 Protocol.
- Tell people who have symptoms of COVID-19 not to come to your premises. Some businesses check the temperature of staff and visitors on entry. NOTE: Temperature screening on its own should not be relied upon on to determine who may be carrying the virus as some people do not show symptoms of fever while still having the virus.
- Where your premises offer a mix of services, ensure only those allowed under the government guidance are open to the public.
It is crucial that employers ensure they use the most recent official information available by checking with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Health and Safety Authority. Sectoral bodies may have more specific guidelines for risks in your business.
Finally, ensure your staff and visitors know and understand the measures that you are putting in place. Your staff should be fully trained on these new procedures. For the public, this may be on your website, display signage, and having staff inform them on entry.
Companies need to reopen in as responsibly as possible. By showing that they can trade and maintain health standards, and do not contribute to the spread of COVID-19, they will be permitted to increase activities and move towards becoming a healthy business once more.
Further information is available:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
- Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC)
- Health Service Executive (HSE)
- Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation: Advice for businesses
- Department of Foreign Affairs: Travel advice
- Department of Education: Back to school, Health advice for parents and children
- Department of Agriculture: Advice and assistance for farmers
- Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth: Advice for pre-school and creches reopening
- Department of Transport: Travel and transport advice
- Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media: Support for arts
- Health and Safety Authority
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