News & Updates

19th March 2020: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

The current COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every one of us. We would like to reassure all of our clients that we have put measures in place to provide our usual services as much as we possibly can. Our foremost responsibility is keeping our employees and clients safe, so the way we work may be different, with people working from home or unable to do site visits, but we are equipping all of our staff to be able to communicate with each other and our clients using digital solutions and a variety of channels.

This current crisis will pass and we understand the importance of keeping your business safe and ready to face the future. We will be posting regular updates on our website and social media channels, so please keep checking back. Please read our updates and advice below – specifically covering advice for employers and keeping your premises safe.

We will also be sending out news bulletins via email, not just about the current crisis, but about all of our services, and in particular, upcoming HR and employment law legislation updates. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

Remember, we are #oneoftheteam and are always on hand, as ever, whenever you need help or advice.

Keeping your premises safe

In these uncertain times many of you will be closing down your premises to work from home because of Government instruction, for an unknown period of time. As you prepare to adapt to working from home where possible, some things can easily get overlooked. Please see the reminders below.

Mains Gas
If you can, isolate the gas at the point of entry to your building. This will prevent possible leaks and the hazards that produces

Gas Cylinders
Remove from workstations to your secure storage, external if possible. If there are any cylinders that cannot be moved or your storage is not external, then ensure any hoses or regulators are removed and the cylinder head valve is closed.

Where possible isolate and disconnect machinery and isolate any lines where the power does not run essential systems. Remember to keep fire detection systems and intruder alarms powered, along with your servers.

Again, if possible, isolate. This is important if there will be no heating in the building.

Key holder information and response numbers
Ensure all key holder information is up to date, along with response names with fire and alarm monitoring companies. You may want, if you are able to, to add additional names in case people are unavailable due to isolation requirements. 

Also ensure your internal contact list is up to date and distributed.

Any vehicles that remain on site should be locked and parked in a secure location. You may want to move them inside if possible or park them in a tighter formation for enhanced security. Keep keys in a separate secure location.

External fuel tanks
Turned off and ensure they’re securely locked.

Compressed air systems
Turn off, vent and isolate if possible, unless they are running essential systems. If you have vented the system, it is a good idea to leave the air receiver drain open.

Site security
Ensure that if you have CCTV that you do not obstruct any cameras, and your boundary is secure. If you have remote access via a smart phone, ensure you know how the system works. If possible, periodic checks on site security should be made. 

Advice for employers

Under health and safety law, employers have a duty of care to protect employees from infectious diseases at work. Coronavirus is the most recent outbreak of disease and it is the employer’s responsibility to take precautions to prevent exposure to the disease and ensure the health and safety of employees. Developing a plan or a policy on reducing the risk of infection and what to do in the event of an outbreak is the best way to be prepared for an outbreak in the workplace. 

As employers, our own policies and procedures on the matter are under constant review, and with that so is the guidance that we are issuing to our clients. Every update from the Government, NHS, Public Health England (PHE) and Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) should be considered and, where necessary, form part of an internal review. 

Advice and updates for employers is available for employers on the Gov.uk website. Public Health England also provide useful further information via their blog “Public Health Matters” which is updated daily, and we encourage employers to keep up to date with it.

What are the symptoms of someone with coronavirus? 
The following symptoms may develop within 14 days of coming into contact with someone who is infected by COVID-19:

  • A new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly
  • A high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • Difficulty breathing

Important: These symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are like many other illnesses that are much more common, such as a flu or a common cold. Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

So, what to do if a member of staff displays symptoms of coronavirus?
Following the latest Government guidance, any person displaying a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should stay at home and self-isolate for 7 days. If you have employees who live with other people who are displaying the symptoms then they, and everyone else living in the house, should self-isolate for 14 days from the day of the first person having the symptoms.

For anyone in the household who starts displaying symptoms, they need to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14-day isolation period.

If asked to self-isolate you will find advice here.

You should not phone 111 as a first port of call any longer due to the understandable demand that this situation has put on the service. You should instead use the NHS 111 coronavirus service if:

  • You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • Your condition gets worse
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

Please note that you should only phone 111 if you cannot get help online.

The NHS have asked the public not to go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. This is simply a control measure to prevent the spread of the disease. Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home. Remember to stay calm and seek the advice through the NHS 111 coronavirus service first. 

What practises can we adopt to help protect employees from infection?
At the time of writing, there is no vaccine for Coronavirus. There are two main routes by which people can spread COVID-19:

  • Infection can be spread to people who are nearby (within 2 metres) or possibly could be inhaled into the lungs.
  • It is also possible that someone may become infected by touching a surface, object or the hand of an infected person that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes (such as touching a door knob or shaking hands, then touching otheir own face).

The most efficient way to prevent the infection is to avoid exposure. Maintaining and encouraging good levels of hygiene is highly important. Methods you could employ are:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze. See Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. See hand washing guidance.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.

Other steps to explore to mitigate the risks are:

  • Risk assess your activities to help identify potential sources of exposure and formulate suitable control measures, e.g. can some face to face meetings where there is the potential to increase the risk of contact be just as easily carried out via video conference calls, or conference calls?
  • Where possible employees should be asked to work from home.
  • Encourage employees to follow Government guidance and avoid gatherings and crowded places, such as pubs, clubs and theatres.
  • Monitor staff who have pre-existing medical conditions, pregnant workers, persons with weak immune systems etc. as further steps may be required to reduce risk.
  • Keep information to employees clear, concise and up to date – ensure effective communication.

What if I have staff returning to the UK from other countries?
It is down to the employer to assess the risk of the employee returning to work, however Government guidance should be followed on a case by case basis as the rules and guidance for each country may be different.

Self-isolation should be followed as per the above guidance should any employee display symptoms upon returning home from another country.

As the spread of Coronavirus is changing by the day, it is most important that you keep up to date with the latest information and advice provided by the Government.

As ever, if you have any questions or need help regarding this or any other health and safety or employment law issue, please contact your advisor directly, or call the office on 01427 678 660.