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Coronavirus: Workplace health and safety

It is vital to retain a safe work environment if you are returning to work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

This guide for employers includes key steps to make sure you do what you can to keep your workplace safe and help reduce further impact and absence.

Prepare a safe workplace

On returning to work make sure all your utilities are all safe and operating correctly.

  • If your water system has been static you may need consider the risk of legionella or other water contamination.
  • Check for out-of-date products, gas concerns, security lighting and any setting or timers.

Organise and clean

Your premises is likely to need a deep clean before it fully opens.

Unhygienic surfaces attract germs, vermin and dust. This can be very harmful, triggering dust-related illness like asthma, or present a serious fire risk. A build-up of certain types of dust can combust especially when temperature, ventilation and usage changes.

Take the opportunity to review your cleaning schedule and enhance cleaning practices, like wiping down equipment and tools as well as   surfaces.

Conduct a risk assessment

You should conduct a risk assessment which addresses how you will restrict the transmission of coronavirus in the workplace. This essentially involves planning how you can conduct your work whilst following the government guidance on social distancing.

As control measures are introduced to cope with coronavirus, there will be a need to review existing risk assessments.

Introducing social distancing, increased cleaning, providing a plentiful supply of hand washing facilities and changing work patterns and procedures may give rise to new and increased risks.

Providing information instruction and training to employees when they return to work is essential for new control measures to be effective.

Look after your employees and workplace

It is important you know if everyone is mentally and physically fit to return to work. They may have been seriously affected by coronavirus or know someone who has.Their mental or financial health could be suffering following the lockdown and they may need time to adapt to the return.

Skills and tasks may take time to return and there could be a period of adjustment. The speed and use of tools and equipment like the use of sharps, forklifts and manual handling tasks will initially have an increased risk.

Look forward and prevent

Reducing the risk from touching points will help lower the risk of transmitting infections.

  • Consider installing foot pedal bins, automatic doors and lights
  • Remind employees of good hygiene protocols and introduce sanitising stations at high unavoidable areas like entry points (lifts) or shared workspaces
  • Look to improve distancing between workstations or alternative working arrangements

Manage and maintain equipment

It is important any equipment you use can be relied on when you return to work. Electrical equipment, mechanical parts, seals, lubricants and batteries can all deteriorate when not in use.

  • Check initial procedures, manufactures information and industry guidance. This will help you make sure your equipment is safe and ready to use.
  • Statutory requirements should (if safe to do so) not been affected by the lockdown, but check.
  • Service level agreements may have lapsed and hazards like pressure systems (Barista), lifting equipment (hoists/FLT’s), gas installation and fire detection may pose an increased risk. Safely test your equipment with a pre-use inspection before it is needed.

Contact Environmental Health for more advice:

Reporting incidents under RIDDOR

Incident and accident reporting is fundamental in recording the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) have particular requirements during this time and the data the government process will help us understand the continued threat of this virus much better.

You must only make a report under RIDDOR when:

  • An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence
  • A worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease
  • A worker dies because of occupational exposure to coronavirus

For more information about RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 visit the Health and Safety Executive website.

Fire safety advice from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has issued advice to businesses, encouraging them to keep reviewing their fire risk assessments during the coronavirus situation. As the situation is changing all the time, many businesses are closing for extended periods and some are taking on new temporary staff, the following advice is even more important for your safety.

If your business is still operating:

New and temporary staff should receive fire safety training and awareness. Staff should be extra vigilant of potential hazards and risks, particularly where staffing levels have been reduced, or if staff are working alone or in an isolated environment:

  • Ensure that alarms and emergency exits are still accessible and that alarms can be raised as needed
  • Continue fire safety testing and keep ignition sources separate from combustible materials. Even where stockpiling is necessary due to external factors, these safety measures must be followed.
  • Do not prop open fire doors, even as a measure to minimise contact between staff
  • Ensure your evacuation strategy can be achieved taking into account any reduction in staffing levels and consider contacting your fire risk assessor for further advice
  • If you have a waking watch in place at your premises, please find further guidance on the National Fire Chiefs website

If you’ve had to close your business:

If your building is closed for an extended period of time, there are some key steps to take in order to reduce the risk of fire:

  • Keep all entrances and exits clear, and rubbish and commercial bins should be emptied and stored securely away from any buildings
  • If possible, don’t store excessive amounts of stock in a hazardous manner
  • Turn off all electrical devices where possible and remove plugs from sockets
  • Ensure your building is secure and continue with usual measures to prevent arson
  • If your building is connected or adjacent to a domestic dwelling and you have a shared fire alarm, you must arrange for the weekly testing to take place.

Download the full guidance document on the West Sussex County Council website.

Talk to our team

Schedule a call with us

The Council's Environmental Health Department are happy to give advice and assistance if required. Email to arrange a time to talk.

Register for our live Q&A

The Council's Environmental Health team are planning a free interactive live web chat for businesses to ask questions on the challenges arising from coronavirus. To register an interest please email with the subject line ‘Live Web Chat’ along with contact details

Government guidance

The Government is publishing guidance for businesses on creating safe working environments. Key links will be listed below: