Reopen Signage board in front of Businesses or store door after covid-19 or coronavirus crisis- Concept of back to business after lockdown.

HSE carrying out COVID hot checks

As the United Kingdom continues to ease restrictions more and more businesses are beginning to re-open and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is working with local authorities to carry out spot checks and inspections on local businesses to make sure they are following the guidelines that have been set out by the government.

With the reopening of the economy, there is going to be a greater chance for COVID to spread, especially with the Indian variant now rising due to its high transmissibility.  To stop the spread, it is critical that businesses don’t become complacent and have COVID-secure measures in place.

All types of businesses, in all areas, are being called and visited by HSE to check the measures they’ve put in place to manage the risk from coronavirus, are in line with the current guidance. This includes businesses that have continued to operate throughout the pandemic, those that have recently reopened and those due to open in the coming weeks.

During spot checks and inspections, the HSE may provide guidance and advice if required, but where businesses aren’t managing the risk, action will be taken.

This can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices and stopping certain work practices until they are made safe. Where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.

The COVID-secure measures businesses should have in place include:

  • Risk assessment: every workplace should have a COVID risk assessment. Update it to reflect any changes in legislation or guidance that may impact your work activity.
  • Social distancing: where possible you should keep people two metres apart. If this is not viable, keeping one metre apart with risk mitigation, such as screens, is acceptable.
  • Cleaning, hygiene, and handwashing: keeping your workplace clean reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread. It is a critical part of making and keeping your business COVID-secure.
  • Ventilation and air conditioning: can help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
  • Talk to workers: provide information about providing support and maintaining control measures.
  • Working from home: provide the equipment they need, keep in regular contact, and discuss their wellbeing.
  • Vulnerable workers: talk to staff, provide information and consider the risk to workers who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus – putting controls in place to reduce that risk.

 

Angela Storey, Director of Transformation and Operational Services at HSE, said: “As we come out of lockdown, we are continuing to work with local authorities to check businesses are COVID-secure and providing guidance and advice where needed.

“Our spot checks and inspections support the cross-government work in helping employers and employees that have worked throughout the pandemic and those returning as lockdown measures ease. All workplaces are in scope for spot checks which mean businesses of any size, in any sector can receive an unannounced check from HSE or an inspection from the local authority, to check they are COVID-secure.

“If you are contacted by the HSE or your local authority, please engage with us. By checking businesses have measures in place to manage the risks, we can benefit the health of local communities as well as support the local and national UK economy.”

Please ensure your workplace is safe by following the guidance on being COVID-secure. Further information on spot checks and inspections is available on the HSE’s website.

man with a briefcase and a surgical mask

Getting back to business

With the roadmap for the UK coming out of lockdown looking set to end on June 21st, all businesses up and down the UK will be able to return to normal with many of those being able to reopen their doors in May.

 

Planning for the reopening will likely be underway but have you considered your businesses compliance?

 

SMAS Worksafe can help your business to reach Health & Safety compliance as well as give you support for other areas such as environmental, quality management, anti-bribery and finance.

 

Health & Safety

 

SMAS Worksafe specialise is health & safety and helping businesses to attain their SSIP (safety scheme in procurement) certificate. If you’re unsure on what SSIP is, you can find out more here.

 

SSIP is a nationally recognised standard for health and safety and so employers can have complete confidence in their health and safety policies once they have obtained the certificate, which has never been more important with Coronavirus having such a profound impact on the world. Making sure your health and safety policies and procedures are up to date is a great way to achieve peace of mind for your reopening.

 

When you take out the standard SSIP assessment with SMAS Worksafe you gain access to a PQQ Profile which enables you to upload documents you have in relation to other areas of compliance. If you’re unsure on your business’s compliance in areas such as environmental and quality management, we offer a Pro package which will help you to gain recognised standards for both areas.  

 

Environmental

 

With Worksafe Pro, we will make sure your business has environmental compliance recognised by IEMA. We will check over and existing policies you have and make sure that they meet the standards needed. If you don’t have any environmental procedures in place, we can pass you over to our sister company, Citation who will be able to help you write the policies to cover you and your environmental footprint.

 

Quality Management

 

SMAS Pro customers will also have their existing quality management policies checked over by one of our assessors against the IRCA standards. If you don’t have any quality management policies in place, just like environmental compliance, our sister company Citation will be able to help you set up quality management procedures so that you can help to grow your businesses reputation.

 

Anti-Bribery, Modern Slavery & Financial

 

Worksafe Pro also includes policy templates for Anti-Bribery, Modern Slavery and Financial support so you can easily put policies in place for these areas and cover your business in all areas of compliance.

 

There’s never going to be a better time to get your business compliant before reopening and with the impact Coronavirus has had on the world, being compliant in areas such as health and safety has never been more important.

Site now open - construction site background

Coronavirus testing to construction workers as sites begin re-openings

Bellway has now joined Redrow, Persimmon Homes and Taylor Wimpey in announcing they’re going to be opening their sites in the coming weeks with Persimmon Homes already opening some of their sites at the start of this week.

Redrow has now announced that they’re happy they can comply with the required social distancing measures and intends to begin mobilising sites during the week beginning May 11, with a phased return to construction from May 18 and Bellway are the latest housebuilder to begin re-openings.

On Tuesday, Health secretary Nick Hancock has announced that the government will offer construction workers with coronavirus symptoms access to testing.

He confirmed that all workers and their families will be offered tests as testing capacity in the UK is ramped up to 73,000 per day.

Forty-one drive through testing centres are now in operation with a further 48 due to come on stream this week. A further 70 mobile testing stations largely operated by the army are also due to be operating by the end of the week.

Hancock said on Tuesday: “We now have the capacity to make testing available to all workers who have to leave home to go to work and members of their households who have symptoms.”

He had come under pressure from construction union Unite to extend testing to construction workers because so many had kept working through the lockdown.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Unite is pleased that the government has supported our call to ensure that construction workers who continue to work can easily access testing for COVID-19.

“This will significantly help prevent the spread of the virus on construction sites.

“Testing alone however will not stop the spread of this deadly disease. It is imperative that construction workers are able to continually socially distance from when they leave home in the morning to when they return at night.

“The dangerous PHE guidance must be withdrawn and the Health and Safety Executive must step up to the plate and insist on procedures that require workers to social distance on sites at all times to reduce risks of infection.”

Are you ready for the return?

Anyone working on Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey or Redrow sites will be required to hold an SSIP certificate to show their businesses health & safety compliance. If you’re new to SSIP but are looking to start working for one of these companies as it may give you a chance to get back working, please read our article which details everything you need to know regarding SSIP here.

If you’ve previously held an SSIP certificate but didn’t renew due to the pandemic, we have updated our renewal policy to allow documents from previous years to be carried over if you’re unable to obtain the current information due to being in isolation – all information can be found here.

Key dates:

  • Persimmon Homes 27th April
  • Taylor Wimpey 4th May
  • Bellway 4th May
  • Redrow 18th May
Closed due to Cornavirus

COVID-19: urgent clarification on new government restrictions

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding COVID-19 isolation policies on 23 March, we’ve had many calls from business owners, concerned that the new, stricter measures announced by the government will mean that they have to shut their business for the next three weeks.

We wanted to take this opportunity to reassure that this is not the case. Under the latest instruction, travelling to and from work is an acceptable reason to leave home, provided that the work absolutely can’t be done from your home. Even then, you should minimise the time spent outside of the home and practice social distancing by staying two metres apart from people outside of your household.

The list of additional businesses which must now close is as follows:

  • All non-essential retail stores – this will include clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets.
  • Libraries, community centres, and youth centres.
  • Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.
  • Communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.
  • Places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
  • Hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers).

There are 2 exceptions to the rule that there should be no public gatherings of more than 2 people.

  1. Gatherings of members who live in the same household
  2. Where the gathering is essential for work purposes – but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.

Earlier this morning, following some confusion, UK Housing Minister Robert Jenrick confirmed that builders can carry on working, but only where absolutely necessary and must practice social distancing. Plumbers are also allowed to visit homes but must not be in the same room as the people living in the house at any one time.

The government guidance on this remains brief. If you’d like to read their full advice, you can find it here.

The spread of COVID-19 in the UK, and the government measures to tackle it, are fast-paced and ever-changing. We understand that this can be overwhelming for many business owners as we face a time of unprecedented change.

The experts at our sister company, Citation are following these updates closely and are working hard to bring you updates, guidance and clarification as they happen. Keep an eye on our latest articles, free resources and social media for regular updates.

If you’re a Citation client, they’re here to help, guide you and reassure you on how these changes will affect your business. You can call their experts on our 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848.

If you’re not yet a client of theirs and you want to discuss how these measures will affect your business, and what they can do to help, give their friendly team a call on 0345 844 1111.

COVID-19 folder

Stopping the spreading and spotting symptoms of COVID-19

Coronavirus’ rapid spread doesn’t seem to be showing any times of slowing and the UK is beginning to take strict measures to ensure that the virus is kept under control. The closing of bars, pubs and establishments has begun across the United Kingdom but there are still plenty of opportunities for you to catch and then spread the virus.

The virus is incredibly infectious, around 3 times more infectious than the common cold and although that doesn’t sound like much the causes that can have when passed on are enormous.

Please see the below video from Channel 4 Dispatches for more information on just how infectious Coronavirus is.

It is incredibly important to act on these matters now, the sooner we react and limit the spreading, the quicker we can go back to normal and the less stress we place on our NHS who will have to deal with the rising number of patients. Staying at home now may just save someone else being in hospital in 20 days time!

Virus Detection:

The simplest way to distinguish Coronavirus from a Common Cold is that the COVID-19 infection does not cause a cold nose or cough with cold, but it does create a dry and rough cough.

The virus is typically first installed in the throat causing inflammation and a feeling of dryness. This symptom can last between 3 and 4 days.

The virus typically then travels through the moisture present in the airways, goes down to the trachea and installs in the lungs, causing pneumonia that lasts about 5 or 6 days.

Pneumonia manifests with a high fever and difficulty breathing. The Common Cold is not accompanied, but there may be a choking sensation. In this case, the doctor should be called immediately.

Experts suggest doing this simple verification every morning: Breathe in deeply and hold your breath for 10 seconds. If this can be done without coughing, without difficulty, this shows that there is no fibrosis in the lungs, indicating the absence of infection. It is recommended to do this control every morning to help detect infection.

Prevention:

If you have any of the symptoms below, please self-isolate in your home for at least 7 days from when the symptoms started.

Symptoms include:

  • A dry cough
  • Fever / high temperatures
  • Muscle aches
  • Difficult breathing / short of breath

Social distancing – try and stay at least 2 meters away from anyone when in publish or in isolation. The virus is mainly spread through contact so avoiding people will go a long way to removing your chances of becoming infected.

Washing your hands or use hand sanitiser as often as possible, the virus can survive for around 12 hours on hard surfaces. The virus can live nested in clothes and tissues between 6 and 12 hours. Common detergents can kill it.

The virus survives on our hands for only about 10 minutes. In that time many things can happen, rubbing the eyes, touching the nose or lips. This allows the virus to enter your throat. Therefore, for your good and the good of all, wash your hands very often and disinfect them.

Disinfect things touched often: mobile phone, keyboard, mouse, car steering wheel, door handles, etc.

The sooner you act, the sooner it’s stopped:

For all the latest updates from the UK government please click here.

For updates from the NHS please click here.

Man suffering from working stress

Health is safety

As we begin the third lockdown in the UK, Lot’s of staff are going to be forced back to working from home and potentially working and being alone for the next few weeks. This means it’s much harder for you to check your staff are happy and safe, which will be increasingly important not just physically, but also mentally.

Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision, for example:

  • ·      as delivery drivers, health workers or engineers
  • ·      as security staff or cleaners
  • ·      in warehouses or petrol stations
  • ·      at home

 

Risks:

 

There are always going to be greater risks with lone workers as they don’t have anyone to assist should something go wrong and for most of the cases above, risk assessments would have likely been put in place to help with their health and safety. For example, one of the most common areas of lone workers at risk is van or delivery drivers, due to the road risks and the fact they are on their own.

 

Another may be violence. Is someone being asked to work in a violent area with expensive equipment which may cause them to be robbed? All of these areas should be thought about and part of the risk assessment that you as an employer will need to do.

 

Mental Health:

 

Another area that employers will need to consider is the mental health of their workers. If the UK is forced to self-isolate, then there will be people who will be forced into an environment which they may not feel comfortable with.

 

Working from home may be an attractive idea to some, but if you are suffering from mental health issues having to work alone at home may make you feel vulnerable and not having a normal routine may lead a person to suffer from anxiety. They may also not have the power or access to do certain aspects of their job which could also lead to stress.

 

With no one around to see rising levels of anxiety or stress it will be incredibly hard for anyone to know how they’re feeling and help. They will also not able to leave their new working environment and take a break if the government encouraging everyone to stay indoors, which could make matters worse.

 

The employer’s role:

 

Lone working is something that many people across the world do and there are plenty of measures that are in place already, such as risk assessments for drivers, that enable people to work on their own safely.

However, with the spread of Coronavirus looking to have an impact on the whole of the country, health has never been more important. Both the physical and mental health of your workers is going to be important if we are put into self-isolation and it’s partly your responsibility as an employer to make sure that all your staff feel safe and comfortable in what they’re being asked to do and that you are open and approachable so they are not left feeling vulnerable.

As an employer here are a few things you can do to make sure all your staff are ok:

  • ·      Have daily contact with all your staff, checking in on them at least once per day
  • ·      Make sure all employees have all the required training to work from home
  • ·      Do you best to make sure they can function as normally as possible, being unable to complete necessary tasks due to equipment could lead to stress.
  • ·      If someone is struggling with mental health, see what help is available.
  • For all the latest Coronavirus updates around health and safety, click here. 

    For SMAS Worksafe updates please use the below sources. 

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Preparing for Coronavirus in the UK.

Coronavirus – Is your business ready?

Coronavirus – Is your business ready? 

As the cases of Coronavirus rise across the UK, we are beginning to see drastic action being taken with regards to major events, and these changes can happen rapidly. You only have to look at the Premier League, who announced on Thursday last week that all games would go ahead as normal. However 12 hours later they announced all fixtures have been delayed until at least the 3rd of April. With changes happening so rapidly we are asking the question, is your business ready if, like Italy the UK goes into full isolation.

What we’re doing:

At SMAS Worksafe we have started to take measures, just in case the worst is thrown at us and we suggest your business starts planning too. Last week we split all of our teams in half and on Thursday one half worked from home, with the other half working from home on Friday. This allowed us to spot and deal with any issues we faced and plan our strategy to keep the business running at as close to maximum capacity as possible should the office need to be closed.

By splitting our workforce in half, we were able to have people in the office just in case we needed them. Next week we will be running a day where everyone is told to work from home so we can spot any issue that may cause and take the required actions. Things are moving quickly with the spread of Coronavirus and we don’t want to be caught cold.

Our suggestions:

We suggest that if possible, you do a few trial days in which you tell staff to work from home. If the UK government enforce a nationwide rule about isolation at least you will have some idea on what capacity your business is able to operate at, which you can then broadcast to your customers helping them to understand why certain services aren’t functioning, for example you may no longer be able to take phone payments.

The Government announced today that they would be giving daily updates on their plan. Business and employer guidance can be found here. 

 Staff wellbeing:

Your business may decide to shut down prior to any UK laws being enforced and this is something that we are looking at ourselves, however as we’re based in Plymouth the threat is currently not as great as areas such as London. If your business is in a location where the volume of infected people is higher you may wish to ask staff to work from home to help reduce
their chances of being infected, especially if they are able to operate at close to 100%.

It is also the responsibility of you as an employer to make sure you staff are looked after. If the government do enforce a law then you
will have little choice but to send staff home, but if measures haven’t been taken to allow them to work from home and your business shuts down they may be forced onto statutory pay, when they could have worked from home. Not only is this a big inconvenience for them but also you, as you’re now having to close your business or an area of your business because you weren’t prepared.

 Our verdict:

Of course, it is your decision to remain open or close for now, but if there is drastic measures taken, we suggest you have done at least
some planning to allow your business to run as smoothly as possible should we face a 2 week period where it is advised to stay in isolation.

Trialling staff working from home has been great for us and we have been able to fix several issues we found, put in place fixes or alternatives that will allow us to remain operating close to 100% and we would recommend you look at doing something similar. 

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