Where employees or volunteers can work from home they should continue to do so. Premises should only be open for essential activities that cannot be delivered digitally.
In this short video from Dec 2020, Jason Leitch outlines what we know about how the vaccine will gradually enable a return to offices, probably in the summer of 2021.
Risk assessment and control
If your organisation is responsible for a building that is open, you must take steps to limit risks of infection spread.
The first step in this process is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, involving employees in the process. The assessment must:
- identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
If you have more than five employees this must be written down, but it is good practice for all organisations to record what has been agreed. It is also important to agree how often the assessment will be reviewed- it should not be a one time exercise.
Detailed guidance and template assessments are available on the Health and Safety Executive website.
Physical distancing, hygiene and PPE
Government FACTS guidance around physical distancing and good hand hygiene apply to all citizens. NHS Inform explain steps we should all be taking and provide materials to communicate this information to the public. It’s important to ensure employees, volunteers and users are following this advice.
Guidance on face coverings should also be followed by all citizens. However, it is important to be aware that discretion is allowed in some cases, for example where a face covering could prevent someone from communicating.
Depending on the outcome of your risk assessment, it is likely that your organisation will implement additional measures to help limit the risks of coronavirus transmission in your premises.
Some of the more common measures could include:
- Limiting the number of people in the building, and in particular spaces such as toilets, at any given time
- Making hand sanitiser and face coverings available
- Providing screens between people, for example at desks or reception counters
- Floor markings to help people maintain physical distancing
- More regular cleaning, with particular care given to communal spaces such as kitchens and bathrooms
- Introducing a one way flow to reduce people passing one another in small spaces
- Display public health messages throughout the premises
Ensuring that fresh air is circulating in indoor environments is essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Taking measures such as opening windows, doors or vents can help minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 to colleagues, friends, family members and customers.
This guidance from the Scottish Government covers a range of different indoor settings, and gives best practice examples.
Staggered start times and flexible working
To reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, it is advised that organisations stagger start and finish times. This will help to reduce the burden on public transport, and reduce the pressure on pinch points, like reception areas.
You should discuss the best way to stagger start and finish times with employees and volunteers as part of the risk assessment.
If you are inviting external people to your premises you should also consider how you can stagger their arrival and departure.
Community buildings and village halls
If your organisation runs a building or hall that is used by a range of different groups you will be considering a more complicated set of risks.
The Scottish Government has produced specific guidance for multi-purpose community facilities.
Key areas to consider include:
- Adding new requirements around distancing, hygiene and cleaning to any hiring agreement (see the information sheet from ACRE below for a template that can be adapted).
- Considering the requirement to store personal details of customers as part of the Test and Protect scheme.
- Whether people in the clinically vulnerable category can be supported to participate in activities safely to reduce isolation. You may find it helpful to carry out individual risk assessments to help with this decision.
- How activities that involve donated items, food preparation or handling money can be made safe.
- What procedures are in place if someone becomes unwell.
In this video, Jason Leitch outlines test and protect responsibilities in community venues.
Charity shops should refer to, and follow the Scottish Government guidelines for the retail sector. This includes an operational checklist, template customer notices and information about deliveries and distribution.
As charities shops have a high volume of donated stock, it is important to consider how to safely handle these items. This information from Money Saving Expert outlines how some of the bigger charity shop chains are responding to the risks.
Guidance and template forms to help you plan for staff returning to the workplace during the coronavirus
by Healthy working lives
Guidance on the hygiene measures around the opening of public and customer toilets during the coronavirus
by The Scottish Government
This guidance covers: advice on how to prevent spread of COVID-19 including cleaning and PPE information, and advice
on what to do if someone is ill in a workplace or other non-healthcare setting.
by Public Health Scotland
Detailed guidance, including checklists and template risk assessments.
by Church of Scotland
Guidance on risk assessments for small businesses with links to templates.
by Federation of small businesses
Practical guidance to help English village halls plan for reopening. Includes templates and checklists that can be
adapted for Scottish halls.
Top ten tips for IT systems and security when you reopen your office.
by Alison Stone