New guidance to help manufacturers return to work safely

The UK government has published eight practical, sector-specific guidelines to help make workplaces as safe as possible and give employees confidence to go back to work.

New ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines are now available to UK employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible.

Created in consultation with around 250 stakeholders, including businesses, unions, industry bodies and devolved administrations, the framework represents “best practice on the safest ways of working across the economy, providing people with the confidence they need to return to work.”

“The first step to getting the economy back on its feet”

The guides covers eight workplace settings which are currently allowed to be open, from factories and construction sites to outdoor environments and takeaways.

This sets out practical steps for businesses focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:

1. Work from home, if you can

All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close, our message is clear: you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

2. Carry out a Covdi-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation, and employers will need to carry out risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with more than 50 employees to do so.

3. Maintain two metres social distancing, whereverpossible

Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain two metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one way walk throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

4. Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk

Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

5. Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points. 

A downloadable notice has also been created, which employers are advised to display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed this guidance.

PPE, progression and discretion

Stephen Phipson, Make UK chief executive, commented: “It’s clear that PPE is going to be a key issue and, despite the guidance being advisory and not mandatory, it’s absolutely essential that manufacturers of all sizes go the extra mile to provide their employees with every piece of equipment which could protect them and ensure they can work safely.

“Many manufacturers are already operating at the top end of safe working and have adapted working environments in line with today’s important government guidance”.

Carolyn Fairburn, director-general of the CBI commented: “The guidance builds on the good proactive plans many firms have developed during lockdown. Excellent employee engagement, fast workplace innovation and transparency have helped many companies support livelihoods. It’s right to build on this.

“The UK faces months of change and challenge. These guidelines will need to continue to evolve based on insight from the ground. And employers, employee representatives and relevant enforcement agencies must work together, supporting these plans to build public trust and get our economy back on its feet.”

Jonathan Geldart, director-general of the Institute of Directors commented: “This guidance is an important first step. It won’t provide every answer, no guidance can, but directors can use it to inform their risk assessments for operating in this pandemic.

“Ultimately, the decision lies with a company’s directors, and they need to feel comfortable they can operate safely. Decisions on re-opening will not be taken lightly. Business leaders want to stand on their own two feet, but most can’t operate at anything like normal capacity at the moment, and making adjustments to protect staff and customers will be a big challenge for many workplaces.”

As part of the announcement, the government has made available up to an extra £14m for the HSE, equivalent to an increase of 10% of their budget, for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment if needed.