Subscribe to UMAL news

Practical advice regarding the COVID-19 Outbreak – Health and Safety Precautions

Practical advice regarding the COVID-19 Outbreak – Health and Safety Precautions

2020-03-26T12:44:54+00:0026th March 2020|Tags: , , |

HEALTH AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Introduction

The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a number of closures with resultant Health and Safety risk precautions needing to be applied. There are legal obligations in connection with Statutory Inspections of proscribed equipment, ongoing safety in buildings and grounds as well as a vastly increased number of Home Workers.

The Law

There has been no change in the law in respect of PUWER, LOLER, LEV, Pressure Systems, Fume Cupboards and so on, including the general laws concerning health and safety of staff, students and visitors.

  • The requirement to protect staff and visitors to premises remains as before with an obligation to keep people safe, as far as reasonably practicable.
  • To date there has been no HSE announcement or update on potentially having to delay Statutory Inspections typically completed by a range of National and local companies and caused by a lack of resources or government Policy to limit travel only for “essential” reasons.
  • Individuals who become ill with Coronavirus and report this sickness will not be part of the RIDDOR process and so would not be part of a potential HSE investigation. It would also be virtually impossible to say the disease was contracted on premise in many cases.
  • The normal risk assessment processes required for all work activities should be followed – principally these would now apply for many new Lone Workers and Homeworkers. There will probably already be Policies and Safe Systems of Work, as well as generic risk assessments to be used for guidance.

Lone Working

  • There should be Lone Working Policies in place for this type of activity with many banning some activities such as work in Confined Spaces, Working at Heights, Working with live electricity supplies, Working with flammable or hazardous materials or Working with hazardous machinery and equipment.
  • Staff should review these Policies and complete the required risk assessments prior to doing Lone Working. As only essential staff will be “on site” there will be many more instances of Lone Working and staff new to this type of work should be advised on the potential hazards.
  • There may also be Out of Hours Working Policies with similar provisions and these should also be followed, as many sites that are closed are effectively working Out of Hours.
  • A most important aspect of Lone Working is ensuring there is effective communications for emergency help and to check, regularly, that the person is safe.

Homeworking

  • If Homeworking is already permitted there should be a Health and Safety Policy on Homeworking. As there are now many people doing Homeworking now for the first time, they must be advised to make themselves familiar with these Policies.
  • Typically these Policies include ensuring their home environment is safe and a risk assessment or checklist of safety information is often required to be completed, this covering topics such as DSE assessment, manual handling, electrical safety, means of regular communication (this also important for a mental wellbeing aspect) and accident reporting procedures.
  • HSE guidance states that to be a DSE ‘User’ as an employee who habitually uses DSE equipment as a significant part of the work. For persons who work at home on a regular and sustained basis are required to complete a risk assessment.
  • HSE have updated their guidance following the government announcement on Monday 16th March to state: “there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So in that situation employers do not need to do home workstation assessments”
  • There is no guidance as to what constitutes ‘temporary’ and but full information can be found at https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm

  • Employees working from home should be instructed to notify their employer in the event of them suffering an accident whilst working at home which is related to their work activity (e.g. injury from defective company equipment). Similarly, they should also report pains and strains which they suspect to be work related (e.g. in their thumb or wrist.

Legionella

  • The law has not changed concerning this risk. The established routines of flushing water and checking tanks for cleanliness remain.
  • The water temperature monitoring is less critical in terms of scalding risks in closed buildings as there are no staff to be affected. In open buildings this should continue for this reason alone. The temperature monitoring of the hot and cold water for legionella growth potential remains as before.
  • Monitoring of external features such as fountains remains paramount as the potentially affected water droplets can move a long way from their source.

Safety Inspections

  • As far as possible inspections should continue to ensure the whole premises remains safe. Any inspections should be documented, and faults located included in an auditable remedy programme.
  • Particular points could include loss of lighting, paving slabs becoming loose or cracked creating tripping hazards specifically for the increased numbers of effectively Lone workers , ensuring all fire doors are closed to improve fire compartmentation, or loss of illuminated safety signage, particularly in occupied buildings.
  • Good communications facilities should be in place for the persons doing inspections.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – UMAL LIABILITY COVERS

Q. Are our staff still covered by our Employers’ Liability cover when they are working from home?

A. Yes. This cover also extends to any agency or temporary staff who are currently working for your institution. The cover also extends to include volunteers, who may be performing any other functions for you, at this time.

Q. It has been reported that remote counselling of students is not covered by some insurers. What is UMAL’s position on this?

A. The provision of student counselling is covered under your Professional Indemnity cover, and your UMAL cover includes any means of delivering this important service.

Q. Whilst our staff are working from home, are they covered for the provision of childcare to friends, relatives or other members of staff?

A. Any childcare provision authorised by your institution, whether ‘at home’ or any other approved location will be covered by the UMAL Public Liability section.

Q. If any student nurses or midwives volunteer to assist local NHS services, due to the unprecedented demand on the UK’s healthcare services, will they be covered by UMAL?

A. The consensus on this is that the NHS will provide cover for such volunteers, as per the statements from the Nursing & Midwifery Council: https://www.nmc.org.uk/news/coronavirus/