Government guidance is clear, all employers should carry out a Covid-19 workplace risk assessment.
Many accidents arise from unexpected events and most others from a series of predictable events coming together unexpectedly. But when it comes to predicting the future, the evidence is that the “expert” fares little better than the layman (N.N. Taleb). You can assess the mortality risk for a 61-year-old who contracts Covid-19 reasonably well. There is widely available data. However, assessing how much a 61-year-old (or a 21 year-old) is at risk of contracting the disease in your particular workplace is at least partly guesswork.
Consequences are important. The consequences of falling out of a third-floor hotel window will be greater than for one on the ground floor. The consequences of Covid-19 for the 61-year-old could be far greater than for the 21-year-old.
The real purpose of a risk assessment is not to assess risk. It is to reduce risk.
The duty on employers is to reduce risk to the lowest reasonable, practicable level. To take the hotel example, a third-floor hotel window should have restricted opening (potential for a fatality) while a ground floor one (little potential for injury) might not.
Where the risk is of a fatality, such as there is from Covid-19, you will need to take stringent preventative steps. As examples, these will include:
- Homeworking wherever possible
- Greater hygiene and cleanliness
- Following social distancing guidelines as far as reasonably practicable
- Ceasing non-essential work if unsafe
- Taking extra precautions (see the guidance links below), if social distancing has to be compromised
- Considering the implications for employees who are especially vulnerable and the risk of discrimination (see the companion blog)
There is more (sector specific) detail in the Government guidance below.
The Government states:
“You should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website (and we [i.e. the Government] would expect all employers with over 50 workers to do so)”.
You might note the words “should share” and “we would expect”. However, Employer Solutions suggests publication would be good practice and engender better commitment from employees.
You can publish the results on an online Employee Handbook where it need not be public and where it will target employees. Please contact us if you would like to do so.
There is a notice that you can display in the workplace or on your employee handbook to confirm you have complied with Government guidance (below).
- Construction and other outdoor work
- Factories, plants and warehouses
- Labs and research facilities
- Offices and contact centres
- Other people’s homes
- Restaurants offering takeaway and delivery
- Shops and branches
*Please get in touch if you need any support – we are advising organisations daily on all HR elements of COVID-19.
Malcolm Martin FCIPD
Author Human Resource Practice
Blogs are for general guidance and are not an authoritative statement of the law.