All car dealerships will have to complete an online HSE inspection to prove that they are safe to reopen – and face random spot checks in the future to ensure they are complying.
New Covid-19 secure guidelines have been released by the government to ensure businesses looking to reopen their doors are safe to do so.
The detailed guidance covers eight different settings and is broken down into practical steps which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said should be put in place ‘as soon as is practical’.
Ministers said they have consulted with around 250 businesses, trade bodies and unions to agree the plans, with eight separate documents published for different sectors of the business world which can reopen.
A group of dealers and manufacturer representatives worked with the SMMT on their recommendations for a document for car dealers last week.
The government said the new Covid-19 secure guidance will work alongside current health and safety rules, rather than with the introduction of new laws for protecting workers.
It said businesses that want to reopen will need to carry out a risk assessment with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) online tools and place the certificate on display.
To cope with the extra influx, the HSE will receive an extra £14m in funding for extra call-centre workers, inspectors and equipment.
The HSE has clarified that the inspections can be carried out by businesses via their online portal and the certificates must be displayed on their premises. There were initial concerns that all firms would have to be visited by an inspector before they were allowed to reopen, but this isn’t the case.
Key points include maintaining social distancing – with employers expected to redesign workspaces to maintain this – staggering start times, creating one-way systems for workers and protecting staff who may be vulnerable.
At yesterday’s daily briefing, prime minister Boris Johnson said there would be ‘random spot checks to ensure companies are doing the right thing’.
He said: ‘If people find themselves in conditions that they think are unsafe, then they should immediately report it and we will take action, and that goes for all work.’
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: ‘These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that Covid-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.’
The eight separate guidance documents include:
- Construction and other outdoor work
- Factories, plants and warehouses
- Labs and research facilities
- Offices and contact centres
- Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
- Shops and branches
The key factors businesses need to be consider include the following.
Those who can should work from home
Employers should take ‘all reasonable steps’ to allow staff to work from home. Where that is not possible and workplaces have not been told to close, the government said people should go to work.
Assess risks in consultation with workers or trade unions
Under health and safety, employment and equalities legislation, employers should carry out Covid-19 risk assessments and consult staff or trade unions. Firms should publish the assessment if possible and BEIS said all businesses with more than 50 employees were expected to do so.
Where possible, two-metre social distancing should be maintained
Work areas should be redesigned to accommodate a distance of two metres between people, while other measures could include staggering start times, creating one-way pathways around sites, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating plans in break rooms.
Manage the risk of transmission if two-metre distancing not possible
This could include putting barriers in shared spaces, creating shift patterns or fixed teams to minimise contact between people, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.
The guidelines state multiple people should avoid travelling in the same vehicle, and for vehicles to not be shared if possible.
Additional safety measures should be considered if social distancing is not possible for people such as couriers, mobile workers and lorry drivers.
PPE must be provided free of charge if needed
If a risk assessment shows personal protective equipment is required then it must be provided free of charge to workers who need it, and must fit properly.
But the government guidelines say workplaces ‘should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against Covid-19 outside clinical settings’ such as hospitals or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of the virus.
Employers are encouraged to support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one.
More frequent cleaning
Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, with a focus on regularly-touched objects such as door handles and keyboards. Employers are told to provide hand-washing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points. A relevant notice to display is available to download on the government website.
Craig Beaumont, head of external affairs UK at the Federation of Small Businesses said that the guidance is ‘practical, workable and proportionate for small businesses’.
He said: ‘It will be a long journey but this guidance will provide the basis for small employers to have the positive conversations needed with their staff. This is the first step to getting the economy back on its feet.’
CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said: ‘Safety is at the heart of business thinking. Unless people feel safe, employees won’t return, customers will stay away and the restart will falter, harming livelihoods and public services.’
The government advice says the HSE will be able to identify ’employers who are not taking action to comply’ with a ‘range of actions to improve control of workplace risks’.
It added: ‘For example, this would cover employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance, where possible.
Guidance for other sectors that are not currently open will be developed and published ahead of those establishments opening to give those businesses time to plan, the government added.
The full government guidelines can be found here.
Updated: Tuesday May 12, 11:05
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