The UK is currently experiencing a public health emergency as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It is therefore critical that organisations take a range of measures to keep everyone safe. Our Public Protection team are recieving a lot of questions with regards to businesses and COVID-19, here are the answers to some common queries.
Why are some businesses not asking for Track and Trace information?
The easing of social and economic lockdown measures following the COVID-19 outbreak is being supported by NHS Test and Trace. Businesses have been asked to assist this service by keeping a temporary record of customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for the organisation, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. This could help contain clusters or outbreaks.
This is not a legal requirement.
There is a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19 in premises where customers and visitors spend a longer time in one place and potentially come into close contact with other people outside of their household. To manage this risk, establishments in the following sectors, whether indoor or outdoor venues or mobile settings, should collect details and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors:
- hospitality, including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés
- tourism and leisure, including hotels, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks
- close contact services, including hairdressers, barbershops and tailors
- facilities provided by local authorities, including town halls and civic centres for events, community centres, libraries and children’s centres
- places of worship, including use for events and other community activities
This guidance applies to any establishment that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises. It does not apply where services are taken off site immediately, for example, a food or drink outlet which only provides takeaways. If a business offers a mixture of a sit-in and takeaway service, contact information only needs to be collected for customers who are dining in.
Government guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors
NHS Test and Trace is a key part of the country’s ongoing COVID-19 response. If we can rapidly detect people who have recently come into close contact with a new COVID-19 case, we can take swift action to minimise transmission of the virus. This is important as lockdown measures are eased and will help us return to a more normal way of life and reduce the risk of needing local lockdowns in the future.
What is a COVID-19 Risk assessment?
COVID-19 is a public health emergency. Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19, and in particular businesses should consider the risks to their workers and customers. Employers also have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This means they need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising that they cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.
A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in the workplace. Businesses with fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, don’t have to write anything down as part of their risk assessment. Those with 5 or more employees do.
The Health and Safety Executive has guidance for business on how to manage risk and risk assessment at work along with specific advice to help control the risk of coronavirus in workplaces.
Why are some businesses not spacing tables at two metres apart or ensuring social distancing inside businesses?
There is Government guidance on Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)
These documents are there to help businesses how to work safely and keep you safe during this pandemic, ensuring as many people as possible comply with social distancing guidelines (2m apart, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).
Many of the complaints we receive are in regards to pubs and restaurants. The guidance advises managing the entry of customers, and the number of customers at a venue, so that all indoor customers are seated with appropriate distancing, and those outdoors have appropriately spaced seating or standing room. This is to ensure that the venue, including areas of congestion does not become overcrowded. Managing entry numbers can be done, for example, through reservation systems, social distancing markings, having customers queue at a safe distance for toilets or bringing payment machines to customers, where possible.
Adjusting service approaches to minimise staff contact with customers. Indoor table service must be used where possible, alongside further measures such as assigning a single staff member per table. Outdoor table service should also be encouraged, although customers are permitted to stand outside if distanced appropriately. Where bar or counter service is unavoidable, preventing customers from remaining at the bar or counter after ordering.
There are no specified distances between tables, but businesses should be calculating the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable). For instance, ensuring that seating at different tables are not facing each other, are either side on or back to back.
Bar and kitchen areas will be challenging to operate under social distancing requirements. It will require planning and in some cases re-arranging. Each business and each kitchen will be different. An approach that many businesses have taken is to reduce the menu choices to the numbers of staff needed in the kitchen.
Why are staff not wearing PPE?
It is important to distinguish between face coverings, face masks and PPE such as respirators.
A face covering can be any covering of the mouth and nose, made of cloth or other textiles and through which an individual can breathe. Religious face coverings, a scarf, a snood or a bandana can count as face coverings.
Face coverings are not manufactured to a recognised standard and do not require CE marking. They are not the same as face masks which are manufactured to specifications for medical/surgical masks (which are deemed as medical devices in accordance with the EU Medical Device Regulations) and classified as Type I, Type II or Type IIR.
Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
What is the current government advice for face coverings in the workplace?
There is no one piece of guidance about face coverings in the workplace as there are so many different working environments. The Government Guidance series of documents ‘Working Safely’ provide links to ‘When and Where to Wear Face Coverings’.
Employees of indoor settings, such as pubs and restaurants, do not have to wear face coverings - although employers may consider their use where appropriate and where other mitigations are not in place.
In workplaces such as hairdressers and barbers, spas, beauty salons and tattoo and photoshoot studios, it is likely to be difficult to maintain social distancing, as employees need to work in close proximity to their clients, usually for an extended period of time. An extended period of time refers to the majority of the working day, irrespective of the number of clients served during the day.
The person providing a service (such as hairdressers or beauticians), because of the period of time spent in close proximity to a person’s face, mouth and nose should therefore wear further protection in addition to any that they might usually wear. This should take the form of a clear visor and a Type II face mask.
If you have any further questions about COVID-19 measures or wish to raise a concern about a business who you feel is not following the Working Safely Guidance, please do not hesitate to contact our Public Protection Service at Ehealth@winchester.gov.uk or telephone 01962 848097.