Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the UK is currently experiencing a public health emergency. Now it is more important than ever to keep everyone safe at the workplace ensuring as many people as possible comply with social distancing guidelines.

This page is to help employees and employers within factories, plants and warehouses understand how to work safely during this pandemic.

For more information, please visit the Official Government Site.

Risk Assessment

Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19, and in particular businesses should consider the risks to their workers and visitors. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.

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.

 

To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.

  1. Ensuring both workers and visitors who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the premises.
  2. In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
  3. Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government .
  4. Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain a 2m distance or 1m with risk mitigations where 2m is not viable.
  5. Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, even through redesigning a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.
  6. You should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission.
  7. Finally, if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.

You must share the results of your risk assessment with your employees. If possible, you should consider publishing it on your website.

 

Social Distancing

You must maintain social distancing in the workplace wherever possible.

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain a 2m distance or 1m with risk mitigations where 2m is not viable.

Mitigating actions include:

  • further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).

Coming to work and leaving work

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Staggering arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace, taking account of the impact on those with protected characteristics.

  2. Providing additional parking or facilities such as bike racks to help people walk, run, or cycle to work where possible.

  3. Limiting passengers in corporate vehicles, for example, work minibuses. This could include leaving seats empty.

  4. Reducing congestion, for example, by having more entry points to the workplace.

  5. Using markings and introducing one-way flow at entry and exit points.

  6. Providing handwashing facilities, or hand sanitiser where not possible, at entry and exit points.

  7. Maintaining use of security access devices, such as keypads or passes, and adjusting processes at entry/exit points to reduce risk of transmission. For example, cleaning pass readers regularly and asking staff to hold their passes above pass readers rather than touching them.

  8. See government guidance on travelling to and from work.

Moving around buildings and worksites

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Reducing movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites, for example, restricting access to some areas, encouraging use of radios or telephones or other electronic devices, where permitted, and cleaning them between use.

  2. Reducing job and equipment rotation.

  3. Introducing more one-way flow through buildings.

  4. Reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts, and encouraging use of stairs wherever possible.

  5. Making sure that people with disabilities are able to access lifts.

  6. Reducing occupancy of vehicles used for onsite travel, for example, shuttle buses.

  7. Managing use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways to maintain social distancing.

Workplaces and workstations

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Reviewing layouts, line set-ups or processes to allow people to work further apart from each other.
  2. Using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help workers comply with social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).
  3. Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, arranging people to work side-by-side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face.

  4. Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, installing screens to separate people from one another.

  5. Using a consistent pairing system if people have to work in close proximity, for example, during 2-person working, lifting or maintenance activities that cannot be redesigned.

Common areas

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Staggering break times to reduce pressure on break rooms or places to eat and ensuring social distancing is maintained in staff break rooms.

  2. Using safe outside areas for breaks.

  3. Creating additional space by using other parts of the worksite or building that have been freed up by remote working.

  4. Using protective screening for staff in receptions or similar areas.

  5. Providing packaged meals or similar to avoid opening staff canteens, where possible.

  6. Reconfiguring seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions.

  7. Encouraging staff to stay on-site during working hours.

  8. Considering use of social distance marking for other common areas such as toilets, showers, lockers and changing rooms and in any other areas where queues typically form.

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Cleaning and PPE

Before reopening

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Checking whether you need to service or adjust ventilation systems, for example, so that they do not automatically reduce ventilation levels due to lower than normal occupancy levels.

  2. Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, however where systems serve multiple buildings or you are unsure, advice should be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers.

  3. Positive pressure systems can operate as normal.

Keeping the workplace clean

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment between uses, using your usual cleaning products.

  2. Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, including door handles, pump handles and printers, and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements for cleaning products.

  3. Clearing workspaces and removing waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift.

  4. If you are cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19 then you refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings

  5. Maintaining good ventilation in the work environment. For example, opening windows and doors frequently, where possible.

Hygiene: handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and the need to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.

  2. Providing regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards.

  3. Providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations in addition to washrooms.

  4. Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and social-distancing is achieved as much as possible.

  5. Enhancing cleaning for busy areas.

  6. Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets.

  7. Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.

  8. Providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers.

  9. Keeping the facilities well ventilated, for example by fixing doors open where appropriate.

Handling goods, merchandise and other materials, and onsite vehicles

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Cleaning procedures for the parts of shared equipment you touch after each use, thinking about equipment, tools and vehicles, for example, pallet trucks and forklift trucks.

  2. Encouraging increased handwashing and introducing more handwashing facilities for workers handling goods and merchandise or providing hand sanitiser where this is not practical.

  3. Regular cleaning of vehicles that workers may take home.

  4. Regular cleaning of reusable delivery boxes.

PPE & Face coverings

PPE protects the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment, such as face masks.

Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so.

Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

However, there are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms. However workers and visitors who want to wear a face covering should be allowed to do so.

Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. This means telling workers:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and before and after after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions; if it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • practise social distancing wherever possible

A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It just needs to cover your mouth and nose.

You can make face-coverings at home. Find guidance on how to wear and make a face-covering on GOV.UK.

Workforce Management

Shift patterns and working groups

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. As far as possible, where people are split into teams or shift groups, fixing these teams or shift groups so that, where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same people.

  2. Identifying areas where people have to directly pass things to each other, for example, job information, spare parts, samples, raw materials, and find ways to remove direct contact, such as through the use of drop-off points or transfer zones.

  3. You should assist the test and trace service by keeping a temporary record of your staff shift patterns for 21 days and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. This could help contain clusters or outbreaks. Check what data you need to collect and how it should be managed.

Outbreaks in the workplace

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. As part of your risk assessment, you should ensure you have an up to date plan in case there is a COVID-19 outbreak. This plan should nominate a single point of contact (SPOC) where possible who should lead on contacting local Public Health teams.

  2. If there is more than one case of COVID-19 associated with your workplace, you should contact your local PHE health protection team to report the suspected outbreak. Find your local PHE health protection team.

  3. If the local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak, you will be asked to record details of symptomatic staff and assist with identifying contacts. You should therefore ensure all employment records are up to date. You will be provided with information about the outbreak management process, which will help you to implement control measures, assist with communications to staff, and reinforce prevention messages.

 Deliveries to other sites

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Putting in place procedures to minimise person-to-person contact during deliveries to other sites.

  2. Maintaining consistent pairing where 2-person deliveries are required.

  3. Minimising contact during payments and exchange of documentation, for example, by using electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.

Returning to work

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Providing clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways of working.

  2. Engaging with workers and worker representatives through existing communication routes to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements.

  3. Developing communication and training materials for workers prior to returning to site, especially around new procedures for arrival at work.

Ongoing communications and signage

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Ongoing engagement with workers, including through trades unions or employee representative groups, to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments.

  2. Awareness and focus on the importance of mental health at times of uncertainty. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  3. Using simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for which English may not be their first language and those with protected characteristics such as visual impairments.

  4. Using visual communications, for example, whiteboards or signage, to explain changes to production schedules, breakdowns or materials shortagest without the need for face-to-face communications

  5. Communicating approaches and operational procedures to suppliers, customers or trade bodies to help their adoption and to share experience.

 

Further Guidance