Social distancing and making your workplace COVID-secure

Social distancing means keeping people apart to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Where possible you should keep people 2m apart. If this is not viable, keeping 1m apart with risk mitigation is acceptable.

In the UK some rules such as social distancing may be different in each of the devolved nations. However, HSE regulates in all of these countries. You should check the public health guidance for the country you are in:

You must ensure that workers and other people visiting your workplace understand and comply with the measures you put in place.

Social distancing should form part of your business’s risk assessment and is one of the steps needed to make your workplace COVID-secure.

The gov.uk guides on working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) explain the control measures that different types of business should consider. These cover construction, factories, offices, vehicle use and other types of work. The guides apply to workplaces in England.

The following guidance sets out the main control measures and additional measures where social distancing is not possible:

Common areas (includes break areas, bathrooms, toilets, meeting rooms and accommodation)

Common areas are used by many people. The potential for spread of coronavirus is considered to be higher in these areas if proper controls are not in place.

Identify and review the common areas within your workplace including:

  • restrooms
  • kitchens
  • tea points
  • changing facilities
  • lifts
  • meeting rooms
  • smoking areas
  • canteens
  • toilets
  • showers
  • reception areas
  • accommodation

Also consider pinch points in your premises such as narrow corridors, staircases, doorways and storage areas.

You may need to put in place a combination of control measures to keep people safe.

General control measures

Consider putting the following control measures in place for common areas:

Guidance on cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitiser.

Break areas

Employers must make sure all workers, including those visiting your premises for work, have somewhere to rest and eat and should also provide facilities to heat food or water for hot drinks. Find out more about having the right workplace facilities.

Consider these control measures:

  • Ensure that workers understand the need to maintain social distancing and good hand hygiene before entering any areas where food is consumed.
  • If workers need to leave the site at break times remind them to maintain social distancing while off-site.
  • If canteens are used, consider if food, cutlery etc can be delivered to tables. Where canteens need to serve food reconfigure seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions. Mark the floor in case furniture is accidentally moved.
  • Stagger or extend break times to limit the numbers of people using the facilities.
  • Create additional break areas where required such as in unused rooms. It may be possible to create outside break areas where it is safe to do so.

Bathrooms, toilets and washbasins (welfare facilities)

You have a legal duty to provide adequate toilet and washing facilities that are easy and safe to access. This applies to any workers (including those not employed or contracted to you), and visiting workers who are not normally on your premises. The legal responsibility to provide access to these facilities lies with whoever controls the premises.

Refusing access for any reason, including as an infection control measure, is against the law. It is vital that people can wash their hands regularly, so not allowing access to welfare facilities may increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

When completing your COVID-19 risk assessment, review the provisions you have to make sure they allow people (including visiting workers) to social distance, use the toilets and wash hands frequently. Consider whether you need to provide any additional washing facilities.

To protect people when using existing toilet and washing facilities consider the following:

  • Identify all surfaces that require additional cleaning in bathrooms and toilets.
  • Taking some static facilities out of use where they are less than 2m apart. If this includes toilet facilities such as urinals you should ensure that you still have a sufficient number of toilets in your workplace.
  • Put markings on floors to show people the right distances or where to stand.
  • Put in place systems such as ‘one in, one out’ if it isn’t possible to maintain social distancing.
  • Make sure you provide running water and soap to enable people to clean their hands properly.
  • Provide hand drying facilities – paper towels or hand dryers.
  • Empty bins frequently to safely dispose of waste. Where possible have open-topped bins or foot operated lids.
  • Using signs and posters to increase awareness of good handwashing technique.
  • Decide how and when handwashing facilities will be cleaned and when bins will be emptied.
  • Decide who will replenish soap, paper towels and hand sanitiser.

Guidance on cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitiser.

Additional handwashing facilities

When completing your COVID-19 risk assessment, consider if you need to provide additional handwashing facilities so that people can wash their hands frequently.

Consider:

  • where people work
  • how much contact they have with others
  • the frequency they should wash their hands as a result

This will also help you to decide if and where you need to provide additional washing facilities.

If you cannot provide additional handwashing facilities, you may need to provide hand sanitiser instead in some circumstances.

When you complete your risk assessment, think about:

  • providing handwashing facilities at entry and exit points so people can wash their hands when they arrive and leave work – if this is not possible, provide hand sanitiser
  • where extra handwashing facilities need to be to allow people to wash their hands frequently
  • making sure your handwashing facilities have running water, soap and paper towels or hand dryers
  • identifying where extra hand sanitiser points are needed in addition to washing facilities

Meeting rooms

Consider the following measures:

Accommodation

Employers who provide accommodation for their workers should consider the following:

Workstations

Workstations are areas where workers routinely or regularly work and can include:

Consider the following:

  • Look at how you can organise workstations to allow people to meet social distancing rules.
  • Review layouts and processes to allow people to work 2m apart from each other where possible.
  • Use floor tape or paint to mark areas.
  • Manage occupancy levels.
  • Avoid any sharing of workstations, including hot desking where possible.
  • Limit the number of people having to share a workstation to the absolute minimum.
  • Where workstations must be shared, try to keep the same set of people using them.
  • Make sure that workstations are cleared at the end of the day or shift so that they can be properly cleaned.
  • Ensure that all workstations are regularly cleaned in accordance with your cleaning plan.

Where it’s not possible to keep workstations 2m apart, consider these additional control measures.

 

Arriving and leaving work

Consider these control measures for when people are arriving or leaving work:

Guidance on cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitiser.

Movement around buildings and worksites

Consider these control measures when people are moving around buildings or worksites:

Where 2m social distancing is not possible

Consider these additional control measures where 2m social distancing is not possible:

Guidance on cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitiser.

Using vehicles

On gov.uk there is guidance for people who work in or from vehicles setting out control measures to help protect workers.

Consider the following control measures:

Where it’s not possible for people to social distance in a vehicle, consider additional measures such as:

  • using physical screening, as long as this does not compromise safety, for example by reducing visibility
  • sitting side-by-side not face-to-face
  • using a fixed pairing system if people have to work in close proximity

Emergencies, security and other incidents

Consider the following:

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