A checklist on Government guidelines for returning to work

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The government has published official guidance on returning to the workplace.   This covers eight sectors with guidance for each.  

As more workplaces are opening for business we summarise the key points to be considered before you bring people back to the workplace. 

To start with there are three key points:

  • Is it essential? 
    If people can continue to work from home they should continue to do so where possible.
  • Is it sufficiently safe? 
    Employers have a duty of care so a risk assessment is needed (see below) and a gradual approach to test new systems is advisable.
  • Is it mutually agreed?  
    Employers have a duty to consult their people on health and safety. Take into account travel and other arrangements as there needs to be flexibility.

Below we summarise the most important areas covered in the guidance

Risk Assessment

Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19. As an employer, you also have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. 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. 

Managing the risk

Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Employers must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected.   


In applying this guidance, employers should be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals.It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability.  Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.

Face coverings

Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off.  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 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, practice social distancing wherever possible.

Keeping your workplace clean

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

Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, such as buckets, site equipment and control panels, and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements.

Clearing work spaces and removing waste and belongings from the work area at the end of shift.

Sanitisation of all hand tools, controls, machinery and equipment after use.

Helping employees keep good hygiene

Providing additional hand washing facilities.

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

Providing regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards.

Providing hand sanitisers in multiple locations in addition to washrooms.

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

Enhancing cleaning for busy areas.

Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets.

Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.

Providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical driers.

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