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Dealing with health and safety during the 2021 lockdown

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The new national lockdown is a challenge for us all on multiple levels – whether it’s working from home and dealing with children at the same time, keeping mentally well, looking after relatives or others who need support, shopping for food  – we all have to work out how we do these things safely within the new restrictions. 

For businesses, it would be easy to say that nothing has really changed  and Covid safety management is well covered as a consequence of the two previous lockdowns in 2020. So, is that the right approach or should you be re-visiting your Covid Policy, Risk Assessment and your communication with staff?

It is clear from Government communications and the updated Covid Regulations and Guidance that the Government is expecting a high degree of compliance with the new lockdown and that enforcement against individuals who flout the rules will be the first line of attack. Is the same true for a business?

How important is Covid safety within a business environment?

Covid safety within a business environment is enforced by the HSE and Local Authorities. The HSE has previously publicised the fact that they and  Local Authorities are carrying out spot checks on all types of business in all areas to ensure they are Covid safe.

There is no doubt that there is a renewed effort being made to check up on Covid compliance within businesses,  and if Covid procedures are insufficient there is  more likelihood of employees complaining to the HSE or your Local Authority.

Following the Guidance which HSE  and Government have issued  to help keep your workplace Covid secure continues to be vital:

  • Carrying out a Covid-19 Risk Assessment of all your activities and implementing Covid safe procedures. 
  • Maintaining social distancing ( 2m plus in the current lockdown ). 
  • Keeping your workplace clean/hygiene procedures.
  • Ensuring adequate ventilation.

In this context however, it is important to note that the emphasis of the current lockdown has changed and we have reverted to a positive work from home requirement unless the job cannot be done on that basis.
It is therefore again incumbent upon a business to make sure that all roles wherever reasonably possible can be undertaken from a home environment and that if staff are required to work from an office or other facility, numbers are kept to an absolute minimum and that appropriate social distancing (at least 2 meters in the current lockdown) hygiene procedures, one-way systems etc are all in place. 

Dealing with lockdown fatigue

It should also be recognised that “lockdown/Covid fatigue” as a consequence of months of having to do things differently  and in a restricted way also impacts upon the effectiveness of the control measures which you have in place. What may have worked in March 2020 may be being ignored  or sidestepped in January 2021. 

What should you do? 

It is strongly recommended  that your existing Risk Assessment and  Covid Procedures are reviewed to make sure they are still fit for purpose in the light of the current lockdown and the increased transmission rates. Taking time to make sure your staff are still engaged with your Covid procedures and are following them is equally important. If you have previously allowed some staff to work from an office or other facility is such an approach still acceptable  and are they fulfilling roles which cannot be managed from home? 

Reviewing your risk assessments will enable you to ensure you are doing as much as possible to keep your workforce safe and will enable you to respond to the HSE and Local Authority should they raise enquiries. 

Making sure your Covid procedures are relevant, that they are communicated to staff and that they are properly implemented will ensure you have fulfilled your health and safety obligations. 

If you wish to discuss any aspect of your Covid procedures, your Covid Risk Assessment or any other matters relating to health & safety, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We would be very happy to help. 

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