Permitted Works and Industry Guidance v8

 

Contents:

1. Return to Work Plans 

1.1      Risk Assessment

1.2      Vulnerable employees

2. Specific Works and Industry Guidance 

2.1      Landlord Compliance and Work in Domestic Homes  

2.2      Construction

2.3      Occupational Driving

2.4      Asbestos Works

2.5      Offices and Contact Centres

 

 

1        Return to Work Plans

 

1.1       Risk Assessment

 

The Scottish Government has developed a system based on local protection levels. These 5 levels (0 to 4) detail a set of measures and restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID. The strength of the restrictions grows as the levels increase and the relevant levels are assigned in accordance with the infection rate of the local area. Therefore, two neighbouring areas can be at a different level and, as such, subjected to different restrictions.

 

For all the levels (including 0) remote working is the default position where this is possible. Working on site is allowed in levels 0 to 3, provided that the requirements of the guidance on control measures for each sector are met. In this sense, the government has published 35 guidance documents tailored to different work environments. Note, however, that COVID-19 risk assessments (and method statements or safe working arrangements) are legally required in all of them. In level 4, only essential services alongside home repairs, outdoor workplaces, construction, manufacturing, veterinary services and film and TV production can remain open.

 

The HSE is now offering plenty of advice on their website to help employers to carry out risk assessments for their premises, work types and vulnerable employees. Whilst they have published very good guidance, including a model of a risk assessment, they are also carrying out “spot checks” on organisations’ COVID-19 risk assessments and working arrangements.

 

Note on risk assessing competence: The Scottish Government has made it clear that the employers should ensure that their H&S professionals and representatives have the skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where there is no access to these skills in-house, external support options should be explored.

 

 

1.2       Vulnerable Employees

 

Depending on their circumstances (age, underlying health condition, pregnancy) two categories of vulnerability have been established: clinically vulnerable and extremely clinically vulnerable.

 

Extremely clinically vulnerable people were asked to shield from March to August and whilst their “shielding status” remained they could not work anywhere other than from home. The shielding status was then paused and since then it has not been reactivated. However, the option remains to restore the shielding requirements in a level 4 area with a high infection rate. Employers with shielding employees should explore options to allow their employees to keep working, for example offering them alternative roles.

 

Extremely clinically vulnerable are people that:

 

  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer, including immunotherapy
  • are having an intense course of radiotherapy (radical radiotherapy) for lung cancer
  • are having targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors)
  • have blood or bone marrow cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)
  • have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 months, or are still taking immunosuppressant medicine
  • have been told by a doctor that they have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, or severe COPD)
  • have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID or sickle cell)
  • are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppressant medicine)
  • have a serious heart condition and are pregnant
  • have a problem with their spleen or their spleen has been removed (splenectomy)
  • are an adult with Down's syndrome
  • are an adult who is having dialysis or has severe (stage 5) long-term kidney disease
  • have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs

These employees should take extra care in observing social distancing and their employers should assist them to work from home when possible. Employers with extremely clinically vulnerable employees will have to develop individual risk assessments for these employees, looking at their particular working conditions regarding COVID-19 risks. The Scottish Government has developed guidance to help employers and employees who need to carry out an individual risk assessment.

 

 

2        Specific Works and Industry Guidance

 

2.1      Landlord Compliance and Work in Domestic Homes

 

The UK Government has published complete guidance to help tradespeople work safely in domestic homes. The guidance establishes that the employers must make sure that the risk assessment addresses the risks of COVID-19, using the guidance to inform their decisions and control measures. This guidance also provides useful information regarding cleaning, using PPE and interacting with householders. The Scottish Government has not published guidance tailored for tradespeople, but it has published a section of Frequent Answered Questions for them within the general guidance.

 

In Level 4, essential home repairs and work in other people’s houses are permitted. The following are examples of allowed works:

 

  • to carry out utility (electricity, gas, water, telephone, broadband) safety checks, repairs, maintenance and installations
  • to carry out repairs and maintenance that would otherwise threaten the household’s health and safety
  • to deliver goods or shopping
  • to deliver, install or repair key household furniture and appliances such as washing machines, fridges and cookers
  • to support a home move, for example furniture removal

All the published guidance state that no work should be carried out in any household which is isolating, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.  Also, in Level 4 areas in Scotland, home visits by contractors should only be for essential services. Before any home visit, the employer has to ascertain whether anyone in the household is self-isolating or has COVID-19 symptoms, and a risk assessment and method statement must be in place, contemplating all the measures suggested by the relevant guidance.

 

The Scottish Government has produced general guidance for Landlords which outlines the challenges associated with some compliance testing in particular (Scottish Government Guidance for Social Landlords; Guidance for Private Landlords and Letting Agents). According to the guidance from the Scottish Government, Landlords should use their best efforts to deliver services, such as gas services and safety checks, and to undertake emergency repairs. If the tenant refuses to give entry or is self-isolating, Landlords should record this fact and that this is related to the COVID-19 outbreak, and then consider retrying as soon as is possible and appropriate, having full regard of advice on self-isolation, hygiene and distancing and making sure that that the level of such instances is detailed in performance reporting.

 

The HSE has published articles about the increased risks of Legionella associated with the reduced occupancy of the buildings, and the challenges related to gas services.

 

The position of the Scottish Government is now that landlords should make every effort to abide by gas safety requirements, electrical and other fuel safety requirements, and repairs and issues brought to their attention by their tenants. However, when tenants are self-isolating or have the virus and refuse to give entry, landlords should record the fact as related to COVID-19 and retry as soon as possible.

 

 

2.2       Construction

 

Construction works were reactivated from mid-summer and they have continued uninterrupted since then, following the Scottish Government guidance. Even in Level 4 of the local protection levels, construction is allowed.

 

 

2.3       Occupational Driving (HSE)

 

Specifically given by the HSE for the transport sector but applicable to all drivers, is guidance that drivers must have access to welfare facilities in the premises they visit as part of their work. This may, of course prove challenging and the risk assessment and method statements should consider the hygiene options in such cases.

 

 

2.4       Asbestos Works

 

It is well known that the asbestos industry is heavily regulated, with statutory licensing, accreditations, training requirements, etc. and, encouragingly, the Regulators are relaxing some of the time-sensitive requirements to allow asbestos businesses to continue trading through the current crisis. This includes a temporary suspension of certain types of refresher training but the HSE notes that all staff must still be competent and we would strongly advise any client appointing asbestos works to thoroughly check the training records for proposed staff (along with any supporting justification from the employer where training may have lapsed during lockdown) to ensure that competence can be demonstrated. Clients should also still expect to still see the normal Notifications where relevant (ASB5 or NNLW1), medicals (although dispensation has been given for these to be carried out remotely), Plans of Work and relevant air testing / 4-stage clearance tests.

 

In relation to both the asbestos removal sector and the inspection/testing/consultancy sector, employers need to prepare and work to adequate COVID-19 risk assessments in order to resume their activities.

 

 

2.5      Offices and Contact Centres

 

Non-essential Offices and Contact Centres are still not allowed to re-open in Scotland, and the default position remains that everyone that can work from home should continue doing so. For employees working in offices providing assistance to essential services, employers need to prepare their risk assessments and put in place all control measures required to minimise the risks of spreading the virus before reopening as state by the Government guidance.

 

 

3        Summary

 

 

 

There is likely to remain a shortage of contractors and a difficulty in safely working in domestic homes for a time to come and in the meantime where compliance checks or other important works cannot be carried out, proper records of the reasons must be kept and the lapsed event rectified as soon as practicable once restrictions are lifted.

 

However, the key message is that even where works are deemed justifiable, all operations and workplaces will require proper risk assessing and the development of COVID-19 compliant control measures by a competent party. A range of guidance is now available form various sources to assist in this challenging task.

 

 

If you require any assistance with risk assessing or developing safe working procedures during this challenging time please do not hesitate to contact ACS via the helpline number or using the details below. Good luck and work safely.

The ACS Team

0141 427 5171

info@acsrisk.com

training@acsrisk.com