Safe Working Procedures and Risk Assessment v8

 

Contents:

1. Virus Viability

2. Risk Assessments and Safe Systems of Work

2.1       Work Activities

2.2       Premises

 

3. Infection Control Guidance

3.1      General Precautions 

3.2      Hazards and Risks

3.2.1      Social Distancing and Minimising Contact

3.2.2      Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

3.2.3      PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

3.2.4      Work Canteens, Rest Areas and Shift Working

3.2.5      Premises Considerations

3.2.6      Useful Links

 

 

4. Cleaning Of Premises

4.1     Cleaning Regime

4.2   Decontamination of Premises after Possible COVID-19 Case (Non-Healthcare Setting including Void Properties)

 

Appendix 1 – IOSH Fact Sheets (Workplace Hygiene and Homeworking Ergonomics)

 

1. Virus Viability

 

Current research (Van Doremalen et al. 2020) indicates that the virus may remain active for up to 72-80 hours, depending on the surface, the sunlight exposure, temperature and humidity and exposure to decontamination products such as detergents and disinfectants. The following graphic shows the viability of the virus in aerosols and on various other surfaces, with the results for the SARS-COV2 (the virus responsible for the COVID-19) marked in red. The main lesson for managing exposure risk is that the virus may exist on hard surfaces to which operatives may be exposed by touch (e.g. door handles, keycode systems, keys, etc.) for over 3 days, even where no visible contaminated media (e.g. sludge, body fluid etc.) is visible.

 

2. Risk Assessment and Safe Systems of Work

 

2.1       Work Activities

 

In all cases where work outside of ‘home-working’ is required, some considerable planning, risk assessing and risk control development should be carried out and safe working procedures developed before the works are allowed to commence. In addition, the provision of suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training will be required in the hazards and risks, control measures and any protective equipment required.

 

The Scottish Government has published over thirty tailored guidance documents, alongside a general working safely guidance for all the sectors and environments for which a tailored guidance does not exist. All of them reinforce the idea that the employers need to address the risks of COVID-19 within their risk assessments. It is important to note the view of the SG regarding the competencies required by the employers when preparing the risk assessments: “Organisations should ensure their health and safety professionals and representatives have the skills, training and knowledge to understand the risks associated with COVID-19. Where organisations and their workforce do not have access to these skills in-house, together, they should explore external support options”. The HSE also has published a section on its website to help with the risk assessments..

 

In addition to the aforementioned resources, Public Health Scotland has launched a website to assist with return to work risk assessments. 

 

Unfortunately there is no ‘one size fits all’ for risk assessing proposed tasks and whilst standard risk assessment models should be adequate in recording the assessments, it will be important to address each activity on its own merits, taking account of the need for the task, the work environment, the people involved, the available guidance on infection control, etc. The following information gives some ideas on current thinking on infection control and safe working practices.

 

For homeworkers, the Scottish Government is requesting that employers carry out a homeworking risk assessment, with frequent reviews of measures and risks. The HSE has also prepared some useful material, which can be found on their website.

 

2.2       Premises

 

In addition to risk assessing proposed work activities, it is also important that the work premises are properly assessed, taking account of plant, machinery and equipment that may have been affected by the shut-down. For example, water systems which have not been regularly flushed through will have a greater Legionella risk, particularly where there has been stored water, hot weather and water sprays (such as shower heads).

 

3. Infection Control Guidance

 

3.1       General Precautions

 

In all risk assessments and safe working procedures, personnel should be reminded that the risk of infection goes in both directions and that all reasonable precautions should be taken to prevent employees from catching the virus from other people/surfaces/etc. AND from them possibly spreading the virus to other people/surfaces/etc. (note that a person may be carrying the virus without necessarily feeling unwell).

 

A useful general reminder that may be added to all documents is shown below:

It is estimated that the average person touches their face up to 2000 times per day and this is a high-risk transmission route for the virus. Therefore, make a conscious effort not to do so, to adopt all safe working procedures and to wash your hands regularly and after touching any surfaces that may have been touched by others!

 

3.2       Hazards and Risks

 

Based largely on Guidance from PHE, the following considerations may be useful in addressing task-specific hazards, risks and control measures.

 

3.2.1    Social Distancing and Minimising Contact

 

 

The general advice remains the same:

 

    1. Work from home where possible - employers should support employees to do this
    2. Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19: high temperature and/or new and continuous cough and/or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste
    3. Avoid non-essential use of public transport and use a face covering if traveling on public transport
    4. Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces
    5. Plan work to minimise contact between workers and avoid skin-to-skin and face-to-face contact. Where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible (in Scotland face-to-face contact is permitted, with adequate PPE, in a reduced range of critical activities and situations for which no alternative method of working has yet been found).
    6. Make regular announcements to remind staff and/or customers to follow social distancing advice, wash their hands regularly and only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.
    7. Encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material where possible rather than paper format
    8. Provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if appropriate, with soap, water, hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage staff to use them
    9. Consider provision of disinfectant solutions and disposable cloths to clean surfaces or tools that may have been previously handled/touched by other people and to clean down surfaces after use
    10. Where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas (for example, where queues form)
    11. Change the layout of the office so staff work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face
    12. Keep groups of workers working apart or together in teams that are as small as possible (cohorting), e.g. do not mix crew members on different shifts.
    13. Regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
    14. Place plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection
    15. Encourage hand washing each time before getting into and out of enclosed machinery (such as diggers). Also keep the windows of enclosed machinery or enclosed spaces open for ventilation. Regularly clean the inside of cabs, particularly between use by different operators.
    16. Encourage use of stairs in preference to lifts or hoists. Where lifts or hoists must be used, lower their capacity to reduce congestion and contact.
    17. Regularly clean all touchpoints such as doors and buttons.

 

3.2.2    Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

Employers should encourage employees (through information and the provision of equipment etc.) to:

    1. Avoid congested areas and sharing confined spaces with others
    2. Ensure that there is an adequate supply of fresh air into the premises and adequate ventilation.
    3. Wash hands more often-with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser if washing facilities are not available and, particularly, after nose blowing, sneezing or coughing, before eating or handling food/drink, before smoking and after touching surfaces that may have been touched by others
    4. Use additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible (providing soap, water, hand sanitiser and tissues)
    5. Avoid touching face, eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
    6. Avoid contact with people who have symptoms
    7. Catch coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash hands
    8. Clean and frequently disinfect touched objects and surfaces (using disinfectant solutions and disposable cloths if provided)
    9. Use face-covering indoors, and even outdoors in crowded situations

Note that proper handwashing with soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds is more effective against virus and bacteria than the use of hand sanitiser. In addition, for a hand sanitiser to be effective against virus and bacteria it must contain at least a 60% of alcohol.

 

3.2.3    PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Health Protection Scotland state that the use of face masks is not recommended for the general population and there is no evidence of benefit to support the use of face masks outside healthcare environments. The construction guidelines for Scotland, however, have adopted the use of adequate PPE when the physical distance cannot be maintained by any other means.

 

Whilst face masks may be advisable for those diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19 to reduce spread of infection it is important to note that no such person should be permitted to work until fully recovered.

 

Note that the term ‘face mask’ here relates to proper respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and surgical face masks, and not simply face coverings (e.g. cloth or disposable coverings which are not surgical face masks), which are now being recommended for general use in enclosed spaces and compulsory for public transport users and customers in shops and supermarkets. While wearing a face covering, it is important to be aware that this needs to be well fitted on the face when putting and then not touched other than by the ear loops. The hands should be washed or sanitised before and after putting and removing the face covering.

 

 

Where PPE should be considered:

If the risk assessment indicates that a higher risk of contamination may be present (for example where unwell individuals have slept) or there is visible contamination with body fluids, then the need for additional PPE including respirators, aprons, gloves, etc. should be considered. A proper COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations) risk assessment should be carried out for all higher risk work. Note that the Government’s Industry Guidance does provide advice on PPE for each industry/work environment.

 

 

PPE Training:

The WHO has an online free course on putting on and removing PPE: https://openwho.org/courses/IPC-PPE-EN

 

Summary:

The over-riding control measure in normal risk situations is the need for all site workers to have access to handwashing facilities and soap and hand sanitiser if this is available as opposed to the use of PPE (in particular face masks which remains the subject of debate).

 

3.2.4    Work canteens, rest areas and shift working

Employers must ensure that social distancing and hygiene standards are followed at all times, and especially in common areas such as work canteens and rest areas. Where there are no practical alternatives, workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff and/or provide a space for breaks. However, where possible, staff should be encouraged to bring their own food and distributors should move to takeaway. Measures should be taken to minimise the number of people in the canteen / rest area at any one given time, for example by using a rota.

 

The following principles should be applied:

 

    1. Canteen staff who are unwell should not be at work
    2. Canteen staff should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food
    3. Canteen should be kept adequately ventilated
    4. Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and before and after eating. If possible, increase the number of hand washing stations available
    5. A distance of 2 metres should be maintained between users, wherever possible
    6. Staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing measures
    7. Notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas
    8. Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched regularly, using standard cleaning products
    9. Consider extending and staggering meal times to avoid crowding
    10. Employees using a canteen should wear a face covering while not eating or drinking

Employers should also consider:

 

    1. Splitting staff into teams with alternate days working from home, or splitting across a day and night shift
    2. Fixing these splits (cohorting), so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same individuals
    3. Spreading out standard processes, so that only one team needs to be on the premises to complete a task at a given time
    4. Using signage such as floor markings to facilitate compliance, particularly in the most crowded areas.

 

3.2.5    Premises Considerations

In addition to the changes needed to maintain the physical distance and the correct hygiene, there are some premises layout and facilities management related changes that employers may need to consider, such as:

 

 

    1. Air Conditioning and Ventilation: The risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus is extremely low, however, HSE advice is that systems should not run on a recirculation mode. Adequate ventilation is extremely important and should not be reduced due to lower occupancy levels. As far as practicable, windows and doors (other than fire doors) should be kept open to improve the ventilation.
    2. Legionella: There is an increased risk of Legionnaires’ disease in closed buildings or those with a reduced occupancy (where water has been stagnant in pipework etc.) and employers should review their Legionella Risk Assessments before reinstating water systems and restarting some types of air conditioners. External advice, cleaning or system disinfection may be required.
    3. Access to welfare facilities: Drivers and couriers visiting premises as part of their job must be granted access to welfare facilities within these premises. Therefore, employers need to be aware of this when planning access to toilets and cleaning stations and establishing appropriate cleaning routines. 
    4. Cleaning and Disinfecting: The HSE has developed a database of authorised products to help the employers to choose the right hand sanitisers and surface disinfectants, as not all the products in the market will meet their requirements.

 

3.2.6    Useful Links

 

See also Appendix 1 for IOSH fact-sheets on workplace hygiene and ergonomics for working at home.

 

4. Cleaning of Premises

 

4.1       Cleaning Regime

 

Regular cleaning plays a vital role in limiting the transmission of COVID-19. Reducing clutter and removing difficult to clean items, such as soft surfaces (i.e. sofas and soft footrests) can make cleaning easier. Increase the frequency of cleaning, using standard cleaning products such as detergents and bleach, paying attention to all surfaces but especially ones that are touched frequently, such as door handles, light switches, work surfaces, remote controls and electronic devices.

 

As a minimum, frequently touched surfaces should be wiped down at the beginning and at the end of each day, and more frequently depending on: the number of people using the space, whether they are entering and exiting the setting, and access to hand washing and hand-sanitising facilities. Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces is particularly important in bathrooms and communal kitchens.

 

Fog, mist, vapour or UV treatments may be suitable options to help control the spread of the virus, by cleaning and disinfecting a larger space or room, but these treatments will need careful consideration as their suitability will depend on the type of premises (size, type of surfaces, etc.) and they can be harmful to health if not used adequately.

 

In addition to the above published information, the Scottish Government has published a document to help social landlords managing multi-storey and high-density flats, in order to keep a good cleaning and hygiene standard.

 

Links:

 

4.2   Decontamination of Premises after possible COVID-19 case (non-healthcare setting including void properties

 

Health Protection Scotland establishes a protocol for environmental decontamination (cleaning and disinfection) that should be followed after a possible case has left a non-healthcare setting. PHE also provides advice on this subject.

 

Note that in relation to homes which become void, the status of the previous tenant and/or visitors would, of course, be unknown and it may also be advisable to follow this cleaning protocol before putting vacant premises back into use or even allowing significant works in the premises.

 

    1. PHE recommends that if an area can be kept closed and secure for 72 hours, wait until this time has passed for cleaning as the amount of virus living on surfaces will have reduced significantly by 72 hours.
    2. PHE notes that the minimum PPE to be worn for cleaning an area where a person with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) is disposable gloves and an apron. Hands should be washed with soap and water for 20 seconds after all PPE has been removed. If a risk assessment of the setting indicates that a higher level of virus may be present (for example, where unwell individuals have slept) or there is visible contamination with body fluids, then the need for additional PPE to protect the cleaner’s eyes, mouth and nose might be necessary. The local Public Health England (PHE) Health Protection Team (HPT) can advise on this. PHE also notes that proper training int the use of masks is required.
    3. The immediate area occupied by the individual and all surfaces touched should be cleaned with detergent and disinfectant. This should include any potentially contaminated high contact areas such as door handles, telephones, grab-rails.
    4. Any public areas where a symptomatic individual has only passed through (spent minimal time in) e.g. corridors, not visibly contaminated with any body fluids do not need to be further decontaminated beyond routine cleaning processes.
    5. HPS recommends that environmental cleaning and disinfection should be undertaken using disposable cloths and mop heads using standard household detergent and disinfectant that are active against viruses and bacteria (following manufacturers’ instructions for dilution, application and contact times). PHE goes further, giving the following detailed advice:
      • Use disposable cloths or paper roll and disposable mop heads, to clean all hard surfaces, floors, chairs, door handles and sanitary fittings, following one of the options below:
      • use either a combined detergent disinfectant solution at a dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine
      • a household detergent followed by disinfection (1000 ppm av.cl.). Follow manufacturer’s instructions for dilution, application and contact times for all detergents and disinfectants
      • if an alternative disinfectant is used within the organisation, this should be checked and ensure that it is effective against enveloped viruses
    6. All cloths and mop heads used must be disposed of after use. PHE gives the following advice for dealing with waste:
      • Put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full
      • The plastic bag should be placed in a second bin bag and tied
      • In the case in which a positive was confirmed (or if its suspected) store the waste for at least 72 hours and put in with the normal waste
      • If storage for at least 72 hours is not appropriate, arrange for collection as a Category B infectious waste
    7. The person responsible for undertaking the cleaning and waste procedures should be familiar with these processes and procedures and properly trained.
    8. If any items are to be washed and retained, wash in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, using the warmest water setting and drying items completely.
    9. In the event of a blood and body fluid spillage, keep people away from the area. Use a spill kit if available, using the PPE within the kit or PPE provided by the employer/organisation and follow the instructions provided with the spill-kit.
    10. If no spill-kit is available, place paper towels over the spill, and seek further advice from the local Health Protection Team [see table below]

Scotland NHS Health Protection Team Contact Details

Links:

 

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

 

APPENDIX 1 – IOSH FACT SHEETS