Workplace Risk Assessments
As businesses manage the return of staff to work premises and the continuing operation of buildings through the pandemic, a number of issues need to be considered for the safety of those entering buildings.
To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards.
While the complexity of risk assessments will differ from business to business, they typically involve the following steps:
Identifying the hazards
When it comes to COVID-19, businesses need to think critically about their exposures, particularly if an infected person entered their facilities. When identifying hazards, it’s a good idea to perform a walkthrough of the premises and consider high-risk areas (eg breakrooms and other areas where people may congregate). It’s also important to consider what tasks employees are performing and whether or not they are especially exposed to COVID-19 risks when performing their duties.
Deciding who may be harmed and how
Once you’ve identified hazards to your business, you need to determine what populations of your workforce are exposed to COVID-19 risks. When performing this evaluation, you will need to make note of high-risk individuals (e.g. staff members who meet with customers or individuals with pre-existing medical conditions).
Once you have identified the risks facing your business, you must analyse them to determine their potential consequences. For each risk facing your business, you’ll want to determine:
With a sense of what the threats to your business are, you can then consider ways to address them. There are a variety of methods businesses can use to manage their risks, including:
Monitoring the results
Risk management is an evolving, continuous process. Once you’ve implemented a risk management solution, you’ll want to monitor its effectiveness and reassess. Remember, COVID-19 risks facing your business can change over time.
Building ventilation is always an important part of a healthy building environment as it brings a stream of outside air into the building and removes stale air. Ventilation is also a very important way of diluting any airborne pathogens within the stale air (including COVID-19) and there is good evidence showing that room occupants are more at risk of catching an illness in a poorly ventilated room than in a well-ventilated room. This is because in a poorly ventilated room occupants are exposed to a higher concentration of airborne pathogens, and the risk will increase with a greater amount of time spent in such an environment.
To minimise the risks of airborne aerosol transmission the general advice is to increase the air supply and exhaust ventilation, supplying as much outside air as is reasonably possible. Recirculation or transfer of air from one room to another should be avoided unless this is the only way of providing adequate ventilation rates to all occupied rooms.
Willis IRM are able to assist property managers in assessing their property ventilation risks and advise on suitable solutions, using professionally registered engineers.
Avoiding Legionnaires’ Disease
When properties stand empty for several weeks or longer, unused by humans, other serious issues can arise that are far removed from COVID-19. Unseen and potentially forgotten during a pandemic, bacteria such as legionella can take advantage of being left alone in a disused water system. The risk of legionella spreading through the water system to cause serious risk to health is clear and it is one that cannot be ignored.
Any man-made water system, whether it uses hot water, cold water, or both, can run into problems within a matter of days. Typically, a water system that’s left unused for 10 to 14 days is all it takes for legionella and other potentially harmful bacteria to begin colonising a water system.
Calling in a water safety specialist such as Willis IRM to conduct a detailed risk assessment and make sure all your water systems are safe to use once more is an investment well worth making.
Other property issues to consider when emerging from lockdown
Electrical safety checks are required under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 & BS7671 (18th edition electrical regulations). A competent electrical contractor should be consulted about any requirements to restart electrical systems.
Gas safety inspections and maintenance are still a statutory requirement and have not been suspended due to the COVID-19.
Contact Joe Hanna for more information.