Nick Boulton, Head of Technical and Trade at the Timber Trade Federation, interprets the government’s latest coronavirus operating guidelines (for England). With a particular focus on the impact on the timber industry, many of the points are also relevant for other businesses operating in the merchant sector.
The main message for business from the new Government document OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy is that in order to commence or continue operation they must comply with new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines.
These critical new guidelines have been developed by the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England in consultation with industry bodies, local authorities, trades unions, and were published late last night (11th May). There are eight standalone documents concentrating on different aspects of the workplace and each is designed to help businesses undertake the necessary risk assessment within that aspect of their business.
These documents do not radically change the Government strategy for businesses in England nor do they contradict the CLC site operating guidelines which TTF has been recommending to members since mid-April. As expected, the documents reiterate that formal assessments must be undertaken to determine the COVID19 risk in each aspect of the business, although the fundamental messages about actions required remain the same:
Anyone who can work from home should continue to do so;
Anyone with symptoms should not return to work, and should instead self-isolate, as should members of their household;
Maintaining 2m distances throughout the working day;
Guidance and increased facilities for hand washing and hygiene;
Frequent cleaning of shared equipment and contact points.
However, we believe TTF members will find these documents a logical and useful way to help undertake COVID19 risk assessments and demonstrate to staff, customers and if necessary HSE inspectors that the required actions have been put in place throughout the business. TTF members will probably find the most relevant of the documents to be:
There is also a “staying COVID19 secure” poster that businesses can display to confirm to staff and visitors they have undertaken risk assessments and implemented necessary actions.
It is important to appreciate that many workers will be anxious about the practicalities and safety of a return to work and so each of the above documents includes sections addressing some of these concerns. Businesses should also consider the demographic of their specific workforce, their individual circumstances and vulnerabilities. The ACAS website and the TUC’s report on returning to work provide good insight into these considerations.