Peter Kinselley looks at the COVID-19 restrictions announced on 26th November 2020 and asks what the tier system means for health and safety in the workplace.
The Government has announced the Tiering System to be adopted in each region to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Most of England has been designated Tier 2 and with a high number of Counties falling into Tier 3. So, what does this mean for us at work?
While the Government has acknowledged that employees have acted responsibly and made their workplaces COVID secure the guidance states ‘where possible employees should work from home’.
This does offer some flexibility as some roles are difficult to undertake from home and some might welcome the opportunity to return to the office for a number of reasons.
How COVID Restrictions Impact Homeworkers
We’ve become used to working from home over the last year. However, with an update to the restrictions, it’s worth remembering some of the key risk factors associated with home working during lockdown, and how organisations can support staff during this time.
- The ability for staff to work from home, including IT, broadband and accessibility issues, home workstations and disabilities
- Mental health and wellbeing
- Supervision and working alone
- Fire safety
- Medical emergencies
- Employee health, sleep and nutrition
We have recommended for nearly the whole duration that employers should risk assess employees working from home. You can read more about our decision here. The key impact of training and assessment is that it is vital to your strategy. You should seek to offer pragmatic advice for your employee’s current environment and ensure a simple, practical risk assessment is in place. This will help you to keep your employees from harm.
Help employees manage the ergonomic and health risks associated with working from home with our online e-learning and risk assessment platform Healthy Working.
How Different Tiers Impact Travelling Staff
I would ask you to take a moment to look at the restrictions for the county your staff travel in from and your workplace is located. It’s important we follow the advice given as this may affect your decision whether to invite staff back to the office.
The government advice on travel is:
- If you live in a tier 2 area, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules when you travel to a tier 1 area. Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through a tier 3 area as a part of a longer journey.
There are many considerations to make travel safer during COVID. It’s important that travelling staff create a plan, or risk assessment, that dives into the risks and makes clear how they’re going to mitigate them.
The most important consideration, while you are travelling, is to keep yourself safe and away from large crowds, however, you can use this quick checklist as a primer to think about some of the risks related to travelling.
Pre-travelling quick checklist:
- Transport (from your home to your destination/hotel/where you will be working)
- Accommodation/hotel – do they have suitable and sufficient COVID precautions in place?
- Are they any restrictions at your destination? The Government website has this information listed
- Find out where the local COVID testing centre is (just in case)
- Have you downloaded the NHS COVID-19 track and trace app?
- Have you enough suitable PPE and hand sanitiser to take with you?
- Have you completed your travel RA and sent it to your line manager?
The Tiering system does allow gyms to reopen and encourages outdoor activities but please review them against the system in place for your County.
As individuals we have a responsibility to follow the rules. This is a big responsibility and one we should not take lightly as it affects our economy, jobs, and people’s health and wellbeing.
So please, wash your hands, social distance and, where indicated or you can’t social distance wear a face mask.