COVID-19 Workplace Testing Programme (UK)

The Government has announced it will make rapid home testing available for all businesses with over 10 employees who cannot offer on-site testing.

Businesses must register interest by 12 April to access free tests.

Details

From 6 April, the workplace testing programme will supply home test kits to companies with over 10 workers where it is not possible to set up testing on-site, due to a lack of space or because companies operate across multiple sites.

Businesses are encouraged to register before 12 April in order to access free tests until the end of June, even if they’re not yet open or are not able to start using the tests straight away.

As well as reporting their result directly to the NHS, employees should advise their employer of a positive result and take a confirmatory PCR test. Employers will retain an important role in encouraging their employees to take and report the results of their test.

Employers with fewer than 10 people can alternatively access regular testing through the community testing programme, which is now offered by all local authorities in England. Work is also underway to allow staff of small businesses to order tests online to be sent to their home.

Further details are here.

COVID-19 Employer Testing Duty (UK)

Employers employing more than 50 employees (including agency workers), are required to take reasonable steps to facilitate employees to take COVID-19 tests when they travel across international borders.

DHSC guidance stipulates ‘reasonable steps’ to facilitate the taking of tests might be:

• establishing workplace coronavirus (COVID-19) testing or providing employees with home testing

• supporting access and signposting employees to testing outside of the workplace.

Further (extensive) details are here.

Workplace testing (UK-Covid)

Some employers and third-party healthcare providers may want to introduce their own internal testing programmes outside of NHS Test and Trace.

NHS Test and Trace is for those who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been advised to take a test by a medical practitioner or public service. Employer and third-party healthcare providers wishing to provide a test to staff must not advise individuals without symptoms to get a test from the limited supply offered by the NHS Test and Trace service, but may offer alternative private provision.

The government first published guidance on 10 Sept 2020.

The guidance was updated several times since, and on 26 Feb 2021 was updated –

Updated to reflect the ongoing evolution of private-sector testing. In particular, updated advice in relation to lateral flow device (LFD) testing, routes to access testing, and a more comprehensive supplementary annex for employers and third-party providers wishing to offer workplace testing for asymptomatic employees.

The guidance is here.

Note CE marking is replaced by UKCA marking. Information on UKCA marking is here.

Existing CE marked goods may continue to circulate on the GB market in 2021 under transitional arrangements.

CE marked goods may circulate in Northern Ireland under the Protocol, UKCA goods must be marked UKNI in the Northern Ireland market (see the UKCA marking link).

GB Designated Standards (Britain)

European harmonised standards are used to provide a presumption of conformity with the relevant EU laws. On 1st Jan 2021, the essential legal requirements that businesses must meet will be the same as they are now. All harmonised standards that give a presumption of conformity to EU law at the end of the transition period will become ‘designated standards’ by the references being published on GOV.UK. Businesses will be able to use designated standards to provide presumption of conformity with GB law.

European harmonised standards will remain the relevant standards for placing goods on the Northern Ireland market where EU rules will continue to apply.

A designated standard is a standard, developed by consensus, which may be recognised by government in part or in full by publishing the reference on GOV.UK. Depending on the product, it can be a standard published by any of the following recognised standardisation bodies:

• British Standards Institution (BSI)

• European Committee for Standardisation (CEN)

• European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (Cenelec)

• European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)

• International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

• International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

• International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

The content of the standard is the responsibility of the recognised standardisation bodies, with BSI as the UK’s National Standards Body representing the interests of UK stakeholders. From 1 January 2021, when deciding if a standard is appropriate for designation, the government will check how far the standard covers the various essential requirements set out in the relevant legislation. The government may decide not to designate or to designate with restriction. Any such restrictions will be described on the GOV.UK pages.

The UK government will, for 28 days, make publicly available a notice of proposal to publish references to standards. Interested parties may object to the publication within the 28-day timeframe. The references to the standards will be published for the purposes of designation of the standards on the 29th day unless the notice is withdrawn or amended before that date.

This link collates existing publications of GB Designated Standards – here (scroll down).

COVID-19 Working Safely Guidance Updated (England)

Following press announcements yesterday and the day before, the government’s Working Safely Guidance (England) is updated to reflect a change to the 2m rule (to allow a lesser distance) and add guidance on support bubbles.

Information on the updates that have taken place to the Working Safely Guidance (England) and access to the updated documents is here.

Note : physical distancing of 2m continues to be applied in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

COVID-19 Workplace Guidance (England)

Yesterday (25 May) saw the key Working Safely guidance for different workplaces (issued 11 May) updated to reflect industry feedback and to expand coverage of non essential retail categories ahead of planned opening.

On the 19 May, the 5 steps for businesses to take were added – here. Please note (as I posted before, check back on my Blog, the risk assessments of larger businesses must be published on their websites).

You should share the results of your risk assessment with your employees. If possible, you should consider publishing it on your website (and we would expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so).

Notice that should be displayed in the workplace – here.

The Working Safely Guidance link is here.

Please note the links to the guidance issued in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the timetable of non-essential business re-opening differs.

Non-essential retail in England will re-open in June, as set out in the PM timeline issued yesterday 25 May –

• Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. As with garden centres, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces. Car showrooms often have significant outdoor space and it is generally easier to apply social distancing.

• All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.

Certain businesses and activities must remain closed – see here. This is underpinned by enacted law.

COVID-19 Business OHS Rules (UK)

UPDATE (2) : All employers must carry out a covid-19 risk assessment and share the results with the workforce says BEIS Secretary (statement in Parliament) “we expect all employers with over 50 employees to share the risk assessment on their website”.

UPDATE : garden centres will also reopen in Wales

As promised, the UK state has now published updated and new business and workplace OHS rules, applicable throughout the UK, as follows –

(1) 11 May update to the page that identifies and links to business rules that have been temporarily relaxed – some of these have an Occupational Health and Safety relevance – here.

(2) 8 new sector guides, dated 11 May, to help employers, employees and the self-employed in all parts of the UK understand how to work safely during the COVID pandemic – here.

These sector guides add to the already published guidance on workplace risk assessment that is issued by the UK and the devolved administrations I posted about some weeks ago.

* Construction and outdoor work – here

* Factories, plants and warehouses – here

* Homes (work in domestic settings) – here

* Laboratories and research facilities – here

* Offices and contact centres – here

* Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery – here

* Shops and branches – here

* Vehicles – here

Note, the UK has identified different classes of premises –

(1) essential premises – those that must stay open

(2) non-essential premises – those that must stay closed

(3) the rest of non-essential premises not in the list of closed premises.

The devolved administrations have slightly different variants on these three groups – see the COVID-19 Law List in Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists, referred to in Email Alerts.

The above 8 sector guides are to be applied to the groups (1) and (3) above. There is no change in the list of stay closed premises (2) except in England, where Garden Centres will be allowed to open from Wednesday 13 May (and this will require a change in the England Restrictions Regulations).

COVID-19 New State Guidance (England)

UPDATE : FAQs are here

I posted this morning that new guidance would be published at 2pm today.

This new guidance comprises –

(1) the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy (60 pages) (England) – here

(2) new guidance on staying alert and social distancing (England) – here

(3) new guidance on staying safe outside the house – here

In addition, Transport for London has issued guidance asking for everyone to wear a non-medical face covering on public transport in London for the entire journey.

The London Mayor has also issued a video on social media asking all travellers on London public transport to wear a non-medical face covering for their entire journey.

The new state guidance (England) on how to wear and make a cloth face covering is here.

This is a lot to take in, and I will issue further separate Blog posts on the matter.

Workplace Organisation and Transport guidance will be issued tomorrow, so expect further Blog posts also then.

COVID-19 Construction Site Operating Procedures (England)

The Construction Leadership Council has published Construction Sector Site Operating Procedures (SOPs) in their third edition, dating 14 April, applicable in England.

These cover hygiene at the construction site, first aid at the construction site, social distancing at the construction site, and travel to and from work at the construction site. Please see the full contents list at the start of the document.

The practical measures set out are relevant not only at construction sites, but at many other workplaces (hence this post).

The document is here.

COVID-19 Air Conditioning (UK)

One of the aspects that will be considered in any workplace assessment is ventilation and the guidance and instructions around forced ventilation and air conditioning, and refrigeration.

The Institute of Refrigeration (IOR) has put together a useful compilation of COVID-19 resources. Note, the government has not issued specific COVID-19 refrigeration or air conditioning guidance.

The IOR compilation is here.

IOR notes at the top of the page –

This information has been provided by ACRIB (The Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board) of which IOR is a member.  It is provided as a link to resources that may be helpful for those working to provide safe and reliable HVAC building services and refrigeration essential to supporting hospitals, buildings, food chain, IT infrastructure and industrial processes. UK Government has not issued specific guidance for the operation of mechanical ventilation or air conditioning although UK trade associations are in regular contact with relevant departments on this issue. We will add extra links or information as they become available.

Picking out a few points –

(1) The UK Government has advised that essential maintenance and repair remains important work and government guidelines must be followed but with many buildings closed BESA have produced SFG20 Building Maintenance under COVID-19 as a free download (link given)

(2) The London and Southeast ASHRAE group have recorded a webinar presentation by Prof Ljubomir Jankovic, the University of Hertfordshire on Air Borne infectious diseases and building HVAC services, it covers building operation for owners and engineers. (link given)

(3) The European Federation of Heating and Ventilation Engineers, REHVA, guidance page covers how to operate and use building services in areas with coronavirus outbreak to prevent virus spread. (link given)

(4) HSE guidance on Equipment subject to written schemes and Examination and testing of pressure equipment (links given).