Risk assessing for coronavirus
Since the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) at the end of 2019, the newly discovered virus has now spread to more than 60 countries and infected tens of thousands of people, mainly in China but with a high number of cases in Iran, South Korea and Italy (at time of posting). So, what can you as a business owner do to minimise the risk to your employees, customers and visitors?
Although the risk of a major outbreak in the UK is still classed as moderate, it is important that you show due diligence in the case of the coronavirus spreading further. You should complete one (or more) risk assessments, then put policies and procedures in place to protect your business and the people within it from contracting and spreading the virus.
We’ll take you through the process step-by-step and you’ll also be able to download a free coronavirus risk assessment that should help you get started.
How to conduct a risk assessment for coronavirus
Creating a risk assessment takes five simple steps. It’s important that a Competent Person covers all of these steps in detail to create a risk assessment that is compliant and protects your staff and members of the public. We’ve included some things you should consider relating specifically to controlling the spread of coronavirus.
Identify the hazards
The first step in the process, and an important step to ensure you leave no stone unturned. Look around your premises – if an infected person were to enter your property, either a visitor or staff member, what hazards would be caused? How would this then affect the none-infected staff members of visitors?
Try to approach this in terms of what areas they would make contact with, which areas are high traffic. Consider what tasks staff are completing in certain areas, what equipment is being used and what PPE is currently provisioned. This should give you a good idea of the hazards posed by a potential coronavirus infection.
Decide who may be harmed and how
Based on the information gathered in the previous step, which members of staff (this could likely be all of them but to differing levels) would be affected by the hazard of coronavirus being present in your property? Create a clear picture of who could be harmed and how, including to what level – consider individuals who are at a higher risk due to the tasks they carry out or their health such as being immunocompromised or having pre-existing medical conditions.
Assess the risks and control them
A competent person should now go through each risk and assess how likely they are to occur and how potentially severe. Follow this up by establishing how to control each risk in a reasonable manner. Control measures should include cleaning procedures, use of PPE and measures such as allowing staff members to work from home if possible.
Record your findings
Create a method statement and share it with the workforce. Ensure it is seen and understood by every member of staff it affects. Keep a track of everyone that has acknowledged the documentation and if you have visitors or contractors who need to see them, share documents with them at the earliest point possible.
Should the risk of coronavirus change then procedures should also be reviewed and updated if necessary. For example, as more information is known about coronavirus, the risks to your workforce may lessen or worsen and all risk assessments and method statements should reflect these changes. Depending on your business, choose an appropriate review period and be prepared to do ad-hoc reviews if required. Remember that if documents are updated they need to be re-distributed and acknowledged by all relevant employees.
Manage the risks specific to your business
It is worth noting that you should always assess the risks in how they specifically relate to your business, think about factors such as how many visitors you get, whether they are known to you (Are they contractors and regular clients or do you get passing trade?), how people flow through buildings and how often.
The level of risk may differ depending on people you have within your premises that are more vulnerable to the virus – do you care for the elderly or immunocompromised, do you have any pregnant women or those with respiratory conditions such as asthma or other medical conditions within the building?
Where can I get more information?
Andrew Protheroe MSC (Director at PCR Global Limited) has created a informative guide and risk assessment template. This document acts as a blueprint to creating your own plan, helping you to manage the risks associated with the outbreak of COVID-19. It also contains useful information and posters that you can print and display around your business premises to guide your staff on how to prevent the spread.
If you haven’t already created your own coronavirus risk assessment, we’d highly recommend using this document as a starting point and adding to this where you see necessary. Make sure you include the specific risk management measures you have identified when following the steps above.
Recommended precautionary measures
You can get detailed information on recommended precautionary measures from gov.uk and the NHS. We’ve included the most highly recommended measures which everyone can benefit from.
Washing hands has been named as the most effective way of preventing the spread of infection. Ensure that all your staff have access to soap and running water where possible, as well as the provision of hand sanitisers where water is not available (e.g. in reception areas and offices)
Train your staff in the correct process of hand washing. Effective hand washing should take 20-30 seconds and cover all areas of the hands using lathered, soapy water. Consider putting up posters at handwashing stations so that employees have everything they need to protect themselves and those around them.
Regularly sanitise surfaces with a general purpose detergent such as washing-up liquid, followed by a chlorine-based sanitiser. We’d recommend chlorine sanitising tablets dissolved in water at a level above 1000ppm available chlorine. (1 tablet per litre of water should be sufficient, but always check the label). Simply dilute into a mop bucket to carry out a deep clean or into a trigger spray bottle for regular daily cleaning efforts.
Sanitise all hard surfaces and concentrate especially on high-traffic areas such as door handles, lights switches, reception desks. These areas should generally be sanitised twice a day, but tailor this based on the risks you have identified.
When creating a cleaning procedure, ensure you understand cleaning chemical contact times. Generally, a bleach-based sanitiser should be left for 5 minutes to safely kill bacteria and viruses. Check the label or safety data sheet for any specific products you are using.
Review the PPE items you already provide your staff members and whether this is the appropriate level, given the risks of coronavirus. Again, this will differ depending on different factors within your organisation, the tasks you undertake and the people within your premises.
When PPE items are identified as necessary, you must ensure that staff members are fully trained in:
- When to use PPE
- What PPE items to use
- The limitations of their PPE
- How to put on and remove PPE
- How to dispose of PPE correctly
- How to clean, disinfect and maintain PPE
It is worth noting that in cases where you are a healthcare provider caring for a patient who has been confirmed as having coronavirus, there are very detailed instructions available on gov.uk.
What if a member of staff gets infected?
As part of this risk assessment process, create policies that will address the actions to be taken should a member of the team begin showing symptoms or potentially be diagnosed as suffering from coronavirus.
These actions may include allowing certain team members at risk to work from home, providing additional PPE on top of your usual provisions, creating a process for deep cleaning and sanitising your property following a confirmed case and closing the business temporarily while this takes place.
How can CRAMS help?
CRAMS helps you to create, manage and communicate risk assessment documentation online. Save time, money and the headache of having to manage risk using traditional paper-based methods. Find out more about how our intuitive software can streamline the process of creating risk assessments and method statements for your business.
For further information and guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) check out the following resources: