COVID-19: How to ensure everyone's safety in the workplace

Read the latest advice to help employers and the self-employed prepare for a return to their workplaces in a safe manner, including advice on the five steps to reopening workplaces safely, what to do if there's a COVID-19 case at your workplace, which businesses can reopen, and more.

What to do if there's a COVID-19 case in your workplace

Action cards have been produced to provide instructions to businesses on what to do in the event of one or more confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your organisation.

These quick-reference guides provide key steps to help you quickly identify, report and respond to any potential COVID-19 outbreak within your local community. A COVID-19 outbreak is one or more confirmed cases of COVID-19, depending on the type of organisation. The cards are designed to be printed or downloaded to keep on-hand in your business or organisation.

By following this advice, we can all stay safe, protect Buckinghamshire and save lives.

Workplaces (e.g. shops, restaurants, construction, close contact services, venues, spas, manufacturers)

Workplaces with gatherings (e.g. tourist attractions, entertainment and holiday resorts, places of worship)

Residential workplaces (e.g. campsites/caravan parks, domestic abuse refuges, homelessness accommodation, hotels and other accommodation)

For any queries regarding these resources, email:

Buckinghamshire Coronavirus Local Outbreak Plan

Read Buckinghamshire Council's plan to prevent, contain and manage outbreaks of coronavirus in Buckinghamshire.

For the latest updates and information on coronavirus in Buckinghamshire, visit Buckinghamshire Council's dedicated webpage.

Report confirmed cases to Public Health England

If you have two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in your organisation, you must report these to Public Health England:

  • Call 0344 225 3861 (choose option 4 for Buckinghamshire)
  • Out of hours: 0844 967 0083

For other advice related to COVID-19 in Buckinghamshire, please email:

Five steps before reopening

Please note: You must not reopen if your business is closed under current government rules. Check if your business or venue can open.

The government has outlined five main steps businesses should take before reopening to ensure it is safe for everyone involved:

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
  3. Help people to work from home
  4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
  5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk

Read detailed guidance for the five steps here.

New tool to help businesses identify whether they can reopen safely

The government has developed a tool to help businesses in England to reopen safely. The tool will help explain what employers should do to protect their employees and other people on site. Use the tool here.

Government guidance on safe working

The government has produced guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are guides covering a range of different types of work and sectors:

There is different guidance for educational and childcare settings and public transport operators.

What employers need to think about for their workplaces

Each type of work will have unique characteristics and things to do and check, but the following headings are covered in each, with the government’s objective included where stated:

  • Thinking about risk (managing risk and sharing your risk assessment with employees). Government objectives: that all employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment; to reduce risk to the lowest practicable level.
  • Who should go to work (protecting people at high risk, people who need to self-isolate, equality in the workplace). Government objectives: that everyone should work from home unless they cannot work from home; to protect vulnerable individuals.
  • Social distancing at work (coming to work and leaving work, moving around buildings and worksites, social distancing with workstations, conducting meetings, common areas, accidents, and security). Government objectives: To maintain 2 metre social distancing wherever possible, including while arriving at and departing from work, while at work, and when travelling between sites.
  • Managing customers, visitors and contractors (explaining guidance, encouraging remote working/connection). Government objectives: minimising unnecessary visits to workplaces; ensuring people understand what they need to do to maintain safety.
  • Cleaning the workplace (before reopening, keeping the workplace clear, handwashing and sanitation facilities, changing rooms and showers, handling goods and other materials). Government objectives: to ensure workplaces are clean and remain clean to prevent transmission; to reduce transmission through contact with objects that come into the workplace.
  • PPE and face coverings (some types of work, such as those providing close contact services, will need to wear additional protective equipment. For more information, read the 'PPE and face coverings' section of each of the above guides. Further information is also provided further down this article.)
  • Workforce management (shift patterns and working groups, work-related travel, communications and training). Government objectives: to reduce the number of contacts each employee has; to avoid unnecessary work travel; to help workers delivering to other sites/premises to maintain social distancing and hygiene practices.
  • Inbound and outbound goods. Government objectives: to maintain social distancing; to avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave the site.

In addition to the above, guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes includes:

  • Social distancing at work (moving around when working in a home, appointments in the home). Government objectives: to maintain 2 metre social distancing wherever possible; to ensure handwashing where possible.
  • Interacting with householders. Government objective: ensure people understand what they need to do to maintain safety by communicating with households prior to arrival.
  • Cleaning the work area (hygiene, handling goods). Government objective: to keep work areas clean and prevent transmission through contact with objects that come into or are removed from the home, or by touching contaminated surfaces.
  • Deliveries to the home. Government objective: to maintain social distancing; to avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave a home.

Workplace guidance for NHS Test and Trace service

As of May 28th 2020, anyone who tests positive for coronavirus in England will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, and people with whom they have been in direct contact or within 2 metres of for more than 15 minutes.

There is specific guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for employers, businesses, workers and the self-employed, which can be found here.

People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.

If those in isolation develop symptoms, they can book a test at or by calling 119. If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for 7 days or until their symptoms have passed. If they test negative, they must complete the 14-day isolation period.

You can find further guidance on the service here.

Who is allowed to return to work in their workplaces?

You must not reopen if your business is closed under current government rules. Check if your business or venue can open.

Which businesses are able to reopen?

With the exception of the below, all businesses and venues can reopen now.

The businesses that must remain closed include:

  • Nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques

The following businesses and venues can now reopen, as of 15th August:

The following businesses and venues can now reopen, as of 25th July:

  • Indoor fitness and dance studios
  • Indoor gyms
  • Indoor sports courts and facilities
  • Indoor swimming pools and indoor water parks

All businesses and venues which are listed to reopen on 15th August must remain closed until those dates. Read the full guidance on who can reopen on 15th August.

Business events, conferences and events centres will be given the go ahead to reopen on 1st October adhering to social distancing. Guidance for event organisers and venue operators can be found here. Until then, exhibition or conference centres must remain closed for events such as exhibitions or conferences, other than for those who work for the business or organisation that runs the venue. 

All shops, including cafes, restaurants and gift shops, which are part of the premises of a business or venue which is itself allowed to reopen, can also be open. However, the shop, restaurant or café cannot carry on any business or provide any service that is currently prohibited from being carried out, such as those listed above.

Read more about which businesses can reopen now.

Shops in England selling non-essential goods are able to reopen as of Monday 15th June.

Non-essential retail will need to continue following UK government guidelines to keep staff and customers safe.

Businesses should display a downloadable notice to inform customers and staff they have followed COVID secure guidance.

Retailers will need to take certain steps to protect customers and staff, including:

  • limiting the number of customers allowed inside at one time
  • placing protective coverings on large items such as sofas which may be touched by passing shoppers
  • frequently checking and cleaning objects and surfaces

The government has previously announced that outdoor markets and car showrooms are able to reopen as of 1st June 2020, as long as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers.

The government states: "In the first instance, employers should make every effort to support working from home, including by providing suitable IT and equipment as they have been already. Where work can only be done in the workplace, we have set out tailored guidelines for employers to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade or getting their business back up and running."

The government's advice on going to work has changed as of 1st August 2020, with government guidance saying: "From this date, employers should ensure workplaces are safe whilst also enabling working from home. Employers should consult with their employees to determine who, from the 1st August 2020, can come into the workplace safely taking account of a person’s use of public transport, childcare responsibilities, protected characteristics, and other individual circumstances. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.

"When it is decided that workers should come into their place of work, then this will need to be reflected in the COVID-19 risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance. It is vital employers engage with workers to ensure they feel safe returning to work, and they should avoid forcing anyone into an unsafe workplace."

Read more guidance on who the government advises can go back to work in workplaces.

Food hygeine visits starting again in Buckinghamshire

A message to hospitality businesses from Buckinghamshire Council:

"Food hygiene visits are starting up again in Buckinghamshire and will include COVID-19 risk assessments. Make sure you’re following all the relevant guidance and that you’re collecting the contact details for the head of each party for test and trace purposes in the event of any outbreak which might be linked back to your customers."

Risk assessments and putting safety plans in place

Carrying out a risk assessment is one of the five steps that a business must take before being allowed to repoen, as per government guidance.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has compiled guidance for employers and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. This guidance is designed to help you work safely and control the risks associated with running your business at this time.

The guidance explains measures you can take to help you carry on working safely during the coronavirus outbreak, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts, providing additional handwashing facilities, and talking with workers to help them stay safe.

Read this guidance here >

The HSE also has resources to help businesses conduct risk assessments of their workplaces.

Air conditioning and ventilation

The HSE advises that "the risk of air conditioning spreading COVID-19 in the workplace is extremely low. You can continue using most types of air conditioning system as normal. But, if you use a centralised ventilation system that removes and circulates air to different rooms, it is recommended that you turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply." Read the full guidance here.

Protecting homeworkers

Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for homeworkers as for any other workers.

Read HSE guidance on your responsibilities towards homeworkers.

PPE and face coverings

For sector-specific guidance for wearing face masks at work, see the government's official guidance.

Government guidance regarding the use and wearing of PPE and face coverings is as follows:

"Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so. When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear will not be beneficial in the majority of workplaces.

"In workplaces such as hairdressers and barbers, beauty salons and tattoo and photoshoot studios, it is likely to be difficult to maintain social distancing. The person providing a service should therefore wear further protection in addition to any that they might usually wear. This should take the form of a clear visor that covers the face and provides a barrier between the wearer and the client. (Read guidance for close contact services).

"If your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly. Supplies of PPE, including face masks, must continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned that KN95 face masks are not suitable PPE, saying:

"A substantial number of face masks, claiming to be of KN95 standards, provide an inadequate level of protection and are likely to be poor quality products accompanied by fake or fraudulent paperwork. These face masks may also be known as filtering facepiece respirators.

"KN95 must not be used as PPE at work unless their supply has been agreed by HSE as the Market Surveillance Authority.

"Masks that are not CE marked and cannot be shown to be compliant must be removed from supply immediately. If these masks have not been through the necessary safety assessments, their effectiveness in controlling risks to health cannot be assured for anyone buying or using them. They are unlikely to provide the protection expected or required."

Read HSE's full warning on KN95 face masks here.

Disposing of business waste (including PPE and face coverings)

New guidance on how to dispose of your personal or business waste, including face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE), during the coronavirus pandemic has been published.

Key details include:

  • Provide extra bins for your staff and customers to throw away their waste face coverings and PPE used for social distancing, and any other additional waste, such as takeaway packaging and disposable tableware
  • Make sure that staff and customers do not put face coverings and PPE in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities
  • Make sure bins are emptied often so they do not overflow and create litter
  • You can put used disposable face coverings and PPE in an ‘offensive waste’ collection (yellow bags with a black stripe), if you have one
  • Ask your waste contractor if there is anything else you need to do

Read the full guidance here.

Cleaning workplaces

Government guidance covers the cleaning of environments, including:

  • workplaces
  • offices
  • waiting rooms
  • hotel rooms
  • student accommodation
  • boarding schools

The guidance outlines the cleaning required, the appropriate disposal of materials, the cleaning of equipment and hard surfaces, and the personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be worn. Read the guidance here.

How to reassure your employees that your workplace is safe to work in

How do you bring employees back to work safely and compassionately given all they have been through and reassure them they are being looked after and the environment is safe to work in?

To ease the process, Ashridge Group has produced an essential 9-point guide to help you give compassionate support to employees so that they are fully confident about their return to the workplace and the new working normal they will encounter.

Read this guide here.

Products and support to help you back to work safely

Local businesses are able to offer advice, practical support and products to help your business plan for a safe return to work.

Visit our Offers page for the full list (search by keyword to find what you are looking for).

Preparing office workplaces for reopening

Read a checklist produced by OpenSensors to help you start preparing for a return to an office work environment.

Stay informed of the latest business support re: COVID-19

Remember to visit our COVID-19 business support hub for the latest support and information from the government, business support organisations and other avenues of support. Bookmark so you can easily find it in the future.

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