If you are considering re-opening your business and bringing staff back to the workplace, you must complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Completing a COVID-19 risk assessment not only helps you to comply with your health and safety obligations, avoiding penalties and negative publicity, it more importantly assists you in protecting your staff from coronavirus and keeping your workplace productive and healthy. Use our free COVID-19 risk assessment template to identify specific hazards, groups who might be more affected by COVID-19, and ways to minimise the risk of coronavirus spread.
- COVID-19 risk assessment template
- Consulting with staff and sharing results of your COVID-19 risk assessment
- Protecting vulnerable staff from COVID-19
- Consequences of failing to conduct risk assessments
COVID-19 risk assessment template
What is a COVID-19 risk assessment?
A COVID-19 risk assessment is a health and safety document which sets out the risks posed by coronavirus in the workplace, considers who may be harmed by these risks, and identifies reasonable steps to minimise or eliminate the risks.
Our free risk assessment template includes examples of hazards along with suggested actions to minimise the risk of each hazard (and space for you to fill in your own actions). By using our COVID-19 risk assessment template you take key health and safety steps to protect your staff, comply with your legal obligations and reduce the risk of being penalised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
How do I use the free COVID-19 risk assessment template?
- Download the template from Sparqa Legal
- Complete the table with care, consulting with your workers and/or union representatives as appropriate (see further guidance below)
- Make sure you consider vulnerable and protected groups – you can send your staff COVID-19 individual risk assessment to complete (making sure you comply with data protection rules as set out below)
- Share your results with your employees (if you have more than 50 employees you should publish it on your website)
- Display the Staying COVID-19 Secure notice at your workplace to show you have taken steps to make your workplace COVID-secure
- Make sure your business actions all risk mitigation measures!
Don’t forget to also complete a risk assessment for remote workers if you will have staff working from home, and stay up to date with local and national restrictions, updating your risk assessment as necessary.
Do I need a COVID-19 risk assessment template?
Yes, if you are re-opening your workplace. You have legal obligations to take reasonable steps to protect staff from harm (including coronavirus).
Currently staff should work from home where possible, but if your staff cannot work from home and your business is permitted to open you must complete a COVID-19 risk assessment to ensure your workplace is COVID-secure. This is in addition to your other health and safety obligations (such as completing general risk assessments) which remain in place.
If your staff are working from home, you must also consider risks to their health and safety. You can use our free Risk assessment for remote workers template to identify and minimise risks to remote workers.
How do I complete a COVID-19 risk assessment?
To complete a COVID-19 risk assessment, you must identify hazards posed by coronavirus in the workplace and ways to mitigate those risks.
Hazards posed by COVID-19
Our free risk assessment template identifies the following ways coronavirus could spread:
- contact between staff, customers or visitors;
- staff arriving at or departing work;
- lack of hygiene or cleaning in the workplace;
- staff coming to work sick (or living with someone who has symptoms);
- in work vehicles, including through deliveries and collections;
- transmission at meetings;
- due to a lack of understanding of the rules by staff (eg if English is not their first language);
- through food preparation, delivery and sale; and
- while staff are working at other people’s homes.
Ways to mitigate risk
Examples of ways to mitigate risks include:
- providing hand washing facilities at entry and exit points;
- staggering shift and break times;
- moving workstations 2m apart and using floor markings to keep people apart;
- avoiding staff working face to face and using screens to separate workers;
- restricting areas of the building to certain people and/or one-way flows;
- cleaning vigilantly and using signage to remind staff to wash their hands;
- providing clear information and communicating clearly and regularly with staff and visitors.
You can add further hazards and risk mitigation measures to the risk assessment template as appropriate to your workplace. You should be clear about who will follow up on each action to reduce risks and by what date.
When conducting your COVID-19 risk assessment, you must consider how you will reduce risks to particularly vulnerable people and protected groups (such as disabled people, pregnant women or new mothers). See Health and safety when returning to work during coronavirus for further guidance on how to protect these groups.
You should update your COVID-19 risk assessments to reflect any changes in legislation or guidance that may impact how you carry out your work activity, for example if there is a change in local or national restrictions.
Consulting with staff and sharing results of your COVID-19 risk assessment
Do I have to consult with workers when doing my COVID-19 risk assessment?
Yes. When completing your risk assessment, ensure that you consult with unions and workers, as they are often in the best place to understand risks in the workplace and how these can be mitigated or removed. You must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers.
Yes. Share the results of your risk assessment with your employees. If you have more than 50 employees the government recommends you publish your risk assessment on your website.
Do I have to keep a written record of my COVID-19 risk assessment?
Yes, if you employ five or more people, you are legally required to keep a written record of your risk assessment. If you have fewer than five employees, you do not have to write anything down (although you must still conduct the risk assessment). However, even if you employ fewer than five people it is good practice to record your risk assessments so you can refer back to them later if a problem arises.
Protecting vulnerable staff from COVID-19
How can I find out whether my staff are clinically extremely vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19?
To find out whether any of your staff members are clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, you can send them COVID-19 individual risk assessment. It contains a questionnaire to help you obtain information about whether your staff members:
- are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus;
- live with people who are clinically extremely vulnerable; and/or
- are concerned about other factors which might affect their ability to return to the workplace (such as transport or childcare issues).
By collecting this information, you are better able to determine what adjustments may be needed to the workforce and individual roles. You must keep all information collected in this questionnaire secure and confidential, as it is sensitive personal data. There are strict rules around when and how you can process sensitive personal data and you must only collect this information:
- with the explicit and freely given consent of your staff member; or
- where it is necessary (and proportionate) for you to comply with your legal obligations as an employer or to exercise your rights as an employer.
You will need to keep written records and are likely to need to carry out a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) and have a policy in place for dealing with this sensitive data. See When to use personal data for guidance on your legal obligations when processing sensitive personal data.
You must ensure you are aware of the current coronavirus restrictions in place in England and Wales. These restrictions can change rapidly, so you should ensure you keep informed through the news and government sites. Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are currently advised to work from home where possible. You should take every possible step to enable clinically extremely vulnerable staff to work from home. If they cannot work from home, they may attend work unless they have been asked to shield (although they may wish to discuss taking on an alternative role so they can work remotely and/or being furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme).
People who live with clinically extremely vulnerable people may continue to attend work if they cannot work from home. If clinically extremely vulnerable staff attend the workplace, your risk control measures must be followed strictly including stringent social distancing.
You should continue to provide support for remote workers, such as telephone support and keeping in touch remotely. You must also review your risk assessments regularly to ensure you are taking all reasonable steps to protect vulnerable staff from harm and your workplace is COVID-secure.
Consequences of failing to conduct risk assessments
Will the HSE check whether my workplace is COVID-secure?
The HSE is carrying out random spot checks on businesses to check that they are following the COVID-secure guidelines. They may call or visit your business and speak directly to you or your staff, and you must cooperate with them under health and safety law.
What happens if I don’t conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment?
Failing to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment and mitigate risks can lead to increased spread of coronavirus among your workers or customers.
If your business is not following the correct risk mitigation procedures, actions HSE may take include providing guidance and advice on how to better manage risk, closing down certain unsafe work practices until they are made safe, issuing enforcement notices and/or prosecuting businesses where they fail to comply. See Investigations and prosecutions for further guidance on the powers of the HSE.
If you are found to be breaching health and safety law, your business can also suffer:
- damage to its reputation through negative publicity;
- loss of time and money when investigating and dealing with incidents;
- low staff morale and productivity, increased staff turnover and increased sickness absence; and/or
- the expense of paying compensation to injured or sick workers, customers or other people who have suffered as a result of your business activities.
You may find it more difficult to sell your business in future or obtain investment if it has a history of health and safety breaches.
Marion joined Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2018. She previously worked as a corporate/commercial lawyer for five years at one of New Zealand’s leading law firms, Kensington Swan (now Dentons Kensington Swan), and as an in-house legal consultant for a UK tech company. Marion regularly writes for Sparqa’s blog, contributing across its commercial, IP and health and safety law content.