Scotland's emergency Coronavirus bill has now been passed. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, detail various offences which can be committed either by an individual and/or by a body corporate where it has failed to adhere to the restrictions in place. What was a 'failure to follow government advice' is now 'committing a criminal act'. Accordingly, businesses that continue to operate could be significantly affected by the new legislation if they fail to take appropriate action to ensure their staff are working safely and in line with legislation.
What steps should businesses take?
For most businesses, the initial focus has been on producing a risk assessment and adopting control measures to reduce the risks presented to staff by COVID-19. Now, in addition, attention will have to be given to whether previous ways of working also need to be updated even when social distancing restrictions lessen.
The current guidance is that only "key" workers be present in the workplace. This has resulted, for most businesses, in a significant reduction in the number of staff on site. That, of itself, may present a security/safety risk to those within the workplace which needs to be considered by those in charge. For example, if a task had been assessed as requiring two people, but social distancing makes that impossible, is it ok to carry out the task with one person, thereby complying with the new Regulations?
The short answer is no. New ways of working, even if they appear to be at the behest of the government, still need to be assessed to ensure tasks can be done safely. If a safe way to carry out the task with only one worker (or in line with the social distancing rules) cannot be identified, then it should not be done. This also means that tasks routinely undertaken by a business pre-COVID-19 may have to be reassessed to ensure compliance.
Current rules mean we are likely to see an increase in the number of staff working alone, or at least separately. This will require businesses to consider if a Lone Working Policy is required or, if their existing policy is suitable. Click here to visit HSE's pages on Lone Working. Workers will also need to be trained on any new systems of work developed and be given any additional equipment they may require, such as mobile phones and/or additional PPE.
Many pre-existing systems of work will have to be considered afresh to check that they are still suitable and compliant with the new rules and legislation. Remember to keep a register of all tasks/systems reviewed made so that evidence of the consideration can be produced should the HSE/Regulator have cause to attend your premises.