Protecting your business from Covid-19

The Public Health team at Nottinghamshire County Council works closely with experts and partners across the region, supporting businesses and the community to build resilience to both the health and economic effects caused by outbreaks of Covid-19. The information provided below can help you to prevent and, if necessary, manage an outbreak in the workplace.

Factories, plants and warehouses must ensure they are COVID-secure. This information aims to provide advice to ensure your business can operate in a safe way and explain where to get further help and support to protect yourself, your staff and your customers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This section covers:

  1. Environmental Health Role During the Pandemic
  2. Understanding Risks and Risk Assessments
  3. Protecting people at higher risk
  4. Social Distancing
  5. Managing customers, visitors and contractors
  6. Cleaning
  7. PPE and face coverings
  8. Workforce management
  9. Staff Canteens
  10. Goods in and out
  11. Further advice and support

1. Environmental Health role during the pandemic

Environmental Health officers have a multidisciplinary role including food safety, infectious disease control and enforcing Health and Safety matters.

Our role quickly developed during the pandemic by providing advice for businesses to ensure they can provide a Covid secure environment. Unfortunately on occasions this may mean we do have to take enforcement action against a company but this is always a last resort once an advice and educational approach has failed.

Our aim is to prevent and control the spread of the virus. For example, ensuring good hygiene practices, social distancing measures are in place and correct PPE is worn.

The information below provides further detail on how you can achieve this in your workplace and how to contact your local Environmental Health Department for further advice.

2. Understanding the Risk and Risk Assessment

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. Producing a COVID-19 risk assessment will help you manage risk and protect people.

The HSE have produced a guide to help you complete a covid-19 Risk assessment.

The guide includes practical measures you can take and what to include in your risk assessment such as social distancing, staggering shifts and providing hand washing facilities. The guide is reviewed on a regular basis in line with government guidance so it is important to review your assessment and check the website at regular intervals.

3. Protecting people at higher risk

You should ensure your workplace is safe for anyone who cannot work from home. You can do this by considering the maximum number of people who can be safely accommodated on site.

You should support workers to self-isolate when informed to do so and require staff to get tested when showing covid-19 related symptoms.

If indoors, good ventilation is one of the key factors for reducing the risk. Try to have doors/windows open and/or any extraction system in full use. This should reduce the loading in the establishment.

Further help and advice can be found here:

4. Social Distancing

Make sure everyone in the workplace is socially distancing. You should try to keep people 2m apart. To make it simple for everyone you should put up signs or introduce a one-way system that people can easily follow or have one door for entry and one for exit.

Social distancing applies to all parts of a business, not just the place where people spend most of their time, but also entrances and exits, break rooms and canteens and all communal areas.

Where social distancing cannot be followed you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate. If it does you must take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff. This HSE advice may help you determine what additional control measures you may need at your workplace.

5. Managing customers, visitors and contractors

It is good practice to minimise the number of unnecessary visits however when this is not possible you must make sure people understand what they need to do to maintain safety.

A few simple measures can help with this such as limiting the number of visitors at any one time, maintaining a record of all visitors, encouraging visitors to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises.

6. Cleaning

Ensure you clean and disinfect on a more regular basis, particularly high contact points. For example, door handles, light switches/including pull cords, kettle handles, taps at any sinks and shared equipment like kitchen tongs or chairs and tables.

You should ensure that any shared equipment and workspaces are cleaned after use, and waste and belongings are removed from the work area at the end of a shift.

If a staff member tests positive for Covid-19 or is suspected of having Covid-19 you should follow the Principles of cleaning.

Further guidance on cleaning.

As an employer you must also consider the specific conditions of your workplace to ensure you comply with all applicable legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

7. PPE and face coverings

Covid-19 should be managed through social distancing, hygiene and operating fixed teams or partnering, not solely through the use of PPE. Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, so you should not rely on face covering to manage risk.

It is good practice to remind your visitors and staff to wear face coverings in any indoor space or where required to do so by law, signage is a good way of achieving this.

If staff members are working in close proximity to anyone (less than 2m) a face covering should be worn. This should be clean and cover the nose and mouth at all times necessary.  It is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and after taking them off.

You can check when you should be wearing a face covering.

8. Workforce management

Assess the way you organise your work and minimise where possible the number of contacts each worker has.

Try as far as possible to split staff into teams or shift groups and find ways to remove direct contact. Utilise drop off zones to avoid direct contact.

You should keep a record of any temporary staff and their shift patterns for 21 days. This will help the NHS Test and Trace to help contain clusters or outbreaks.

In the event of an outbreak in the workplace further information can be found on this website.

Avoid staff travelling between locations and encourage walking or cycling where possible. When this is not possible recommend driving alone but if they have to use public transport they must wear a face covering.

If staff members have to travel in the same vehicle, dedicate teams of fixed travel partners. It is also important that there is adequate ventilation in the vehicle by switching on ventilation systems that draw in fresh air or opening windows (partially if it’s cold) and avoiding sitting face-to-face. 

More information on ventilation in vehicles.

Ensure any shared vehicles are cleaned between shifts or on handover and if workers are required to stay away from their home, record details of their stay and make sure any accommodation meets social-distancing guidelines.

If workers are delivering to other sites minimise person-to-person contact, use dedicated teams for 2-person deliveries and minimising contact during payments and exchange of documentation.

Ask your staff, visitors and contractors to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.

Good hand washing facilities must be provided to encourage good hygiene. A clean sink, good soap (which does not dry the skin) and paper towels. Anti-bacterial hand gels can be used but should not be an alternative to good handwashing.

Communicate all of your procedures clearly to workers and undertake training where necessary to ensure they are understood. Ensure workers receive regular updates with how safety measures are being implemented or updated.

9. Staff Canteens

If staff canteens must remain open, they must have adequate hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser. You should ensure staggered breaks, have queue points marked on the floor to ensure social distancing and there should not be any sharing of food or drink by staff who do not share a household. Minimise self-serving and increase the frequency of cleaning. Canteens should be thoroughly cleaned after each group of staff use them. 

Remember to ensure adequate ventilation as detailed above and reduce the use of cash.

10. Inbound and outbound goods

When goods enter and leave the site ensure staff and customers maintain social-distancing and avoid surface transmission.

Review pick-up and drop-off collection points, procedures, signage and markings. It is best practice to operate non-contact deliveries, try to reduce frequency of deliveries and have single workers load and unload vehicles. Where this is not feasible use staff pairings for loads where more than one person is needed.

Consider drivers access to welfare facilities ensuring compliance with Covid-19 requirements.

11. Further advice and support

For further advice and support please contact your local Environmental Health team at your local Council. Their contact details can be found below:

Nottinghamshire District Councils

Nottingham City Council

Derby City and Derbyshire District Council

 

This section is about workplace Covid-19 testing for people without symptoms.

It covers:

  1. Why you should test your workforce
  2. Workplace Asymptomatic Testing Options
  3. Support to avoid getting scammed by fake private sector testing services or Covid-19 test kit providers

Why you should test your workforce

Around 1 in 3 people who are infected with Covid-19 have no symptoms, and so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly and reducing the risk of transmission among those who cannot work from home, ensuring vital public and economic services can continue.

Regular testing can also provide confidence to workers and customers in the workplace, helping to protect and enable business continuity.

Testing is a complementary tool and not a replacement for other important measures such as social distancing, good personal hygiene and optimal ventilation requirements which are used to stop the spread of the virus and designed to protect staff and businesses.

Find out more at Get Coronavirus tests for your employees.

Reminder: This information is about testing people without symptoms. People with symptoms should book a PCR test.

Workplace Asymptomatic Testing Options

Distribute Tests:

  • You can buy tests from a private provider for your staff to take and complete at home

Establish a workplace asymptomatic testing site:

  • You can buy tests from a private provider and set up your own testing site to test staff on-site
  • You can pay a provider both for tests and to run the on-site test site for you

Detailed advice and information can be found here: Guidance for employers who want to offer workplace testing for asymptomatic employees.

The government also lists private providers of general covid- testing who have self-declared to meet the minimum requirements.

Alternatively, you can ask and encourage staff to regularly test independently. For more information on the testing options for individuals outside of the workplace, please go to Asymptomatic Community Testing for people without Covid-19 symptoms | Nottinghamshire County Council

Support to avoid getting scammed by fake private sector testing services or Covid-19 test kit providers

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way that businesses operate with more people working from home and communication largely limited to telephone, video calling or emails.  The huge change in the working environment and in many cases increased stress, have presented opportunities for fraudsters to scam businesses. 

Go to our  COVID-19 and scams | Nottinghamshire County Council for advice and guidance, including tips to avoid getting scammed by fake private sector testing services or Covid-19 test kit providers.

Alternatively, contact your local Trading Standards Office:

Derbyshire web link: Trading Standards | Nottinghamshire County Council

Notts County web link: Trading Standards | Nottinghamshire County Council

Notts City email: trading.standards@nottinghamcity.gov.uk and phone 0115 8445018

Inevitably businesses have experienced outbreaks when a number of staff who work together catch Covid-19 at the same time.  Experience shows that there may be a number of reasons why a Covid-19 outbreak finds its way into a setting, and sometimes it can be difficult to contain it and stop the outbreak from spreading quickly through a workplace. The Public Health Team and their partners will work with you and your staff to ensure the outbreak is managed, by co-ordinating actions to stop it spreading, not just through your business, but also through family and friends of your staff and into the community. This section covers

  1. How are workplace outbreaks identified, managed, and contained?
  2. Working with businesses to manage an outbreak
  3. Detecting an outbreak
  4. Alerting or notifying a business of an outbreak
  5. Investigating an outbreak: What is a local Outbreak Investigation and Rapid Response?
  6. Outbreak control: What is an Outbreak Control Team and how do they support businesses during an outbreak?
  7. Standing down after an Outbreak Control Team

1. How are workplace outbreaks identified, managed, and contained?

Outbreak management has five key stages.  The diagram below shows which organisations are involved at each of these stages.

A flow diagram of outbreak management for businesses.

2. Working with Businesses to manage an outbreak

As soon as an outbreak is suspected to be associated with a workplace, an assessment is made to determine if it is community transmission or whether further investigation is required.  This decision-making process is overseen by the Local Outbreak Cell.

3. Detecting an outbreak

The Local Outbreak Cell is a key structure within the Nottinghamshire County Council Outbreak Control process and acts as a forum for different partners in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire to review population data and share local intelligence, which supports coordination of outbreak management activity and facilitates a timely and appropriate response to emerging situations or outbreaks. 

4. Alerting or notifying businesses when cases are detected

Outbreaks within a workplace may be reported to the Local Outbreak Cell in different ways because different agencies collect different information about Covid-19 infections and outbreaks.  

If a situation is identified associated with your business setting, the Public Health Contain Team and their partners may contact you to risk assess the situation and will rely heavily on the information you provide.  Sometimes a visit by Environmental Health and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may also be carried out to fully understand your business and the controls that you have in place.

The assessment considers both the possible causes of the infection within the workforce as well as determining the potential size and complexity of the outbreak.  Factors such as workforce contacts inside and outside of the workplace are considered, which may include car sharing between colleagues.

Based on the finding of the assessment the Outbreak Investigation and Rapid Response process may be instigated. If the assessment identifies that more intensive support from multi-agency partners is required (i.e. for a large or complex outbreak) an Outbreak Control Team (OCT) may be stood up to support with management of the outbreak.

5. Investigating an outbreak: What is local Outbreak Investigation and Rapid Response?

In the majority of cases where an outbreak is associated with a single workplace, a local investigation called an Outbreak Investigation and Rapid Response will be initiated to understand more about possible causes and the potential risk for the outbreak to continue to grow.  The key stages of an OIRR are to:

  • Work with the business to understand their operation and the dynamics of their workforce. This may include collecting information by phone call, completing and returning the outbreak information sheet, carrying out contact tracing with your staff, (Investigation Information Sheet) or asking Environmental Health Officers to visit your business to give help and advice.
  • Look backwards in time to identify risk factors and people who have been exposed.
  • Look ahead and contact people who may need to isolate and if necessary, introduce strong control measures at work to manage the outbreak.

6. Outbreak control: What is an Outbreak Control Team and how do they support businesses during an outbreak?

The role of an outbreak control team(OCT) is to co-ordinate actions to contain larger or more complex outbreaks, that have the potential to spread either through the workforce or into the community. The meeting will bring together relevant partners to determine what actions need to be taken and what support can be provided to ensure all control measures are considered. 

The below list provides an indication of the partners that are regularly involved in supporting the management of a workplace outbreak through an OCT and their roles within the meeting:

  • The Business - is a key partner and will be involved as the setting experiencing the outbreak, to inform the OCT of the current situation in terms of case numbers, control measures and other factors that impact the outbreak and to work with relevant partners to agree and implement any identified recommendations or actions.
  • Public Health England (PHE) – provide specialist knowledge regarding infectious disease and control measures within the meeting and provide advice regarding additional measures and actions that may be required.
  • Public Health (Nottinghamshire County Council) – usually responsible for coordinating and chairing the OCT meeting and will provide Public Health support and advice.
  • Testing (joint function across Nottinghamshire County and Nottingham City Council) – provide specialist knowledge on testing and may support coordination of asymptomatic ‘case finding’ testing if required.
  • Communications (Nottinghamshire County Council/District Councils) – advise on any communications related actions that may be required, such as external communications messaging or internal messaging the workplace may need to share with staff.
  • Public Health Analysts (Nottinghamshire County Council) – will support with epidemiological analysis of the outbreak and provide context regarding local community transmission.
  • Environmental Health (District Council) – provide community knowledge and expertise and may support contact tracing. May undertake a site visit if deemed to be appropriate if they are the regulating authority for the setting in question (e.g. warehouses).
  • Health and Safety Executive – may undertake a site visit if deemed to be appropriate if they are the regulating authority for the setting in question (e.g. manufacturing).

7. Standing down the Outbreak Control Team

Standing down an OCT is complex and the decision to stand down meetings will be taken based on a number of factors, which includes the occurrence of new cases compared with the level of community transmission and the level of assurance that strong Covid-19 secure practices are in place.

The situation will continue to be monitored until 28 days have passed without a positive case. Once 28 days have passed, a decision can be taken by the Local Outbreak Cell to determine if the outbreak can be declared formally closed. This will then be communicated to you and the wider OCT group.

This section covers the steps that you should take as soon as you are notified of an outbreak and includes.

  1. Reporting a workplace outbreak
  2. Self-isolation of employees
  3. Collecting information as part of an investigation 
  4. Monitoring cases and local contact tracing

1. Reporting a workplace outbreak

If you are aware of multiple cases (two or more is considered an outbreak) of coronavirus in your workplace and need further guidance, you should contact your local health protection team.

The local Health Protection Team for Nottinghamshire is: PHE East Midlands: 0344 2254 524 (Select the option for the Health Protection Team).

2. Self-isolation of positive employees

As a business, if you are made aware that an employee has tested positive for Covid-19 or has been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, it is your legal duty to not allow them to come into work, or work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (usually, their home) for their full self-isolation period.

NHS Test and Trace will contact the individual that tested positive to identify any contacts, who are also legally required to self-isolate. As the employer, you will be well placed to identify any employees that meet the close contact definition in government guidance. Any employees that you as the employer have identified as contacts within the workplace, should also be advised to self-isolate.

3. Collecting Information as part of an investigation 

To support the management of an outbreak, understanding how the outbreak started is imperative and your role as a business will be to provide detailed information regarding the multiple factors that may impact the potential for the outbreak to spread within the workplace and will help to ensure the outbreak is effectively contained.

The below list provides an indication of what information may be required to do this. This information may be requested in the context of an initial investigation undertaken by the Public Health Contain Team and partners (such as your local Environmental Health Team), by Public Health England (PHE) or in the context of an Outbreak Control Team. A template to record this information is available as a downloadable resource.

  • Context of the business (i.e. nature of the business, the number of sites, number of employees at the affected site and the proportion of agency staff if used).
  • Affected site layout (i.e. how large is the site, are there multiple buildings, do employees move between different work areas, are cases spread across different areas of the site).
  • Date outbreak began (i.e. the date that the first confirmed positive case within the outbreak became symptomatic, or if the staff member was asymptomatic, the date that their test was undertaken).
  • Number of cases since outbreak began (i.e. total number of confirmed positive cases that have occurred since the first case in the outbreak).
  • Date of most recent case (i.e. the date that the latest confirmed positive case became symptomatic, or if the staff member was asymptomatic, the date that their test was undertaken).
  • Number of staff members self-isolating as ‘close contacts’ (i.e. the total number of staff members that have been required to self-isolate as they meet the definition of a contact as outlined in government guidance)
  • Any links identified (i.e. any links identified between positive cases through internal contact tracing, such as cases linked by household, car sharing, work area or shift).
  • Control measures (i.e. control measures that are currently in place within the business to ensure the environment is Covid-19 secure).

4. Monitoring cases and local contact tracing

In order to support the management of an outbreak you as the employer may be asked to share a list of cases associated with your workplace (to include all cases that have been reported since the start of the outbreak).

Nottinghamshire County Council Public Health and PHE have access to case data but are unable to identify individuals as being associated with a particular workplace outbreak unless the individual has provided the name and postcode of their workplace to NHS Test and Trace. Therefore, employers sharing this information with the local authority and PHE supports easy monitoring of an outbreak. A template for recording case information can be accessed below.

Staff Contact Tracing Sheet [EXCEL]

The latest government financial support for eligible businesses who are affected by the pandemic can be found by visiting the D2N2 Growth Hub or the Government website.

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