COVID-19 has resulted in significant changes to the way we operate and will continue to operate for the foreseeable future. These changes are required to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 within our workplaces and the wider community.
While COVID-19 is circulating within the wider community, it is important that we continue to implement and maintain changes to working practices to reduce the likelihood of work-related transmissions and potential future outbreaks.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets from an infected individual to an uninfected individual by either direct or indirect transmission. These droplets are exhaled when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks.
These infectious droplets are suspended in the air for a short duration following exhalation by an infected person. Individuals who are in close contact with an infected person (<2m) can be infected by these droplets entering their eyes, nose or mouth. The risk of infection increases the longer close contact occurs.
Infectious droplets can settle onto surfaces after being suspended in the air. These droplets can be transferred to an individual's mouth, nose or eyes after they touch the contaminated surface. Droplets on uncleaned surfaces pose a risk of infection to everyone, however this risk reduces significantly after 72 hours.
Individuals who have contracted COVID-19 can spread it before they develop symptoms. Some people who are infected with COVID-19 may not display any symptoms and will be unaware they have the virus. These people can still transmit COVID-19 through direct or indirect transmission. Therefore, it's important that guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 are always followed throughout the pandemic.
General principles for preventing the spread of COVID-19
All Council employees should follow these general principles to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 within the Council and the wider community.
Stay at home guidance
As an employer, we actively support the Scottish Government's approach to reduce the spread of the virus. This means:
- All employees who can work from home should continue to do so, unless there is a valid reason they can't. To help determine if it is appropriate for an employee to return to the workplace due to the job the return to work process should be followed. Additionally, all Services must ensure they follow the Scottish Government's recovery framework prior to re-establishing services based in the workplace.
- If an employee develops symptoms of COVID-19, or lives with an individual who has symptoms, they must stay at home and not come into work.
- Individuals who have been shielding, are pregnant or have underlying conditions which may make them more at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 must complete an individual risk assessment prior to returning to the workplace.
Some employees who have been working from home may have borrowed IT equipment or office furniture to help do their job at home. Where this has happened managers should maintain an inventory of items which have been borrowed to help maintain adequate asset management.
If an employee must physically attend work in a Council building, they should maintain a minimum distance of 2m from others.
To help maintain physical distancing across the Council, you should work with other Service Managers in your building and the Premises Manager to ensure:
- Building occupancy does not exceed an average 30% across the Council estate. There may be some variation between buildings due to physical layout, however the Council will aim to only have 30% of its workforce physically present at the workplace.
- Employees work from a single desk for the duration of their working day, and only one person uses a desk per day.
- Signage is put in place to make clear how employees and visitors can maintain physical distancing such as queue markings and desk/chairs that should not be used.
- Chairs and desks should be marked as not to be used with clear guidance on the maximum number that can use a room at any time. If possible, excess chairs and tables are removed from break out areas to support physical distancing.
- Teams/employees are allocated to specific parts of buildings to control the number of people in an area and reduce transmission.
- Lifts are only used by individuals with mobility issues and for the movement of goods. A lift should only be occupied by 1 person or the minimum number required to safely handle any goods being transported.
To reduce the risk of direct transmission when it is not possible to maintain physical distancing of 2m, managers should:
- Decide whether the activity needs to be undertaken or find an alternative way of doing it (ie virtually).
- Use screens or barriers to block transmission of droplets between people.
- Minimise the amount of time the activity takes to complete which will reduce the likelihood of transmission.
- Have employees work within fixed teams which can limit cross infection in the workforce.
- These alternatives can also be used to further reduce the risk of workplace transmission where physical distancing can be maintained.
Test and Protect
The Scottish Government's Test and Protect programme involves identifying close contacts of individuals who have COVID-19 and, in some cases, requiring those individuals to self-isolate. The Council fully supports this programme and will support any employee contacted to comply with its requirements.
To mitigate the impact on the work force from Test and Protect, Services should always seek to minimise the number of employees working at a location and reduce face to face interaction between employees wherever possible.
Touchdown zones and hot desking will not be used within Falkirk Council buildings whilst COVID-19 is transmitting within the community or the Scottish Government's recovery plan is in effect.
To assist in minimising unnecessary physical interactions between employees a personal workspace will only be used by one employee per day. Personal work areas are the area an employee spends their working time. This includes a desk space or an area in a workshop.
Where shift rosters and appropriate environmental cleaning is implemented the one employee, per desk, per day restriction will not apply.
To assist Public Health colleagues in contact tracing all areas that involve face to face contact with members of the public should consider a way of recording individuals details. This will be used to help facilitate contact tracing if a workplace transmission of COVID-19 occurs. These records should be kept for 21 days.
Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.
Employees should use tissues to catch coughs or sneezes. Tissues should then be disposed of immediately and hands washed straight away to help prevent both direct and indirect transmission.
Where tissues aren't available, employees should cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow, not in their hands.
Good hand hygiene is essential as it:
- helps prevent indirect transmission of COIVD-19
- stops people who are asymptomatic contaminating surfaces
- prevents employees transferring COVID-19 from contaminated surfaces to non-contaminated surfaces.
All employees should wash their hands regularly for 20 seconds at least 6 times a day. Handwashing should always be done:
- upon arrival at work and before leaving work
- before and after eating
- after using the toilet
- before and after using communal items or equipment such as printers
- at regular intervals during the work period especially after blowing nose, sneezing or coughing
- after handing any objects or paperwork provided by a service user or member of the public
Where hand washing facilities are not accessible, hand sanitiser will be provided. This will kill viruses that are present on your hands. It will not remove virus cells. That is why washing your hands with soap and water is always preferable because it kills and removes virus cells.
Council buildings have been fitted with automatic hand sanitiser dispensers. In order to ensure these are supplied with enough hand sanitiser they will be checked and refilled in the following way:
||Refilling of hand sanitiser unit
before the building opens
|Refilling of hand sanitiser units
during the day
Premises Managers can order supplies of hand sanitiser for automatic dispensers from Stores. They should allow up to 72 hours for delivery. Use this Hand Sanitiser Refill link to send an email and replace the <<Insert building name>> text in the subject line with the name of your building. This hand sanitiser should be kept in a place agreed with Cleaning Services staff to ensure dispensers can be refilled when necessary.
Using Council Vehicles
Only 1 person can use a council vehicle at any one time. The only exception is if a vehicle is being used for essential work and occupants can observe a minimum 1m distance from each other. In most cases this would mean a second person could travel in the vehicle.
Where a second person does travel in a vehicle, work areas need to identify the type of vehicle is appropriate for a passenger to travel in within their risk assessments.
In the case of employees who have completed an individual risk assessment that places them in the 'High' or Very High' category, they must maintain 2m physical distancing at all times. This means they can only travel as a second person in a council vehicle where 2m physical distancing can be observed ie a council minibus.
Employees using council vehicles should use the provided anti-viral wipes to clean all commonly touched surfaces in the vehicle prior to and after use. These include:
- steering wheel & controls
- seat belt buckle
- dashboard & radio
- door handle
Routine and regular cleaning of surfaces will help reduce indirect transmission of COVID-19.
All employees should clean their personal work area using QuestPlus, a disinfectant spray, and a disposable hand towel:
- when they arrive and before they leave work
- after eating or returning from lunch
Personal work areas are the area an employee spends their working time. This can include a desk space or an area in a workshop.
Cleaning officers will undertake regular cleaning of buildings; however, employees should be aware that commonly touched items (such as printers) or surfaces (such as door handles or handrails) may become contaminated between these cleans. All employees should practice good hand hygiene by washing their hands or using hand sanitiser throughout the day, particularly after using communal items.
In some situations employees may attend the workplace and later develop symptoms of COVID-19. In this situation all employees need to understand what steps must to be taken if someone becomes ill at work.
Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Additional PPE to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 is not required except in specific settings such as residential care. Face masks and other PPE will only be provided to employees who work within identified areas where the use of PPE is supported by Health Protection Scotland and Government guidance. Employees who wear PPE as part of their normal role should continue to do so.
Employees who do not wear PPE as part of their normal role may choose to wear a personal face covering that does not pose a safety risk or prevent them from being easily identified in the workplace. Face covering must also not cause undue offense to employees or members of the public or display football team colours.
Employee's whose role requires that they were a face covering (such as the requirement to attend a retail shop) will be provided a face covering as part of their uniform.
How employees can help reduce the spread of COVID-19
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19 employees should follow these simple steps:
- Stay at home: if you can work from home you should. If you need to come into work - and you live with someone who has or may have the virus - stay at home.
- Wash your hands: good hand hygiene is essential, so wash your hands when you arrive and leave work and regularly throughout the day. If there are no washing facilities, use hand sanitiser.
- Catch it. Bin it. Kill it: coughs and sneezes should be caught in a tissue. If you don't have one handy use the crook of your elbow and always wash your hands afterwards.
- Bring your own: if you need utensils or crockery to eat or drink in the workplace bring your own and clean them after use with warm water and detergent.
- Keep doors and windows open: good ventilation will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, so keep doors and windows open in the workplace.
COVID-19 Risk Management
Council services can resume in line with the Scottish Government's Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making - Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis.
Before services can restart, Service Managers need to follow the following step-by-step process:
||Service Managers identify what services are being resumed at each phase of Scottish Government guidance.
||Conduct a COVID-19 Risk Assessment
||Service Managers will review guidance on COVID-19 precautions and either update their existing activity risk assessments with these additional control measure or complete a new risk assessment where they do not have a relevant existing risk assessment.
||Approval of COVID-19 Risk Assessment
||The completed risk assessment will be reviewed by the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group comprising members from the Health, Safety & Wellbeing Team and Trade Union representatives. The group will either approve or request a subsequent review of the risk assessment by the relevant Service Manager.
||Publishing of COVID-19 Risk Assessment
||The approved Risk Assessment will be published on the SHE Assure Employee Portal for the relevant work area by the Health, Safety & Wellbeing Team. This information is available to anyone with access to the internet and does not require a password to access.
||Review of COVID-19 Risk Assessments
||Approved COVID-19 risk assessments will be regularly reviewed by the relevant Service Manager in consultation with the Health, Safety & Wellbeing Team. This will be done when:
- The designated review time elapses
- Relevant guidance is updated
- There are changes to working practice
- Following a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 within the workplace
When considering how to manage services that are resuming, Service Managers should think about:
- What can be done to reduce the risk of workplace transmission between people in the workplace.
- What can be done to lessen the impact on the service if employees are required to self-isolate as part of the Test & Protect programme.
- Additional measures that may be needed to lower the risk of workplace transmission.
Service managers should also consider the following points when undertaking their risk assessments:
- The less people in the workplace, the easier it is to achieve and maintain physical distancing. Any employee who can continue to work from home should do so. If a task needs to be completed at a Council building the employee should attend only to complete the task and then return home.
- Limiting interaction between employees within teams and between teams will reduce the likelihood of workplace transmission and lessen the impact if employees are required to self-isolate under the Test & Protect programme.
- Where possible visitors - such as members of the public and contractors - should have restricted access to the workplace.
Assessing the risk of COVID-19 workplace transmissions
When considering the risk of COVID-19 workplace transmissions, Service Managers need to identify the likely outcome (severity) of the transmission and the likelihood of that outcome occurring. This should be done after considering the effect of selected control measures.
What we mean by severity
COVID-19 is most likely to severely affect people who are over the age of 70 and/or have certain underlying health conditions. Most other people who contract the disease will be asymptomatic or experience either mild or moderate symptoms which will require some time off work to recover from the illness.
Employees who are at 'higher risk of severe illness' and 'extremely high risk of severe illness' should not attend the workplace. However, individuals who are in the 'higher risk of severe illness' group may come back into the workplace where physical distancing of 2m can be observed, but only after talking to their line manager. Employees in this group may need to be referred to Occupational Health in order to determine if it is appropriate for them to return to their role in the workplace.
To assess the risk of COVID-19 workplace transmission, Service Managers should, in most cases, rate the severity as 'significant - injury or illness preventing a person from performing their normal range of activities for more than seven days.' If the Service Manager believes a different severity rating should be used, they should consult with the Health, Safety & Wellbeing Team.
What we mean by likelihood
In most workplace settings where physical distancing can be achieved, and employees are not delivering direct care to individuals who are suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19, the likelihood of a workplace transmission is low.
The likelihood of a COVID-19 workplace transmission should be rated as 'unlikely'. Where employees interact with members of the public frequently it may be appropriate to rate this higher. If the Service Manager believes a different likelihood rating should be used, they should consult with the Health, Safety & Wellbeing Team.
Control measures to reduce the risk of workplace transmission
As part of the risk assessment, control measures (listed in appendices) must be put in place. This may require co-operation and teamwork with other Service Managers and Premises Managers.
Because we provide a diverse range of services a list of additional control measures has also been included. These should be put in place by all Service Managers where practicable.
A model risk assessment has also been provided which outlines broader control measures that are to be implemented. Any hazards listed in this model risk assessment that are not relevant to the work being undertaken should be removed. Service managers should identify relevant scenarios from the appendices and include these and the associated control measures in the relevant hazards of their risk assessment. Work areas should also consider what local procedures need to be developed to support the implementation of the risk assessment.
Service managers should always try to implement the most robust control measures possible in their workplace. Managers should always implement the most appropriate control measures which will:
- Prevent or reduce employees from handling or touching objects that are potentially contaminated in order to reduce indirect transmission
- Prevent or reduce direct contact with other employees or members of the public as much as possible
- Limit the number of people attending a Council workplace
This describes control measures which should be used to manage workplace transmission for services in an office environment. Typically, this environment would have very limited exposure to visitors from outwith the Council.
This describes control measures which should be used to manage workplace transmission for services that involve interacting with the public in council buildings. This could include where members of the public visit buildings for appointments or undertake transactions.
This describes control measures which should be used to manage workplace transmission for people using a council vehicle. It does not apply to vehicles which seat more than 6 people.
This describes control measures for managing workplace meetings between employees. These controls should be considered by Service Managers for managing meetings between employees where required for service delivery.
Services must inform their employees of which meetings can be held face to face. If they need advice on whether it is appropriate for particular meetings to be held face to face, they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This describes control measures for managing appointments with members of the public. These controls should be considered by managers for managing meetings between employees where required for service delivery.
*Physical screens can be used in situations where physical distancing cannot be achieved. However screens should be used where the nature of the interaction mean physical distancing cannot be achieved (for example birth registrations). They should not be used in small rooms to compensate for inadequate space.
This appendix outlines how welfare facilities should be managed within council buildings.
This appendix outlines how common areas and breakout spaces within buildings should be managed.
This describes control measures for managing contractors. These controls should be considered by Service Managers and Premises Managers responsible for commissioning work involving contractors.