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Advice for the completion of individual risk assessments for COVID-19

Updated 28 August in line with new Government Guidance. v3

Managers are required to undertake risk assessments to ensure that they have identified and controlled risks from COVID 19 within their team.

From 1 August the government shielding advice for those who were classified as clinically extremely vulnerable has been paused. However clinically extremely vulnerable individualsshould carry on working from home if that is possible, either in their current role or in an alternative role. If working from home (either in their normal or alternative role) is not possible, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals can go to work, as long as the workplace is COVID-secure, managers support transition back to work safely and support the person to keep social distancing. An individual risk assessment must be undertaken for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals if they cannot work from home

Managers with team members who are in any of the higher-risk categories below, or who have any individual health risks should consider completing an individual risk assessment with that person. An individual risk assessment is completed to ensure effective controls are in place to reduce risk and to provide assurance to the individual.

The Public Health England report Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19 shows that some groups of people may be at more risk of being infected and/or an adverse outcome if infected.

The higher-risk groups include those who:

  • are older males
  • have a high body mass index (BMI)
  • have health conditions such as diabetes
  • are from some Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME*) backgrounds - staff member or family / household members.

*in the absence of formal guidance, we are looking at increased risk amongst BME communities in particular Black and Asian (African, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Filipino, Chinese, Japanese)

If individuals in higher risk groups cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to maintain social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable). If they cannot maintain social distancing, an individual risk assessment must assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

Those with protected characteristics, including, for example, expectant mothers who are, as always, entitled to suspension on full pay if suitable roles cannot be found.

Local outbreak control

Managers must also be aware that if local outbreaks occur then they will have to act to support staff who are in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable category. Actions taken in local outbreak control may include the reintroduction of shielding or other measures and managers may need to review risk controls including reinstating working from home arrangements.  

Communication

In order to ensure appropriate support is in place during the pandemic, managers must have thorough and sensitive conversations with their individual team members. The conversations must identify if individuals have any health conditions or risk factors that may place them in any of the higher risk groups or risk factors that may increase the risks for them in undertaking their frontline roles. Individuals are not required to provide detailed information about health conditions to managers. It is for the individuals to choose what information they are prepared to reveal, however individuals must be aware that managers cannot provide adequate controls if they are not informed that someone is in one of the higher risk groups.

Most importantly, the conversations should also, on an ongoing basis, consider the feelings of the individual, particularly about their safety and their mental health. When completing the risk assessment managers must communicate and consult with the individual.

The steps managers take do not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others, for example, those with caring responsibilities or those with religious commitments.

Risk Control Measures / mitigating actions

The control measures / mitigating actions that could be included in the risk assessment include:

  • Where possible, working from home should be facilitated.
  • Providing equipment to better work from home where an individual has ‘Access to work’ or other requirements.
  • Managers must make every effort to find meaningful work.
  • Where working from home is not possible consideration should be given to what can be put in place in order to limit exposure to any potential risks.
  • Putting in place additional social distancing measures, and other risk controls in the workplace.
  • Consider any adjustments to the role e.g. limiting exposure to the public, working in alternative locations.
  • Ensure that adequate training regarding infection control, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene etc has been received and understood and PPE required for the role is in place. (Enhanced PPE is not recommended for vulnerable groups by Public Health England).
  • Consider travel to work. Can the individual have different start times to accommodate use of public transport or use other means of travel.  
  • Consider different job roles or redeployment to a lower risk activity as a temporary measure. As far as possible this temporary measure should be with the agreement of the individual. 

When someone cannot work from home

Where any individual in a higher risk group identifies that they are unable to continue work at home due to home circumstances managers must work with the individual to find a lower risk, suitable alternative.

Managers are asked to ensure that the individual’s views are considered when completing this risk assessment. Individuals can also seek advice and support from a trade union, if they are a member.

Further advice

If when completing an individual risk assessment, sufficient controls cannot be put into place to adequately control the risks identified, further advice may be sought from Health, Safety and Wellbeing Service or Occupational Health Unit, dependant on the issue.  

Managers must regularly monitor and review the risk assessment with the individual to ensure that that it is operating effectively and adjust accordingly. Individuals should raise any concerns with their manager as soon as possible.

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