How to work safely in other people’s homes - Government guidance to tradespeople
PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 May 2020
As working restrictions are slowly lifted, many questions arise about how it is practicable to work safely in other people’s homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
This is an important factor for many tradespeople who need to access households in order to carry out their work.
To assist in answering the questions, the Government has provided a form of guidance in its 28-page document dated May 11, titled ‘Working safely during Covid-19 in other people’s homes’.
The document has been prepared by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with input from unions, industry bodies and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive. It is worth pointing out that the document contains non-statutory guidance.
This document may be updated as the situation progresses, so regular checking of the Government’s website on the issue is recommended.
Each tradesperson and business will need to translate the contents of the document into the specific actions it needs to take. This will depend on the nature of the business, including the type of work and how it is operated and regulated.
Some of the most pertinent points have been extracted from the document, and have been presented here in a question and answer format, to offer some form of clarity to tradespeople and to homeowners or renters, who may require the services of a tradesperson. Full details can be found at – www.gov.uk/workingsafely or for further information email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I’m a plumber and have been called up to work in a property where the family members will be present. Considering the current restrictions, where do I start?
Current Government guidance suggests you need to carry out an appropriate Covid-19 risk assessment prior to any job, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. When analysing risk, it is also worth considering any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector from a recognised body such as a trade association or trade union.
In the initial appointment stages of a job, try to avoid personal interaction with the customer by using virtual platforms instead. If an appointment is necessary, it is important to maintain a two-metre distance and avoid sharing pens and other objects. Whenever possible, hold the meeting outdoors in or in a well-ventilated room.
Discuss the importance of minimising risks with members of the household so that everyone understands the social distancing and hygiene measures that should be followed once work has commenced.
Crucially, no work should be carried out in a household which is isolating because an individual has been advised to shield or if a resident is showing symptoms of coronavirus.
Once the job has been confirmed it is vital to put a Covid-19 risk assessment in place.
Q. How long will it take to conduct the risk assessment?
The idea of the assessment is to identify the key measures that will control the risks in any given workplace. Currently, Government guidelines say that if you are self-employed, or if you have fewer than five workers, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment.
To help you create a risk assessment, there are interactive tools from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/assessment.htm. Alternatively, contact HSE by phone on 0300 003 1647.
Q. How should I manage risk?
The Government’s document, ‘Working safely during Covid-19 in other people’s homes’, highlights some of the factors that should be considered when managing risk in a home setting:
When working in a household where somebody is vulnerable, but not on the shielding list, prior arrangements should be made to avoid any face-to-face contact.
Ensure that provisions are in place to maintain a social distance from others as far as possible, and no less than two metres.
To reduce contact with frequently used objects, such as door handles, ask the homeowner to leave all internal doors open.
Identify the most used areas in the house, such as hallways or stairs, and minimise your movement within these areas.
Take your own food and drink. And take breaks outside if possible.
To minimise contact, try to complete the job in as short a time as possible.
If possible, use screens or barriers to separate you from others when you are working.
Be vigilant about handwashing and hygiene at all times. Wash your hands for 20 seconds using soap and hot water.
Use cleaning products to wipe down frequently touched objects and surfaces, to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to others.
Carry hand sanitiser in case handwashing facilities are not accessible
Remove all waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift and at the end of a job.
Q. Do I need to use PPE?
Personal Protective Equipment can include items such as hi-visibility jackets, helmets, safety footwear, gloves, eye protection and face masks.
If you usually wear PPE in your work activity, to protect you against non-coronavirus risks, then you should continue to do so. Otherwise, on the subject of PPE, current Government guidance says: “Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against Covid-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19.”
It is also worth noting that, currently, wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in a place of work.
Q. It will be difficult to follow social distancing guidelines to carry out the work. What should I do?
You will need to question and assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No-one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment or put others’ health at risk.
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