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Managing covid risk

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This page explains how voluntary organisations can work in a way that reduces the risk of people transmitting covid-19. It includes links to relevant government guidance, practical ideas of how to undertake a risk assessment and change the way you work. This page is for anyone who works in voluntary organisations, including trustees, leaders, staff and volunteers.

Plan B of the government's Autumn and Winter Plan

  • Under Plan B of the government’s Autumn and Winter Plan, there are some new restrictions to help control the spread of covid-19.
    • Work  from 13 December, people who can work from home are advised to do so. Those who can’t work from home should continue going into work. Employers should make appropriate arrangements for people who may not be able to work from home due to physical or mental health issues, or due to a challenging home environment. Workplaces have a legal duty to assess and manage health and safety risks including those presented by covid-19. Workplaces should refer to working safely during coronavirus on GOV.UK to understand the risks within their premises and to know what precautions to adopt.
    • Volunteering  those who can volunteer from home should now do so. If you can’t volunteer from home, you can continue going to the workplace. To learn more about volunteering during this time, see our involving volunteers section.
    • Meeting others – In order to minimise risk at a time of high prevalence, you should limit the close contact you have with those you do not live with. This includes minimising the number, duration and proximity of social contacts. Where possible, you should meet outdoors and try to let fresh air indoors. If in a crowded or enclosed space, wear a face mask to protect yourself and others. Read more about keeping yourself and others safe on GOV.UK.
    • Travel – You are now required by law to wear a face covering on public transport and in transport hubs, unless exempt. Additionally, you should take precautions to travel safely. This includes:
      • planning your journey and checking your route
      • sanitising your hands regularly
      • opening windows for ventilation where it is possible to do so
      • for more information, read the safer travel guidance on GOV.UK.
    • Holiday  If you are planning to travel internationally, you should check what you need to do before you travel. There are different rules for travel to England depending on whether you qualify as fully vaccinated and if you have been in a red list country or territory in the 10 days before you arrive in England. Read the guidance to plan for your travel on GOV.UK.
  • Some parts of England are receiving further support to stop the spread of covid-19. If your organisation is based in an area that is receiving enhanced support, you should:
  • Find further information on the lifting of restrictions on GOV.UK.

Covid-19 testing

  • Everyone in England can access free, regular, rapid, covid-19 testing. Find a rapid, lateral flow test site in your area. Testing is most effective within three days of symptoms developing.
  • Organisations may want to encourage staff and volunteers to take regular rapid lateral flow tests to prevent the spread of covid-19 by those without symptoms. This may be particularly useful:
    • where individuals have not been fully vaccinated
    • during periods of higher risk where people are going to the workplace
    • when spending a prolonged period of time with a vulnerable individual.
  • There is no law in England that says that staff and volunteers must be tested for covid-19.  
  • Employers may want to consider introducing a specific policy to outline their approach to covid-19 testing for staff and volunteers. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has developed a template mass-testing for covid-19 policy which adopts a voluntary approach. 
  • If as an employer you want to require staff and/or volunteers to regularly test for covid-19, see our guidance on:

Covid-19 vaccination programme

Working safely during covid-19

  • The government has now asked people to work from home where they can. Those who can’t work from home can go to the workplace. 
  • All organisations, including charities, should consider whether their staff should work from home, in the workplace, or in a hybrid mode. Organisations should make appropriate arrangements for staff that may have mental or physical health issues, or who live in challenging environments
  • Employers are still legally required to identify and and take sensible precautions to manage health and safety risks, including those posed by covid-19.

Carrying out a covid-19 workplace risk assessment

  • Employers are legally required to ensure the safety of their workplace by carrying out a covid-19 risk assessment. This should be reviewed regularly to make sure it takes into account any new factors and changes.
  • Employers may have a generic risk assessment but it is unlikely to be detailed enough to properly identify and mitigate the risks associated with covid-19. NCVO members can download a generic risk assessment template for charities on NCVO Knowhow.
  • Risk assessments should be in line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance including guidance on what to consider in your covid-19 risk assessment
  • There's a legal obligation to write down your risk assessment if you have five employees or more. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do.
  • Employers should ensure that they consider the risks to employees who are at high risk from covid-19. Read guidance on protecting vulnerable workers during coronavirus on HSE’s website.
  • Employers must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers.
  • Employers should also talk to and consult their staff and volunteers as they're doing their risk assessments. They may provide useful feedback.
  • Once completed, the risk assessment should be shared with staff and volunteers. Employers may also want to consider publishing their risk assessments on their website.
  • Employers should put monitoring and supervision mechanisms in place, to make sure the controls that have been put in place are working as they should be.

Reducing risks with your team

Staff and volunteers should work from home where possible. Those who cannot work or volunteer from home can continue going to the workplace. If staff and volunteers are going to the workplace, there are ways to reduce the risk of spreading covid-19. These include:

  • alternating who is in the workplace in fixed teams
  • changing working hours to reduce the amount of time people are on premises
  • staggering staff and or volunteer arrival and or departure times
  • if possible, meeting outside if meetings need to take place between people who don’t normally work together
  • keeping social distancing measures in place and/or wearing face masks even in settings where this is not legally required, if it feels appropriate for staff or volunteers who are at high risk from covid-19.

    Cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures

    Ensuring sufficient ventilation in your workplace

    • Employers are required by law to make sure that there is an adequate supply of fresh air in enclosed areas of the workplace.
    • Ventilation helps reduce the amount of virus in the air. It reduces the risk of spreading covid-19 by aerosol transmission. This transmission happens when someone breathes in small particles in the air (aerosols) after a person with the virus has been in the same enclosed area.
    • You can reduce the risk of aerosol transmission:
      • naturally by allowing fresh air to come in through open windows, door or air vents
      • mechanically by bringing air in through fans and ducts.
    • In your risk assessment you need to identify poorly ventilated areas using HSE guidance.
    • Your ventilation is likely to be adequate to reduce the risk of covid-19 transmission if the rooms or spaces in your workplace:
      • are used within the occupancy limits specified in the building design
      • have a sufficient fresh air supply to meet the current minimum building standard.
    • Read guidance on ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus pandemic on HSE’s website.

    Use of personal protective equipment

    • The use of PPE is only required for certain healthcare activities.
    • PPE does not include face coverings and face masks. See our guidance for the use of face covering and face masks.
    • In non-clinical settings you can provide the same PPE as you did before the pandemic.
    • If your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to staff and volunteers who need it. HSE has developed guidance on using PPE at work.  

    Use of face coverings and face masks

    • In England, people are now required by law to wear face coverings in most indoor settings, public transport and transportation hubs, unless exempt. These include (but are not limited to):
      • shops
      • community centres (including village halls), youth centres, members clubs and social clubs
      • libraries and public reading rooms
      • places of worship
      • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (such as museums, galleries and cinemas).
    • Workers and volunteers are required to wear face coverings when they are in a part that is open to the public and when they are likely to come into close contact with members of the public.
    • The full list of places where face coverings are required and information on exemptions is available on GOV.UK.
    • The government expects and recommends that face coverings are worn in crowded or enclosed spaces, even when this is not legally required.
    • Face covering needs to cover your mouth and nose. The government has developed guidance on how to wear a face covering.

    NHS Covid Pass

      • From 15 December, event organisers for certain venues and events are legally required to check that all visitors aged 18 or above have an NHS Covid Pass, or approved proof of vaccination, testing, or an exemption, to enter the venue or event. 
      • Organisations are strongly advised to make sure that adults working and volunteering in customer-facing roles in these settings provide proof that they meet covid-19 status requirements. 
      • The full guidance on carrying out mandatory COVID-19 status checks at your venue or event, including exemptions, is available on GOV.UK.
      • Organisations that operate a venue or event where people are likely to stand or move around, or come in close contact, should consider using the NHS Covid Pass even if they are not legally required to.
      • Organisations in high-risk settings such as the NHS, social care and prisons are encouraged to use the NHS Covid Pass as a condition of entry in order to reduce the risk of covid-19. In particular, the pass can be useful in settings where people are going to be in close proximity to others outside their household.
      • Read guidance on carrying covid-19 status checks on a voluntary basis on GOV.UK.
      • If you are aged over 18 you can get an NHS Covid Pass for travel abroad and domestic events depending on your vaccination status or covid-19 test result.
      • A digital version of the NHS Covid Pass is available using the NHS app or online NHS Covid Pass service. You will need your NHS number. You should check the expiry date before using it.
      • An NHS Covid Pass letter can be sent to you by post. You can use your letter at venues in England where you need to prove your covid-19 status two weeks after you have been fully vaccinated. You can request a Covid Pass letter online or call 119 (do not call if you're travelling in more than four weeks time). The letter does not have an expiry date.

      Supporting NHS Test and Trace

      • NHS Test and Trace helps reduce the spread of covid-19 by finding people who have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Find out more about NHS Test and Trace and how it prevents the spread of covid-19 on GOV.UK.
      • Hospitality, tourism and leisure venues, close contact services, places of worship and local authority facilities (including community centres, libraries and village halls) are encouraged to:
        • keep records of all staff working on their premises each day, their shift times and their contact details as well as any customers or visitors.
        • keep these records for 21 days, share them with NHS Test and Trace if asked, and securely dispose of or delete them after 21 days.
      • These venues should ask every member of every group of customers or visitors aged over 16 for their contact details, including:
        • name
        • phone number, or if this is not available an email or postal address
        • date of visit
        • arrival time and, if possible, departure time
        • the name of their assigned staff member, if they have one.
      • Venues should encourage people to give their details and advise them that their information will only be used to stop the spread of covid-19.
      • In England, people can give these details by checking in using an official NHS QR poster. Find out more about NHS QR codes and how to make them on the NHS covid-19 app website. However, you should have a way for people without a smartphone to give their contact details too.
      • Each person is responsible for making sure their contact details are correct.  
      • When collecting this information, venues must follow General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
      • NHS Test and Trace or public health officers will only ask for these records if necessary, for example if your premises has been the location of a potential covid-19 outbreak. You and your staff must not share these records with anyone else.
      • In the event of an outbreak linked to a venue, individuals who checked in will receive an alert. Venue alerts are only triggered when there are two or more cases at a venue. Find out more about venue alerts and what you need to do on GOV.UK.
      Page last edited Dec 22, 2021

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