Winter Update For The COVID-19 Variant Omicron
The mandatory wearing of face covers in shops and on public transport.
The use of face covers in common school areas.
This updated guidance causes England to be in line with Wales and Scotland, where face covers have remained.
Employers will be required to refresh their risk assessments to examine the risk of the Omicron variant. Industries that are directly hit by the recent changes ensure that the requirement for staff and visitors to wear face coverings is reflected in the new risk assessment.
Employers should also ensure that the staff are provided with training on the new requirements and that face coverings are enforced as appropriate.
Changes in Factories and Offices
The present changes do not impact those working in offices. However, employers must ensure that any risk assessment is up to date and that controlled standards remain appropriate and are being enforced. Such control measures may include the following:
Ensuring sufficient ventilation
Routine cleaning of the work area, particularly high contact zones
Strengthening self-isolation guidance and ensuring that employees who are COVID-19 positive are kept out of the workspace.
Arrangement of handwashing/hand sanitising facilities
Ensuring contractors and visitors are observing COVID-safe guidance in place.
These are only a few key measures suggested by the Government and are equally applicable to many other workplaces.
Changes in Retail & Leisure Industries
Retailers must ensure that customers under the Equality Act 2010 should not face discrimination. If a customer falls under this act, they have a protected characteristic, which means they cannot wear a face-cover due to a disability.
Any individual exempted and not wearing a face-covering per Government guidance should not be denied entry to retail premises. Remember that an individual does not have to provide proof of an exemption. If a person with a protected characteristic is denied entry to retail premises for not wearing a face-covering, they can claim disability discrimination.
The Hospitality sector is exempt from the developments on face coverings. Still, it must consider the current risk assessments concerning the new variant.
Changes in the Construction Industry
No particular changes are suggested in the construction industry. The current control measures should continue and remain appropriate for the time being. Specific consideration is still required when handling PPE and ensuring that this is provided on an individual basis or properly cleaned amid uses if it is to be reused.
Changes in Transport & Logistics Services
Those supplying transport services will have to update any risk assessments to incorporate the return to mandatory face coverings for staff and customers. Similar to retail and leisure, the revised risk assessment will need to be related to staff to ensure they are informed of the risks and changes.
Changes in Health & Social Care
No specific changes are suggested in this field, yet employers must remain informed of current developments. Therefore, care providers may prefer to consider reviewing and updating risk assessments for staff and service users.
Care home staff are now expected to be fully vaccinated. This has prompted many care providers with notable staffing concerns where staff are reluctant or unable to have the vaccine, impacting the quality of care provided.
Care providers must ensure that they possess adequate staffing resources at all times and must record where this has been improbable to accomplish due to Government requirements.