Key steps for businesses to reopen safely

business support

Alert

As part of the three step route for the reopening of businesses, the government has announced that non-essential retail, hairdressers and indoor leisure facilities will be able to open from 12 April. Most other businesses will be able to open on 17 May and all remaining businesses can open on 21 June.

If you are a business that is reopening, there are important steps you must take to reduce risk of infection within your premises.

These measures are vital to ensure safety and confidence among staff and customers, and will aid in the recovery of the local economy.

Working Safely

Government guidance supports business owners, employees and suppliers to work safely to reduce the risk of catching or transmitting Covid-19. There are five key steps to working safely:

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment 
  2. Develop cleaning, hygiene and handwashing procedures 
  3. Support people to work from home, where possible
  4. Maintain two metre social distancing, where possible
  5. Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk 

Full guidance can be found here. The five steps are also explored in further detail below.

Risk assessments and regulatory compliance

Government advice is that businesses should carry out a written risk assessment before reopening. They should also display a Staying Covid-19 secure’ poster (download PDF link) in their premises, in order to demonstrate compliance with guidance.

Detailed advice and risk assessment templates can be found on the Health & Safety Executive website.

Enforcement officers from the Council will be making regular visits to business premises in order to monitor and advise on remaining compliant, and will be looking out for the following measures:

  • Has a risk assessment been conducted (must be documented for 5 or more workers)?
  • Does the risk assessment assess requirements of lone working/violence at work?
  • Can staff maintain a safe distance from each other and customers?
  • Is the queuing system working effectively, internally and externally?
  • Has the business limited customer numbers, is it appropriate and being adhered to?
  • Has the business implemented a system for capturing the names and contact details of customers in the event that a customer later tests positive for Covid and contacts need to be traced?
  • Is there a system for sick staff to sign off work?
  • Is there a formal cleaning schedule, with increased frequency?
  • Can staff access handwashing facilities with hot water?
  • Is there adequate PPE available?
  • Charity shops only – are they accepting donations, if so, how?
  • Betting shops only – are the machines adequately spaced?

Government has created a helpful tool which enables businesses to check if they are ready to reopen.

Social distancing

Social distancing is an effective way to reduce the spread of Covid-19, and its implementation will reassure staff, customers and the general public that businesses are doing their utmost to keep them safe.

To carry out social distancing for staff, you should:

  1. Carry out a risk assessment which covers staff, customers, suppliers etc. For more than 5 workers this needs to be recorded.
  2. Make sure that staff regularly wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds, and that there is plentiful supply of hand sanitiser, soap and paper towels or hand dryers.
  3. Place screens at serving points and tills.
  4. Support staff to work 2m apart wherever possible, promote side to side or back to back working over face to face.
  5. Stagger arrival and departure times.
  6. Reduce contact between staff by using fixed teams or partnering.
  7. Ensure staff rooms and back of house areas are safe for social distancing.
  8. Provide PPE where needed.
  9. Staff showing symptoms of Covid-19 must not come in to work, and should be encouraged to take a swab test.

To carry out social distancing for customers, you should:

  1. Use windows, display boards and social media to advertise opening times, new methods of operation, and enhanced health and safety procedures.
  2. Review layouts and remove excess furniture or displays. This may also require removal of internal and external seating for food businesses.
  3. Consider implementing a one-way system through the premises to maintain social distancing measures, and separate entrance/exit if possible.
  4. Limit customer numbers to ensure 2m distancing can be maintained.
  5. Consider offering hand sanitising or hand washing as customers enter the premises.
  6. Use floor markings to convey 2m distances.
  7. Promote social distancing in external queues with signage or staffing, if you are employing people to manage the queue they may need SIA accreditation.
  8. Talk to neighbouring businesses or residents to ensure safe management of external queues.
  9. Avoid cash payments where possible, take card or contactless payment.
  10. Do not allow customers to congregate outside premises after purchase.
  11. Regularly clean and disinfect all touch points, such as door plates and door handles, counters and card machines.
  12. Changing rooms must remain closed.
  13. If customer toilets are available they must be cleaned regularly, with particular attention given to touch points.

To carry out social distancing for deliveries and servicing, you should:

  1. Make sure your commercial waste management and cleaning contracts are up to date, and you are aware of any changes implemented by the providers, as a result of Covid-19.
  2. Ensure you are clear on where delivery vehicles can park.
  3. Arrange deliveries for quieter periods, with minimal disruption to local residents and other businesses.
  4. Drivers must maintain 2m distance and avoid contact with staff where possible.
  5. Make hand sanitiser available to delivery drivers if hand washing is not possible.
  6. Arrange pre-payment to suppliers where possible, so drivers do not need to collect cash.
  7. If you have started delivering to customers, provide contactless payment and ensure delivery drivers can leave products at the doorstep and await collection by customer from a 2m distance.

The Government has indicated that hairdressers and barbers can operate from the 4 July onwards providing that they are ‘Covid-secure’. In summary, this means that businesses may welcome customers, as long as they can operate safely.

In workplaces such as hairdressers and barbers, it is likely to be difficult to maintain social distancing. Accordingly, the person providing a service should wear further protection in addition to any that they might usually wear.

This should take the form of a clear visor that covers the face and provides a barrier between the wearer and the client from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing or speaking. Visors must fit the user and be worn properly. It should cover the forehead, extend below the chin, and wrap around the side of the face.

When wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands. Change and wash your face covering daily following manufacturers guidelines.

Risk assessments will need to be tailored to your specific business considering the nature, size and type of the business, how it’s organised, operated and managed. 

You will need to discuss the assessment with your staff and ask what they think needs to be included and take onboard advice and guidance provided by the enforcing authorities

Actions and mitigation you should consider include:

  • Operating an appointment-only system.
  • Encouraging clients to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises or before treatment.
  • Calculating the maximum number of clients that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable, is acceptable) and limiting the number of appointments at any one time. T
  • When booking an appointment, asking the client if they can attend on their own, where possible.
  • Using outside spaces for queuing where available and safe, for example some car parks.
  • Minimising contact between different workers while serving a client.
  • Reviewing working practices to minimise the duration of contact with the client.
  • Where extended treatments are undertaken, such as braiding, consider how the length of the appointment could be minimised.
  • Limiting the use of changing facilities available to clients and only opening them when essential to providing a service, such as tanning studios.
  • Encouraging clients to arrive at the time of their scheduled appointment. Maintaining social distancing in waiting areas when clients wait for their appointments.
  • When waiting areas can no longer maintain social distancing, consider moving to a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy.
  • Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency and to avoid touching your face, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.
  • To enable good hand hygiene, consider making hand sanitiser available on entry to toilets where safe and practical, and ensure suitable handwashing facilities including running water and liquid soap and suitable options for drying (either paper towels or hand driers) are available.
  • Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets, with increased frequency of cleaning in line with usage.
  • Keep the facilities well ventilated. 
  • Towels, shawls and covers need to be single use and cleaned before being re-used

This list is not comprehensive, further Government guidance on how to operate safely can be viewed here.

Guidance on risk assessments can be found here.

Pavement Licenses

Operators, whether or not they already hold a tables and chairs / pavement licence, may apply for a pavement licence to the local authority. This is effectively a "Fast Track" application process for pubs, wine bars, drinking establishments or other premises used for the sale of food or drink for consumption on or off the premises.

Pavement licences are presently granted primarily under Part 7A of the Highways Act 1980. The fee varies between local authorities. Waltham Forest have recently introduced a “Fast Track” process to assist businesses opening on the 4th July. The fast track process fee had been set at £115.00. This process may still be required pending the new process, which is unlikely to implemented in time for 4 July.

The new process contained in the Business and Planning Bill is broadly similar to the ‘Fast Track’ process now implemented by Street Trading. In their application, the applicant is required to provide details of the furniture to which the application relates, alongside other information or material as the local authority may require. The furniture which may be used is:

  • Counters or stalls for selling or serving food or drink;
  • Tables, counters or shelves on which food or drink can be placed;
  • Chairs, benches or other forms of seating; and
  • Umbrellas, barriers, heaters and other articles used in connection with the outdoor   consumption of food or drink.

This furniture is required to be removable. 

Examples of other information a local authority might require in the application include:

  • Specify the premises and, the part of the relevant highway to which the application relates;
  • Specify the purpose (or purposes) for which the furniture will be used which must be to sell or serve food or drink, and/or for use by other people for the consumption of food or drink. In both cases the food or drink must be supplied from, or in connection with relevant use of the premises;
  • Specify the days of the week on which and the hours between which it is proposed to have furniture on the highway;
  • Describe the type of furniture to which the application relates, for example: tables, chairs, and/or stalls;
  • Specify the date on which the application is made;
  • Contain or be accompanied by such evidence of public liability insurance in respect of anything to be done pursuant to the licence as the authority may require; and
  • Contain or be accompanied by such other information or material as the local authority may require.

The local authority may grant the application subject to certain criteria (mainly the ability of non-vehicular traffic being able to use the highway). Licences can only be granted in respect of highways listed in section 115A(1) Highways Act 1980. Generally, these are footpaths restricted to pedestrians or are roads and places to which vehicle access is restricted or prohibited. Highways maintained by Network Rail or over the Crown land are exempt (so a licence cannot be granted).

If a local authority determines an application before the end of the determination period (which is 5 working days, beginning with the first day after the public consultation period, excluding public holidays) the authority can specify the duration of the licence, subject to a minimum duration of 3 months. The expectation is that local authorities will grant licences for 12 months or more unless there are good reasons for granting a licence for a shorter period such as plans for future changes in use of road space.

If the local authority does not determine the application before the end of the determination period, which is 5 working days beginning with the first day after the public consultation period (excluding public holidays), the licence is deemed to have been granted for a year (but not beyond 30 September 2021) and the business can place the proposed furniture such as tables and chairs within the area set out in the application for the purpose or purposes proposed.

The local authority may revoke a licence for various reasons, including:

  • Risks to public health or safety;
  • The highway is being obstructed; and/or
  • There is anti-social behaviour or public nuisance – for example, the use is increasing the amount of noise generated late at night and litter is not being cleaned up.

Alcohol Licenses

Premises that are not currently authorised to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises at all (in other words “on sales only”) will be authorised to provide off sales until 30 September 2021 without the need to make any application to the licensing authority. Any restrictions on the licence are suspended in so far as they are inconsistent with this new authorisation for off sales. 

Premises already authorised to sell alcohol for consumption both on and off the premises, the following conditions or types of conditions are suspended:

  • Any conditions restricting the time when an off sale may be made (when the premises is also open for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises)
  • Any condition that would prevent alcohol being sold in an open container (for example a condition requiring off sales to be in sealed containers only)
  • Any condition that would prevent off sales where it is a sale for delivery

In effect, this means that any premises open for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises can also provide off sales in open containers for the same hours on-sales are permitted.

These permissions will continue until 30 September 2021 or until the permission is revoked or excluded.