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Information on Risk Assessment


Risk assessment for COVID-19

Find out about how to carry out a risk assessment for managing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in your workplace, download our template and examples

Introduction

The Scottish Government implemented measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as the closure of non-essential premises. Workplaces operating during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and those making plans to reopen need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread and exposure of the virus.

Workers should follow the guidance on staying at home and away from others. Where they cannot work from home, they must follow the principles of physical distancing while travelling to and from work and while at work.

Reducing the risk of transmission relies on everyone taking responsibility for their actions and behaviours.  To achieve this you need adopt an open and collaborative approach with your employees.

In this guidance we don’t explain how to carry out a risk assessment, but focus on precautions.  You can learn more about the risk assessment process on our web pages.

You can also learn how to carry out a risk assessment by completing our online module ‘Sensible risk assessment’.  Additionally you can become a Healthy Working Lives Approved trainer and deliver risk assessment training to your employees, read more about it here.

Risk assessment

You should risk assess the work that you do and implement precautions to ensure that you minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at work.

A risk assessment is a systematic method of looking at activities, considering how your employees might spread and be exposed to COVID-19 while at work, and deciding on suitable control measures. These control measures are designed to eliminate, reduce or control the risks of transmission to employees and others.

To assess these risks you need to follow the same steps used for other risks.

1. Identify the hazards.

2. Establish who might be harmed and how.

3. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions.

4. Record findings and implement them.

5. Review assessment and update if necessary.


You should involve employees in the risk assessment process and consult them to reach joint solutions for managing COVID-19 risks in the workplace.


Identify hazards and who might be harmed

You need to have a good understanding of how the virus transmits to be able to identify areas of concern within your organisation. This includes how it transmits between individuals (respiratory droplets) and contact routes.

If you need to read general information about the virus go to NHS Inform.

Anyone who is at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is strongly advised to work at home. Read more about who is vulnerable here.


Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions

  • Maintain physical distance in the workplace
  • If you are not able to maintain physical distancing rules whilst working, you should consider whether the activity should continue
  • If the activity continues you need to introduce control measures to minimise transmission
  • Remember to keep managing other health and safety risks related to your activities
  • Ensure that by introducing new control measures you are not introducing new risks, and if you do, you need to manage them


To help you decide between precautions you should use this hierarchy of controls and sector-specific guidance.

keep this to 15 minutes or less where possible

keep them together in teams  and do not change workers within teams

keep groups as small as possible

keep away from other workers

consider introducing an authorisation process for these activities (such as a permit to work) 

provide additional supervision to monitor and manage compliance

consider the provision of face covering as per Scottish Governmentadvice

keep this to 15 minutes or less where possible

keep them together in teams  and do not change workers within teams

keep groups as small as possible

keep away from other workers

consider introducing an authorisation process for these activities (such as a permit to work) 

provide additional supervision to monitor and manage compliance

consider the provision of face covering as per Scottish Governmentadvice



  1. Eliminate transmission
  2. Reduce transmission
  3. Control transmission 
  4. Safe systems of work
  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)


1. Eliminate

Eliminating the risk altogether should be your first option. These are some measures that you can take:

  • Home working should be your first option 
  • Workers who are unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 should not travel to or attend the workplace. Make sure that you regularly remind employees on symptoms and further actions
  • Rearrange tasks to enable them to be done by one person, or by maintaining physical distancing measures (2 metres)
  • Eliminate skin to skin and face to face contact 
  • Stairs should be used in preference to lifts or hoists and consider one way systems
  • Consider alternative or additional mechanical aids to reduce worker interface 


2. Reduce

When elimination of the risk is not possible then you should reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace. Here are some measures that you can take:

  • Minimise the frequency and time workers are within 2 metres of each other
  • Minimise the number of workers involved in these tasks
  • Lower the capacity of lifts to reduce congestion and contact 
  • Regularly clean common touchpoints, doors, buttons, handles, vehicle cabs, tools, equipment and so on 
  • Reduce access to enclosed spaces and increase ventilation
  • Remind employees to wash hands before and after using any equipment
  • Arrange the tasks so workers should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face. Where face to face working is essential to carry out a task when working within 2 metres: 
  • keep this to 15 minutes or less where possible
  • keep them together in teams and do not change workers within teams
  • keep groups as small as possible
  • keep away from other workers
  • consider introducing an authorisation process for these activities (such as a permit to work)
  • provide additional supervision to monitor and manage compliance
  • consider the provision of face covering as per Scottish Government advice


3. Control transmission

Once you have considered whether it was possible to eliminate or reduce the risk you might need to implement strict measures to manage any remaining risk.

We have developed a number of examples covering key areas to help you complete your assessment. These are some examples of control measures that you might want to consider in your workplace. You should consult with your employees while deciding the implementation of control measures.

Click on the links to see these examples risk assessments:


4. Safe Systems of Work

The implementation of safe systems of work will be very important to manage the risk of transmission where social distancing might be difficult to implement, and you need staff to follow a strict process, with additional supervision.

You should clearly explain rules and process that employees need to follow to reduce the risk of transmission. This might be done by safety rules, process and procedures, method statements, permit to work and so on.

Find out more about method statements or permits to work here.


5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE should be your last resort for managing the risk of transmission and you shouldn’t use PPE as a substitute for social distancing in the workplace.

The type of PPE that you or your employees need will depend on the type of work that you do, the people you are working with and the work environment where the task takes place.

This advice is different for organisations providing health care, to find out more about PPE requirements in a health care setting go here.

The Scottish Government is recommending that you consider using face coverings in limited circumstances for example, travelling on public transport or entering a food shop where it is not always possible to maintain a 2 metre distance from one another.  Face coverings do not mean surgical or other medical grade mask, but a facial covering of the mouth and nose, made of cloth or other textiles, for example a scarf. Use of facial coverings is not being made mandatory and will not be enforced at this stage, but we would encourage you to do this.


Record findings and implement them

Once you have evaluated the risks and decided on precautions you should record your key findings on a template (such as ours). You only need to keep a written record of your risk assessment if you have five or more employees. It is strongly recommend however, that all organisations do this.

It’s likely that while assessing risks you created a list of actions that require attention. You should prioritise them and make sure that there are enough resources to take them forward. You should also give them an appropriate deadline and you check that they have been completed.

It’s very important that you share the risk assessment with employees.


Review assessment and update if necessary

You should monitor the controls you have put in place and review your risk assessment regularly to make sure that your controls are working. There isn’t a specific time frame for this. 

Make sure that you consult with employees regularly, and you discuss whether the control measures are working. You should also monitor absence records and make sure that you are acting upon COVID-19 cases in the workplace. This could be an indication of how your control measures are working.

It’s important that you keep up to date with information from Health Protection Scotland and Scottish Government. You should use their information to review your risk assessment and ensure that your control measures are in line with any new guidance available.






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