In Northern Ireland the Public Health Agency (PHA) take the lead and co-ordinate all advice and information. Their website can be accessed via the link below and should contain the most up to date local information and guidance: www.publichealth.hscni.net/
Similar information is also available from NI Direct www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19
Government and the NI Executive have announced restrictions on the public and businesses to combat the spread of Covid 19.
Frequently Asked Questions
What businesses can continue to operate?
The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed new powers to combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The regulations came into effect at 11.00 pm on Saturday 28 March and provide clarity on what retail services and other venues may remain open in Northern Ireland, and which should close immediately.
The regulations are designed to manage premises where the public gathered and therefore to reduce the spread of Covid 19 between people www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/health-protection-coronavirusrestrictions-northern-ireland-regulations-2020
The current list of essential businesses and services can be found at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-essential-businesses-and-services
How can my company manage the risk of COVID-19?
Companies who are still working must operate in compliance with Government and PHA guidelines.
Key guidance provided to businesses include:
- Encourage employees to work at home, wherever possible;
- Have systems in place to ensure that if someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home;
- Employees should be reminded to wash their hands regularly throughout the day for at least 20 seconds on each occasion, and to sneeze into tissues and dispose of the tissues promptly – Catch it, Bin it, Kill it. (suitable washing facilities with soap and warm water or hand sanitisers must be provided);
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
In their risk assessment, companies should also take account of the general advice regarding distancing
and ensure that it is observed between employees both at their workstations and in other areas of their
Advice can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancingand-for-vulnerable-people
Where this cannot be achieved within the normal working environment, additional means of protection should be considered.
- Reduce number of workers on site at any one time;
- Relocating workers to other tasks;
- Redesigning processes to allow social distancing in place;
- Put in place temporary barriers between staff;
- Utilise technology such as teleconferencing instead of face to face meetings;
- Adjust workflow or production line speeds.
Public Health guidance on the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) relates to health care settings. In all other settings individuals are asked to observe social distancing measures and practise good hand hygiene behaviours.
Do I need to revise my company’s Risk Assessment to take account of COVID-19 risks?
Employers should continue to ensure that an appropriate assessment of the risk from COVID-19 in their workplace is carried out and appropriate measures put in place in line with current Public Health Agency guidelines.
A template risk assessment for COVID –19 is available from the following link www.hseni.gov.uk/news/example-risk-assessment-covid-19-workplaces
These measures should be communicated to all relevant employees and others at the place of work. Control measures will depend on the level of risk and type of workplace and should not reduce the level of protection afforded by existing measures (for example keeping fire doors open to reduce the risk from contaminated door handles creates increased risk. Appropriate regular cleaning and advice on hand hygiene is appropriate).
Where there is a requirement to carry out work at other locations outside of the employer’s workplace, employees should comply with site rules and take into account the wider PHA advice regarding good hygiene practices and separation distances. Consideration should also be given to any other persons who may be affected by their work.
Critically, employers should take into account the most up to date official advice and guidance from the Public Health Agency on how to mitigate the health risk to employees and others at the place of work. Employers are advised to keep up to date on COVID-19 by referring to the Public Health Agency website www.publichealth.hscni.net/
Useful links for businesses on COVID-19:
Where can I obtain more specific advice relating to health and safety issues that have been made more difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions?
The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) have produced answers to Frequently Asked Questions by Businesses in the following link: https://www.hseni.gov.uk/articles/covid-19-frequently-asked-health-and-safety-questions
So far they have answered queries relating to:
- First Aid: Advice for people holding first aid at work certificates due to expire
- Training Certificates due to expire.
- Training in relation to the redeployment of staff and temporary cover
- Statutory Inspections (Lifting Equipment, Pressure Systems etc.)
- Safety Critical Functions
- Time requirements of reporting on injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences
- Increased risk associated with the operation of Wet Cooling Plant and Coronavirus outbreak
- Driver Welfare
- Gas Safe Engineers