Return to premises: resources & webinar recording

22 Jul 2020 Sandra Bailie    Last updated: 17 Nov 2020

Return To Premises Title Slide
PDF icon HSE & Marsh slides489.62 KB

On Wednesday 22 July 2020 NICVA hosted a webinar with speakers from Public Health Agency (PHA), Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Marsh Ltd on return to premises with 289 people attending.

As we are returning or planning to return to premises there are lots of things to consider. We have already provided some guidance on our website carrying out risk assessments and returning to work advice and links. It was great to hear from the experts on this topic and consider things that we need to plan for as we return. 

A summary of key information is below and you can watch the event in full here here

Thank you to all our contributors.  

Public Health Agency

Dr Peter Sheridan, Consultant from PHA reminded us of infection control measures and about how our behaviour needs to change. We all need to work together personally and as organisations to do all we can to reduce chances of a second surge. Do everything for everyone - social distance and good hygiene. Some tips that he gave us are:

  • Maintain physical distance - or with screens
  • Have one way system in the flow of the building and good ventilation (open windows for fresh air is a good way to reduce risk)
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands / sanitise when entering the building
  • Have tissues and bins available
  • Rooms should be decluttered and surfaces easily wipeable
  • When people have any symptoms they should remove themselves and organisations need to send staff home if symptomatic
  • Organisations need to facilitate compliance with quarantine and contact tracing requirements

PHANI have a telephone helpline 0300 555 0114 and more information available on their website.

There is also Coronavirus advice for workers available on NI Direct.

Health and Safety Executive

Camilla Mackey from HSENI gave a brief overview of some of the controls organisations should consider in relation to COVID 19 in order to reopen or upgrade the controls they already had. Her slides are available with this article and some of the key points she made are below:

  • Do a risk assessment and get others involved. Share your findings, talk through controls. Keep it simple.
  • Keep people working from home if possible.
  • Use enhanced cleaning for push plates on doors, light switches, handrails
  • Extend hand washing facilities – eg in kitchens. Put hand sanitisers in places that are easy to access.
  • Place signage strategically at entrances and toilet doors and communicate with staff
  • Keep 2m where possible and where this is not possible use barriers
  • Consider flow of people through the building.
  • Reduce the number of people on your premises, reduce activity times if needed, stagger arrival/break times
  • Supervise and monitor - remind people of what they should do.
  • PPE is not a silver bullet - need to make your own decisions about face masks, visers etc.

HSENI have developed a risk assessment template that many of our member organisations are reporting is easy to use and understand. You can access it here.

HSENI have a telephone helpline 0800 03201212 and further guidance for places of work on their website

Marsh Ltd.

David Abrahams and Matthew Couchman from Marsh Ltd then gave a short presentation on insurance issues and risk assessment considerations (available with this article). They reminded us of the impact that COVID 19 will have on insurance and that it is important to keep your insurance company informed of any changes. It is vital that organisations carry out robust risk assessments and plan to achieve a safe, assured return to work and premises - and that these are reviewed regularly. Claims defensibility and keeping good records and why you made decisions are key. Key steps:  return plan, comprehensive risk management, and longer term plans - you need to show that you have followed government guidance. Staff, service users and volunteers need to know you care about them - listening to them and responding to their concerns.

Risk assessment recovery areas that they outlined for consideration are:

  • Health and Safety - training requirements, PPE, volunteer management, signage, cleaning, sanitising and handwashing.
  • Event operations - staff wellbeing post lockdown, new practices, health checks, availability of staff and volunteers.
  • Venues - cleaning schedules, density ratios and seating layouts, limited capacity, queuing arrangements. 
  • Catering - pre-packaged vs self service, caterers to comply with safety requirements, increased standards of hygiene, revised policy and procedures, workforce training.

Webinar Recording


Human Resource issues

We have a specific article on HR considerations when returning to premises with useful advice and guidance.

Question and Answer

Q. As centres/services start to resume what procedures will be needed to ensure safe delivery for both staff and users?  

A. If you are sharing materials and equipment you must consider hygiene and additional cleaning requirements. Items must be cleaned before new groups of people enter, consider what they have touched or used in the premises. 

PPE - every employer has a legal responsibility to train people how to use PPE if they are supplying it. Face coverings are not considered as PPE. There are types of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) that people wear to prevent inhaling dangerous fume or dusts for example, at work. If employers provide this type of RPE then they need to give training on how to use it. Organisations need to include this in their risk assessment.  

Air conditioning - depends on type. If it is a recirculation unit – it is potentially recycling air in the room. Better to have windows open in enclosed spaces such as office areas etc.  

Contract tracing logs – need advice from PHA 

Q. Insurance conditions: Groups would need to ensure that all changes to building or service delivery are reported to their insurance company. What other considerations are there regarding insurance? 

A. The issues of changes in service is important - disclose significant changes in services delivered to your broke/insurer. 

Return to work document needs to be completed.

You should have a covid response plan built into your procedures (including Risk Assessments & Business continuity plans) . You should be able to evidence that these documents are live and are reviewed in light of changing circumstances if asked. Record keeping is important when it comes to claims defensibility and can impact on insurers underwriting of risk.


Q. Risk assessment: Can advice/support be given to the sector to carry out risk assessments of their buildings and services?  

For example –  

  • Community Hall - Do organisations which use the hall for their own activities have to have their own risk assessment and policy or do they come under ours  

  • In Shared workspace building with shared kitchens and bathrooms, is it the responsibility of the building owners to carry out the overall building Risk Assessment? How should they involve all tenants in this? 

A. Health and Safety Executive have a template for risk assessments, link is in the article 

Community Halls - different uses - do various organisations need to carry out individual risk assessments? 

It depends on type of activity  

If you are sharing risk assessments it requires joint communication between organisations. There should be one overarching Covid risk assessment for the premises and those using the premises should have their own to be shared with the premises owner. There should be joint communication between all parties sharing premises in relation to their COVID-19 risk assessment to ensure consistency of approach & similar controls are being enforced for all parties. 

Insurers will not accept that someone did the risk assessment - each organisation needs to have their own. 

Shared workspace – there should be one for the building and also the tenants should do one.  The owner of building should carry out and share with tenants to do their own 

Conferencing - needs separate risk assessment. Better to assess activity piece by piece  

You need good documented evidence  

Q. HR issues: staff contracts; terms and conditions; changes to policy and procedures; Staff affected by Covid and/ or caring responsibilities; employee with underlying health conditions. 

A. Main health and safety policy - risk assessment, tight documentation. Important that live and ongoing. Share as ongoing practice with staff. Mental health challenges - how organisations support in workplace. Line managers trained.  

Think about annual leave - legislation changed to allow 4 weeks to be carried over - organisation needs to manage this - always best to take in the year Does it need to be considered going into future leave years. 

Working arrangements - major changes. Staggered start and finish times - need to decide if this is temporary and may need to involve union. Appropriate agreements in writing with staff. 

Furlough arrangements may continue - confirm in writing 

Reduced workload - could lead into potential redundancy situation. LRA have great guides on process. Talk to staff 

Culture and engaging with workforce important. Consider what might look like - furlough, working from home, in and out of office. Maintain culture with changes. Ensure strategies are inclusive for all. 

For further information see our article on HR considerations.

Q. What would you recommend in terms of gathering evidence to confirm that an employee has an underlying health condition?  

A. Doctors note - about one to one conversation with staff - how impacts them and concerns in returning. Find out if shielding - may have received letter. From discussion - move into risk assessment of circumstances. Move through risk assessment and potential actions - then may have to write to GP. May be time restraints and cost involved. 

If they want to return to work against guidance. Discuss concerns and risk assessment - check with insurers. Document if they are returning at their request's picture
by Sandra Bailie

Head of Organisational Development

[email protected]

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