Opening safely - Guidance for businesses

Advice for businesses

The first thing you need to do is check that your business or venue is permitted to open. Following amendments to the regulations effective from 4 July, there are still ongoing restrictions on certain activities meaning that not all businesses and venues are able to reopen at the current time.

Controlling the risks from Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Where work cannot be done at home, employers must take clear, practical steps to help protect workers and create safe places to work. Workplaces must follow current COVID-19 secure guidelines

Plan ahead and ensure that you are suitably prepared to reopen and can meet all of the requirements that will enable your business to operate in a COVID-secure environment. To assist local businesses, we have compiled sector based guidance in conjunction with the information produced by central government and other supporting bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Chartered Insitute of Environmental Health (CIEH)

The Better Business for All (BBfA) partnership have produced a useful and comprehensive COVID-19 Toolkit to guide businesses through main considerations for reopening a business safely. The document covers areas such as risk assessments, checklists for returning to work, guidance for specific types of work and ongoing COVID-19 checks. A directory of links to external agencies providing further guidance and templates are provided in each section.

If you have more than 5 employees on site, you must document your COVID-19 risk assessment. The HSE have provided a template for you to use. You should discuss the workplace risk assessment with your staff to identify the practical ways of managing the risks. After carrying out a risk assessment, if it is clear you cannot control the risks presented by COVID-19 (i.e. operate your business safely) then you must cease trading.

Legionella

A build-up of legionella bacteria in unused water systems is a concern where aerosol risks from taps and showerheads are present. Businesses re-opening after closure must ensure water systems are checked and if necessary treated before use. An outline of how to safely recommission a hot and cold water system can be found below, along with more detailed information links.

All businesses should have in place a specific risk assessment that deals with reasonably practicable measures e.g. limiting aerosol release, minimising exposure and consideration  of the use of respiratory protective equipment where appropriate. Ensure your risk assessment includes:

  • What system is in place - provide a schematic (diagram) of the system and other key aspects.
  • How it is managed and by whom - management responsibility structure for legionella, cleaning and disinfection, flushing and temperature management.
  • What actions are required - ongoing short, medium and long-term management of the water system and its component 

Where required, you should seek the expertise of an external legionella advisor. See a list of companies recognised by the Legionella Control Association as being competent to advise on legionella management. (NB. other sources are available). A local plumbing service may also be able to help depending on how complex the system is, and their qualifications and experience.

When flushing the system fresh mains water should be used. Where additional risks have been identified, professional cleaning and disinfection must also be undertaken. Particular areas to consider that are often overlooked or difficult to flush include:

  • Showers in leisure and office facilities
  • Drenching showers
  • Spa baths
  • Thermostatic mixer valves
  • Food production/preparation areas
  • Plant irrigation sprays/office humidifiers

No one-size fits all solution exists in recommissioning a water system. The size and type of system, the absence of weekly flushing regimes and any issues previously identified or highlighted by the risk assessment and/or expert guidance require detailed consideration to bring the system safely back into use.

Please remember, it is the legal responsibility of the duty holder to take suitable precautions to prevent or control the risk of exposure to legionella. Implement and follow a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, record all details of any expertise used, and maintain your commissioning plan and method statement to evidence the steps you have taken to ensure compliance.

Further guidance

Publications

Legionnaires' disease: Lockdown risks and reopening safely (CIEH) - https://www.cieh.org/media/4208/legionella-guidance-covid-19.pdf

Guidance for managing legionella in building water systems (WHO) - https://www.escmid.org/fileadmin/src/media/PDFs/3Research_Projects/ESGLI/COVId_buidling_water_system_guidance_27_3_20_v4_DS.pdf

A brief guide for duty holders (HSE) - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg458.pdf

ACoP and guidance L8 2013 - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/l8.pdf

HSG274 Part 1 - Evaporative Cooling Systems - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg274part1.pdf

HSG274 Part 2 - Hot and Cold Water systems - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg274part2.pdf

HSG274 Part 3 - For systems not covered in Parts 1 and 2 - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsg274part3.pdf

HSG282 Spa Pools - https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg282.htm

Websites

HSE - Legionella and Legionnaires' disease: https://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/

HSE - Coronavirus latest information and advice: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/index.htm

Legionella Control Association: https://www.legionellacontrol.org.uk/

Enforcing of the rules

Most employers are going to great lengths to ensure social distancing wherever possible. Where businesses are not taking action to comply with the necessary public health measures, the council will work with the business to ensure compliance via advice, guidance and enforcement where necessary. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are the enforcement body for health and safety on construction sites and in factories. The council are working with them to deliver the same public message for businesses.

Officers from our public protection team are contacting businesses to give advice on how to continue to operate safely. We are also responding to enquiries and complaints regarding these measures.

Advice for employees and the public

General guidance on coronavirus for health and social care settings, other non-clinical settings, and for the general public is also available.

If you are an employee or a member of the public and have any concerns about a business, please contact us in confidence at envhealth@cheltenham.gov.uk giving as much detail as possible about your concern to asist us in dealing with it efficiently.

We will accept anonymous concerns relating to COVID specific matters, although this could limit our ability to follow up these reports formally. However, all concerns will be investigated.