COVID-19 - Assessing the risks

COVID-19 Coronavirus Assessing Risks

No business or organisation can be unaware of the potential risk of COVID-19, both to the health of their employees and clients, and to business continuity.

In fact, your response to this virus could map the standard process of risk assessment, as advised by the HSE:

HSE Guidance COVID-19 
Identify the hazard Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Who might be harmed...

Cat 1 risks: those returning from

  • Wuhan city and Hubei Province, China.
  • Iran
  • Daegu or Cheongdo, Korea
  • Any area within Italy under containment measures

Cat 2 risks:  those returning from:

  • Cambodia
  • China
  • France
  • Hong Kong
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Republic of Korea
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

Cat 3 risks: All adults with underlying relevant health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Weakened immune system
  • Chronic asthma

Cat 4 risks: those age 70 and over, with no underlying relevant health conditions

Cat 5 risks: Pregnant women (cautionary)

...and how

This is a respiratory illness: symptoms are:

  • Fever (above 37.8 Celsius)
  • A new, continuous dry cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people in categories 3 and 3 above.
Assess the risks and take action

Returning from Abroad

Employees / others returning from Cat 1 places: use the NHS 111 online service for COVID-19. Unless advised otherwise, they should self-isolate, even if asymptomatic and report to their line manager on a daily basis.

Employees / others returning from Cat2 places: Travellers to / from these locations do not need to undertake any special measures, but if they develop symptoms they should self-isolate and use the online NHS 111 service for COVID-19 or their local medical practitioner / health service).

(The guidance for Italy, Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo (Republic of Korea), Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam applies to individuals who returned from these specific areas on or after 19 February 2020).

Advice is in place for what to do if you have returned in the last 14 days from specified countries or areas which is being updated on an ongoing basis.

The Government has issued new guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

UK Precautions

Regular briefings for employees and others about latest advice from Public Health England about what action to take should a person become ill.

Always follow any advice given by your industry or by your organisation.

Any upcoming mass gatherings/trips should be cancelled / postponed.

Could meetings be accomplished via a video conferencing?

If you require employees to travel on public transport or away from access to soap and hot water, you should provide hand sanitiser with a minimum 60% alcohol content.

Regular reminders for employees and others:

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. See hand washing guidance.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • If someone has symptoms whilst at work they should go home. The person should inform their line manager. Anyone else should carry on but deep localised cleaning is advised.

The latest guidance is to facilitate as many employees as possible to work from home, where practicable

Ensure a good provision of soap and hot water and refrain from using communal ordinary towels for drying hands - a temporary supply of paper towels might be required if hand dryers are not available

Workplaces should be regularly cleaned - consider disinfecting door handles, handrails etc more regularly and provide cleaning materials for hot desks and phones

Consider updating your policy for visitors / colleagues from other offices: could such interaction be accomplished by other means.

Guidance for employers and businesses

Business Continuity

All business should have contingency plans for the following:

  • Management of those working from home.
  • Coping with a large proportion of the workforce being forced to self-isolate.
  • One or more offices being closed.
  • Empty buildings – consider e.g. legionella and security risks.
  • Employee well-being – this is a worrying time for everyone.
Make a record of the findings

All employers with five or more employees need to record risk assessments.

Review the risk assessment

As this is an ever-changing risk, treat this as a dynamic risk assessment and review whenever the following happens:

Change of guidance from

  • Government.
  • Public Health (England or local sources).
  • your own industry / organisation.
  • Confirmed case within the employees/pupils etc.
  • Confirmed case within a recent visitor who had close contact with employees.


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