How can the risk be controlled?

Last updated: 05 Aug 2021

Some ways to reducing risk are more effective than others – the most effective are those that remove the hazard, or resign the task or activity so it is inherently less risky. But that isn’t always possible, so employers need to look at different ways of controlling the risk.

The most important control measure is to ensure that anyone who has the virus isolates at home. However, this measure is unlikely to be effective on its own because people who have the virus do not always develop symptoms but they can still transmit it to others. Therefore, other measures to control the risk will need to be introduced too, both those in this section and throughout our return to work guidance.

Other ways to remove the hazard, or resign the task or activity so it is inherently less risky include:

  • Providing workers with regular virus tests and ensuring those who test positive isolate at home
  • Ensuring that people who can work from home continue to do so, unless there is an essential reason for them to enter the workplace
  • Retaining homeworking in some form, for example hybrid working. Arbitrary targets for physical attendance should be opposed. The wellbeing and safety of staff, alongside operational needs, should inform attendance levels.
    • In England, the UK government is no longer advising people to work from home where possible. The governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continue to advise that those who can work from home should do so.
  • Substituting old, riskier work processes for new, safer ones, e.g. virtual communication, single use tools/equipment
  • Restricting the number of people who are able to access the workplace at any one time
  • Restricting visitors to site
  • Introducing enhanced cleaning regime, including of common touch points such as door handles and keyboards

Isolating people from the hazard, for example by:

  • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic guards, in particular where staff are face to face.
  • Improving ventilation e.g. by increasing the rate of mechanical ventilation in the work environment or opening windows. Find out more about ventilation.

Changing the way people work, for example by:

  • Physical distancing – consider the tasks people carry out and the in which they work. Find out more about physical distancing.
  • Wearing face coverings in communal areas and parts of the building hat are poorly ventilated. Find out more about PPE and face coverings.
  • Cohorting – imposed grouping of people potentially exposed to virus to limit further onward spread.
  • Encouraging worker hygiene and respiratory etiquette.