How can the risk of transmission be assessed?

In conjunction with Prospect reps, employers will need to carry out a risk assessment to establish how they will stop the coronavirus being transmitted between people.

A risk assessment is a systematic process of establishing what can cause people harm at work, and taking steps to prevent that harm from occurring. The Health and Safety at Work Act requires risk to be as low as is reasonably practicable.

With COVID-19, this will require employers to work out the areas or activities which will lead to people coming into contact with others, and taking steps to prevent that from happening. The risk assessment must consider all people on site, including contractors. Prospect reps will have good knowledge of working practices, so the employer must engage with them during this process.

Understanding how the virus is transmitted will help to establish what steps are needed to control the risk. Transmission of a virus is a three-step process; interrupting the process at any point will prevent the spread.

  • The source of the virus is respiratory droplets from a person who has COVID-19. Coughing, sneezing, talking and breathing produce droplets of different sizes. The smaller the particle, the longer it will take to fall to the ground but the quicker it will evaporate.
  • The routes of transmission are the airborne transfer of the virus from people with COVID19, and surfaces carrying the infection – including people, clothes, PPE, door handles and so on – which are touched and transferred to the face; and
  • Droplets carrying the coronavirus enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth.

Some methods of controlling the risk are more effective than others. For example, holding conference calls will provide greater protection than requiring people attending meetings to wear masks. Employers must speak to Prospect reps about how they intend to prioritise the most effective measures that will protect the most people.

This page is designed to give general information about health and safety on returning to work. It does not cover all circumstances and should not be treated as a definitive answer. Members should contact Prospect either through the Member Contact Centre on 0300 600 1878 or contact their union rep or full-time officer for specific advice.