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Social distancing at work

As of the 7th of April 2020, Welsh Government has introduced guidance to all employers to ensure that we put in place reasonable measures so that our staff can maintain a physical distance of 2 metres in the workplace.

Physical distancing is intended to supplement a range of other actions being taken to help minimise risk. These include staying away from others when exhibiting symptoms, working from home where practicable, erecting barriers between people where suitable or wearing personal protective equipment where guidance says it is necessary.

The Welsh Government is clear that if physical distancing can be achieved, it will play a part, along with other actions, to minimise community transmission; but if physical distancing is not a reasonable measure in the particular workplace context, then it is not a requirement. Whether it is a reasonable measure will depend on the nature of the workplace.

Our Health and Safety team is working closely with managers to ensure compliance with this new requirement and ensure all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace. Further information can be found on the Gov.wales website.

The 2 metre rule applies to all workplaces, which remain open. But wherever possible people should work from home.

Workplaces include:

  • Public services
  • Health and Social Care premises
  • Childcare settings
  • Call centres
  • Hospitality centres
  • Commercial and industrial premises
  • Construction sites
  • Open sites such as roadworks and outdoor places including livestock markets.

The aim is to take all reasonable measures to ensure 2m is kept between anyone on the premises – except two members of the same household, or a carer and the person being helped by the carer – to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

All reasonable measures means taking proportionate action where it is possible to do so.

The aim is to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. If physical distancing can be achieved between people at work, this – together with other infection control actions, such as regular hand washing – will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

There is no hard and fast rule about what a reasonable measure is. This will depend on the workplace and the nature of the work being undertaken. It may also vary within the workplace.

It will be for a business to justify the reasonable measures they put in place and to demonstrate how they have considered these are proportionate.

What kind of thing is a “reasonable measure”?

The precise nature of a reasonable measure will be specific to an individual workplace. They will reflect the physical environment and the nature of the business being conducted.

The following are examples of reasonable measures:

  • Reducing the number of people working at any one time – this increases the space between people by reducing the total number of people in attendance.
  • Increasing space between staff – for example on a production line leaving 2m gaps between people and indicating spacing with markings.
  • More controlled use of rest space and entrances and exits – is there a congregation of workers at a certain time? Could additional space be provided or could break times be staggered?
  • Making adjustments to the way work is done to reduce physical contact.
  • Staggering shifts to minimise people on site and to reduce congestion during shift changes.
  • Minimising the amount of close physical interaction

The duty applies to all workplaces, which remain open. Many of these workplaces are vital and must continue to operate.

This is not about stopping work but is about doing what all businesses can within each work setting and each workplace to change the way we work to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

It is not about whether we work, it is about the way we work.

The 2m rule applies to all workplaces, which remain open. Many of these workplaces are vital and must continue to operate.

In a healthcare setting – for example, a dentist will not be able to stay 2m away from a patient when giving treatment. But a dentist can stay 2m away from a patient when they are not giving treatment and they can stay 2m from the dental nurse most of the time. These are reasonable measures.

Stopping providing treatment would not be classed as “reasonable measures”.

There will be circumstances when it is not reasonable to put measures in place to keep people 2m apart.

Employers will be expected to undertake an assessment before concluding there are no reasonable measures that they can take. For further advice on how to undertake this assessment, please contact the Health and Safety team on CEHealthandsafety@carmartheshire.gov.uk.

Examples of the types of situation include:

  • Providing personal services, including in the home
  • Tasks that require two or more people to undertake them safely, including heavy lifting or carrying dangerous chemicals, although there may be measures that can be adopted elsewhere in the workplace
  • Education and childcare settings – especially where young children cannot understand the concept of social distancing and where the appropriate support from adult workers may require closer contact
  • Where close contact is required between workers and the users of services, although again there can be measures in the wider workplace which would minimise the risk of transmission
  • Where workers are required to travel together
  • Where dual working is to ensure safety
  • Working in confined spaces, for example repairing infrastructure for utilities

However, it is unlikely these circumstances would mean that no reasonable measures could be adopted at all. Employers and staff will be best placed to know what can be done.

The key purpose of the regulations is to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus.

Where contact or closer working is essential and can’t be avoided, although this is not required by the regulations, it is important other measures are considered, for example:

  • Physical barriers
  • Improved hygiene and reminders about the importance of hygiene
  • Washing hands well for 20 seconds with soap after close contact
  • Ensuring people with symptoms are not present on the premises

The police and local authorities have powers to enforce the regulations.

A fixed penalty of £60 is payable for a first offence (this reduces to £30 if paid within 14 days but is doubled to £120 for a second a subsequent breach) but a person could be charged with a criminal offence and ultimately convicted and be required to pay a fine.

Service Managers must take all reasonable measures to ensure a distance of 2m is maintained between people on their premises and waiting to enter their premises.

Care settings should aim to achieve Welsh Government legislation that requires all reasonable measures be taken to adhere to social distancing of 2-metres. There are activities within a care setting where this will not be possible, such as providing personal care, assisted feeding or where manual handling activities are undertaken by 2 carers. However, the social distancing requirements should be implemented at all other times when it is reasonable to do so, for example, undertaking other activities not requiring close contact or when employees take breaks and use rest facilities. A guide for employees on social distancing in care settings is being developed to support managers and staff in adopting practices to take all reasonable measures required.

Wherever possible, all employees who work in an administration building will by now be working from home.

If working from home is not possible (this will be in rare circumstances), then all reasonable measures must be taken to comply with the Welsh Government legislation to maintain 2-metre social distancing while in the building.

Please refer to our Social Distancing in Offices and Depots guidelines.

The following measures can be applied to Care Hubs, ASPD Settings, Flying Starts and Children Residential Centres.

It is understood that maintain physical distancing will be difficult with smaller children or where personal care is provided, but wherever possible the 2m distancing should be maintained by all staff.

Where this cannot be achieved Hub Leaders will have to demonstrate alternative arrangements for managing the risk of infection.

  • Hub staff should always model social distancing to pupils and encourage them to do the same
  • All Hub activities will be planned to provide as much distance as possible between children and staff.
  • Staff inductions, meetings, breaktime and mealtimes must be arranged so that social distancing can be maintained. This may require inductions and breaks to be staggered to involve less staff in one place or located in rooms where distancing is possible
  • Activities for children to allow suitable social distancing e.g. board games or activities which normally require proximity to be remodelled and consider arranging as many activities as possible in outside spaces.
  • Social distances for collecting food, use of washroom facilities etc. must be observed. It is suggested that lunch is collected one at a time and toilets and washroom facilities are used one at a time.
  • Classrooms and use of desks etc. will be spread out as much as possible as smaller numbers will be present to maintain 2m social distancing.  Where possible it would be advisable for pupils continue to occupy the same workspace.  This will be the same for all indoor activities
  • Food can be eaten in individual classrooms to maintain ratios, though a local decision to use the Hub Hall may achieve better hygiene and social distancing. Lunch and break times must be staggered.
  • Ensure internal space is well ventilated by opening of windows to assist with air circulation.

Managing Visitors and Parents/Guardians

Hub Leaders should implement suitable arrangements to ensure that social distancing in maintained when:

  • Parents and children are waiting for hubs to open
  • Parents are waiting to drop off and collect children
  • Parents/Staff are handing over of children

This can be achieved by the use of cones, chairs or lines marked on floors with chalk or hazard tape to mark out 2 m distances in play grounds, or other routes to the school  and to identify a 2m distance from the hub entrance(s) where parents should wait until children are called forward.

Signs should also be used to inform parents of the need to observe these measures.

The arrangements currently being used by supermarkets to control the movement of customers in and out of stores could be used as model.

Page updated: 25/02/2021 17:30:32