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Employers warned despite changes to Covid-19 restrictions

24 June 2020

THE BRITISH Safety Council has responded to the government’s plans to further ease lockdown restrictions from 4 July, reminding employers that they have a duty of care to their staff.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that on 4 July pubs and restaurants will re-open, as well as hairdressers, hotels and bed and breakfasts, cinemas, museums and galleries. The government is publishing new guidance on how businesses can reduce the risk by taking certain steps to protect workers and customers. These include avoiding face-to-face seating, reducing the number of people inside, improving ventilation, changing shift patterns and increasing face coverings, including mandatory face coverings on public transport.

In the course of his statement in the House of Commons the Boris Johnson said: “At every stage, caution will remain our watchword and each step will be conditional and reversible”. A key change announced today is a revision of guidance on social distancing from two metres to “one metre plus”. The prime minister said that “where it is possible to keep two metres apart people should”.

After hearing the statement, British Safety Council chief executive Michael Robinson commented: “I know that many people will welcome the relaxation of the lockdown rules today which will mean they can more easily see their friends, and from 4 July visit their local pub or restaurant – subject to the necessary precautions. Throughout the coronavirus crisis we have been working to support our members and others to adapt how they work and to make sure their workers and customers are safe. The same principles must now apply to hospitality and leisure businesses, reducing risk as far as is practicable and talking through the necessary changes with employees so that the whole team is acting to keep everyone safe.

“Covid-19 has obviously not gone away, it remains a risk and it is right that employers, who have a duty of care to their staff, do everything they can to protect them as they get ready to re-open in July. The prime minister has said that caution is the “government’s watchword”, and I hope that it is. The precautionary principle is at the heart of health and safety management – by planning, acting and checking processes we can reduce the risk and keep people safe.  

“The scientific advice coming from the Health and Safety Executive has not changed – the risk of transmission is significantly higher the closer people are to one another and it is still recommended that people keep two metres apart where they can – as the prime minister has said. Where social distancing is not always possible, such as on public transport, then face coverings can mitigate risk. Like the prime minister, I hope people will apply common sense, and that means taking into account the very real risk that remains, even as the lockdown ends.”