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Working in Other People's Homes

Working Safely During Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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The UK Government has issued advice for a range of businesses to help them to work safely during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

This guide has been compiled to help employers, contractors and the self-employed keep themselves and their employees safe when this involves going into other people's homes. The advice is not intended for community-based health or social care workers.

Anyone that can, should continue to work from home. But when your business needs you or your workers to go into someone's home, you can do so as long as you obey guidance on social distancing as much as possible.

Overview Working Safer Working Alongside Others Protecting the Health of Clients Supporting Remote Workers

Overview

Risk assessment

To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. You need to think about the risks that workers face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.

Workplace Risk Assessments Risk Assessment Form

The regulations

These recommendations are in addition to existing legal obligations, including those relating to health and safety. You must continue to comply with existing obligations as far as possible. This includes your duties to individuals with protected characteristics. For example, expectant mothers are, as always, entitled to suspension on full pay if suitable roles cannot be found.

Working outside other people's homes

Delivery drivers and others that are momentarily at the door will have less contact but their ways of working need to be given thought too. For example, packages can be left outside rather than handed over. Similarly, some people who work outside on their own, for example gardeners and window cleaners can more easily distance themselves but still need to be careful about any interactions with the household and contact with surfaces.

Is there anyone who shouldn't work in other people's homes?

People who are clinically vulnerable should be considered separately but be careful not to discriminate against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability.

  • People who are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 are advised to stay at home. Therefore, working at home options or the safest available on-site roles should be offered, enabling them to stay 2 m away from others
  • Those that are vulnerable, for example with pre-existing conditions which put them at higher risk of severe illness, should also take extra care to keep apart from others and ensure work areas are safe
  • Anyone who lives with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals should also be paid particular attention

General advice to reduce the risks of transmission

  • Anyone who has symptoms, lives or is in a support bubble with someone who does, must self-isolate at home:
    • High temperature
    • New, continious cough
    • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • Stay at home if instructed to do so by the Test and Trace service
  • Wash hands often for 20 seconds with soap and hot water
  • Cough and sneeze into a sleeve or tissue disposing of it afterwards
  • Limit contact with others
  • Keep 2 metres/6.5 ft apart from others whenever possible and at least 1 metre/3.3 ft apart
  • Wear a face covering if you choose to, but don't let this affect other hygiene and safety measures you take

In an emergency, for example an accident, fire or break-in, people don't have to stay two metres apart if that would be unsafe.

Changes You Can Make to Work Safer

What can be done differently?

First consider whether that particular activity can be avoided altogether or done in a different way to avoid the need to go into people's homes altogether. Can the work be done remotely instead of physically, such as consultations by phone or video?

It's recognised that often there aren't alternatives to in-home services. In which case workers need to adapt to work in a socially distant way. Some aspects of the job may still be able to be done differently, to reduce contact and/or the number of visits. For example, can discussions about the work, exchange of documentation and payments be done using electronic methods? Many tradespeople will be able to use photos or video alongside a description to provide an accurate quote.

Ensure your client understands the uncertain nature of working at this time and that you've communicated any assumptions that you've made in timings, price and quality assurances to them.

Steps workers can take in the home

In addition to following general advice and extra hygiene measures to reduce the risks of transmission, workers going into other people's home should:

  • Take hand sanitiser with them in case access to water isn't possible in the home
  • Take their own food and drink
  • Clean objects and surfaces before starting a job, using standard cleaning products. Pay particular attention to handles and other surfaces that are touched more often
  • Create extra ventilation in the area where the work will be happening, by opening windows and doors. Have breaks and do work outside where possible.
  • Be conscious of busy, confined spaces in people's homes when walking around. For example, watch out for other people before walking up stairs or along hallways.
  • Continue to use your normal PPE to protect against non-COVID-19 risks. Public Health England do not recommend wearing face masks except for working in very specific settings. However, it may be that people in the house feel reassured by you wearing a Type II mask or face covering to reduce the potential risk of transmitting the virus. This may be more important for those who are vulnerable.
  • Clean all tools and equipment after each job.
  • Wash clothes at the end of the working day.
  • Make sure any overnight accommodation meets COVID-19 secure guidelines when workers need to stay away from their residence.

Where the rules on social distancing can't be followed

You should question whether that task needs to be done for the business to operate or to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household. If that task does still need to be carried out, then extra measures should be taken to reduce the risk of workers being exposed to COVID-19:

  • Keep the activity as short as possible.
  • Increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning.
  • Consider wearing face masks and other additional PPE.

If the risks are still high it may be that business operation has to be suspended until circumstances change. If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then it may not be safe. No one should be obliged to work in an unsafe environment.

Things to check with residents in advance

Communicate with residents before going to do any work, to discuss how face-to-face contact can be minimised. Discussing the working environment and practices in advance helps to reduce the risks for everyone and prevent mishaps.

Find out who is resident in a home:

  • In a household which is isolating because one or more family member has COVID-19 symptoms, work should only be carried out if it is to address a direct risk to the safety of the household (such as emergency plumbing).
  • Before every visit check again whether anyone in the house has developed any Coronavirus symptoms.
  • Ask whether anyone else might be visiting the household, for example tradespeople or carers so you can time the job to avoid them.

Discuss how you can do the job whilst keeping them and you safe:

  • Request that householders stay away from the work area as much as possible and keep their distance; at least 2 m away from workers. In particular, ask that any children or pets are kept in other rooms while work is carried out.
  • Social distancing applies to all aspects of work, for example when answering the door, accessing facilities and using washrooms. These can often be the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing.
  • Find out what hand washing facilities are available, and if a separate washroom can be reserved for workers. Arrange to use a separate towel or paper towels if possible, which should be washed or disposed of safely afterwards.
  • Ask that any possessions are moved before you arrive, so you don't have to touch them. Ask that internal doors are left open, so workers don't need to touch door handles.
  • Arrange how to safely dispose of waste.

Once the job is complete, ask households to let you know if anyone develops any symptoms of Coronavirus within 7 days, so workers can take appropriate precautions for themselves and anyone they've since been in contact with. If you or your workers experience symptoms they are now eligible for Coronavirus testing.

Working Alongside Others

If a job needs more than one worker, thought needs to be given as to how workers will operate together. You should also keep a temporary record of your staff shift patterns for 21 days to assist the government's Test and Trace service. Some suggestions to limit contact include:

  • Reduce the number of different people each person has regular contact with, by putting workers in fixed teams or with semi-permanent partners. As far as possible eliminate contact between those working in different teams.
  • All workers should limit the time they spend sharing workspaces.
  • Use screens or barriers to physically separate people from each other.
  • Work back-to-back or side-by-side (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
  • Workers should have their own equipment, such as tools, stationery and working materials. Alternatively, equipment should be assigned to an individual worker and not shared (including things being worked on, such as domestic appliances).
  • If items need to be shared, they should be used and worked on by the smallest possible number of people. Use drop-off points or transfer zones where possible to avoid workers handing items to each other and clean them before use.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that are touched, to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

Protecting the Health of Clients

Similarly, the health of householders needs to be respected. There are steps you can take that help to protect them as well as you.

  • Keep the number of workers to a minimum.
  • For larger companies, try to send the same workers to individual jobs when the work needs multiple visits or it's repeated work, to reduce the risk for everyone.
  • Wash hands on arrival.
  • Carefully remove all waste and belongings from the work area at the end of every visit.

Supporting Remote Workers

It's important to engage with workers, (including through trades unions or employee representative groups) to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to their normal working practices.

Employers and agencies should keep in touch with workers who they might usually meet with face-to-face. Talk about their working arrangements, including their welfare, mental and physical health and personal security. Workers who you normally have little personal contact with are also likely to need additional support in these challenging times. This could include access to employee assistance programmes, union support schemes and other government and third sector mental wellbeing resources.

Advice for Scotland, Wales and Ireland

Scotland

Work carried out in people's homes can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and is not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither they nor any of their household are self-isolating.

Wales

In Wales work can also be carried out in people's homes, provided that the tradesperson and household have no symptoms. As in England all reasonable steps must be taken to help workers remain two metres apart from others (both members of the household and each other). This is enforced as part of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland working in people's homes is permitted subject to following legal requirements and best practice arrangements. You are advised to keep visits short, minimise all physical contact and sanitise any surfaces you touch before you leave. Use any protective equipment provided, where this is required. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland work in homes can continue whilst following physical distancing, hand hygiene guidance and respiratory etiquette and ensuring work areas are cleaned to reduce the risk of exposure COVID-19.

Further advice

For further up-to-date advice for businesses in each of the devolved regions of the UK, please see guidance set by the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive.

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