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Returning to work Risk Assessments - don’t neglect the basics!

Returning to work risk assessments

Conducting risk assessments and creating returning to work policies will play a crucial part in transitioning staff back into the workplace. The government has published guidance for employers surrounding returning to work in light of COVID-19 and one of the key requirements is the need for employers to carry out a ‘COVID-19 risk assessment’ and share the results with their workforce...

“You should share the results of your [Covid-19] risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website (and we would expect all employers with over 50 workers to do so).”

UK Government

What steps should I take as an employer? 

Businesses looking to reopen and transition staff back into the workplace will need to follow the new guidance and: 

  1. Complete a detailed risk assessment, thinking about risks employees could face from COVID-19 (and how that impacts other areas of Health & Safety) and what reasonably practicable steps you could take to reduce them. 
  2. Think about how your findings can be effectively communicated with your staff. 
  3. Consider what and where you will publish online. Remember that the statement from the Government states that they ‘would expect’ businesses with over 50 staff to publish their results on their website.

Don’t neglect the basics! 

Although returning to work in the current climate requires organisations to implement new procedures and protective measures, it's important that essential factors and training are not forgotten about. We spoke to our long-standing partners over at A.C.T. National about returning to work risk assessments...

99.9% of the risk assessments I have seen being carried out upon returning to work are solely focused on COVID-19, which is obviously understandable but they are not considering how COVID-19 is then going to impact other key aspects of Health & Safety on the business. COVID-19 does not remove your statutory Health & Safety obligations.

Mark Wheeldon, Managing Director at A.C.T. National

Fire safety 

The need for businesses to consider fire safety hasn’t gone away because of COVID-19. Fire is still one of the biggest threats to a business and you should revise your fire risk assessment to reflect any changes as a result of COVID-19 controls. Think about your business and how fire safety might be affected in light of COVID-19. An example would be fire doors, they shouldn’t be left open just so people aren’t touching door handles, or changing shift patterns might mean you have fewer Fire Marshals available. 

Fire Awareness Training is a legal requirement and what better time to refresh staff training then upon returning to work after a prolonged period of time? 

Display Screen Equipment 

DSE Training is also legally required for DSE users and DSE Assessments must be carried out when: 

  • a new workstation is set up
  • a new user starts work
  • a change is made to an existing workstation or the way it’s used
  • users complain of pain or discomfort

It’s also recommended that assessments are carried out when staff have been away from work for an extended period of time. 

With that said, it’s important that you consider DSE as part of your risk assessment. Have staff had their workstations moved or adjusted and do they, therefore, need to be retrained, and do assessments need to be carried out? 

What about homeworkers? 

It’s highly likely that COVID-19 will change the way a lot of business owners view home working and many will see a cost-saving opportunity to get more staff working from home in the future. 

DSE regulations and wider Health & Safety regulations still apply to homeworkers, so many employers will need to put plans in place to make sure these staff are looked after and kept safe whilst homeworking. During COVID-19 the HSE stated: 

“there is no increased risk from DSE work for those working at home temporarily. So in that situation employers do not need to do home workstation assessments.” 

- The HSE

That, of course, will change if homeworkers start working from home permanently and as a responsible employer, if you haven’t already, you’d want to make sure that your staff have the right equipment, training and have carried out a DSE Assessment. 


The HSE recently released guidance on Legionella risks in light of COVID-19. If water systems haven’t been used in months, water can become stagnant which can increase the chances of legionella bacteria. This could affect offices, hotels, restaurants and even schools where closure or part closure has been a result of the Coronavirus lockdown. You can read more about this in our COVID-19 and Managing Legionella Risks blog. 

How iHASCO can help you

Since the start of lockdown and even before, we’ve been creating new courses, solutions and free resources that have allowed us to carry on assisting our clients through these difficult times. If you’re an employer who’s staff will be returning to work in the near future, here’s how we can help you: 

  • We’ve created a number of courses to assist you in transitioning your staff back into the workplace.
  • Our Documents & Policies tool within our LMS provides an easy way of sharing risk assessments and returning to work policies with your staff. 
  • Our DSE Assessment tool comes free with our IOSH approved DSE training course. 
  • You can use our free Risk Assessment Tool to conduct your own risk assessments. 
  • We’ve created a free resource area for returning to work including common FAQs. 

Our friends over at A.C.T. National are also on hand to help. A.C.T. are a Health & Safety consultancy who work with clients across the globe, varying from SMEs to household names. They’ve been in the forefront of risk management strategies for over twenty years and specialise in:

  • The provision of competent Health & Safety and Fire Safety advice to a wide variety of business sectors.
  • Auditing against accredited and / client management system standards along with the development of such systems.
  • Fire Safety services including Fire Risk Assessments.
  • Event safety management.

A.C.T. are a long term working partner of iHASCO’s and we would not hesitate in recommending them to any organisation regarding their Return to Work Strategy or indeed any general safety/fire issue.