Updated 16 November 2020
To help small businesses understand the steps they need to take to work safely, the government has released online guidance.
Here, we take a look at their advice on how to work safely in (or while delivering to) other people’s homes. Our summary of key points could be particularly useful to tradespeople, cleaners and couriers who are self-employed or run their own business.
The government guidance splits this group of workers into two categories:
Including but not limited to:
To home services:
This guidance doesn’t apply to nannies and their employers if they spend all their time together in the one household.
The first step to take is to do a Covid-19 risk assessment. The good news for small businesses is that if you have fewer than five people working for you (or it’s just you), you don’t have to write it down.
It’s really a case of identifying what the increased risks caused by coronavirus could be, then taking all the steps you can to protect yourself and others from those risks.
Find out more about risk assessments for small businesses and the self-employed.
If you have specific questions relating to Covid-19 for the Health and Safety Executive, you can call their dedicated helpline on 0300 790 6787 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 8pm), or use their online contact form.
Here’s a summary of the preventative measures the government recommends you take, in order of priority:
If you decide you can’t put these measures in place, the advice says you should ask yourself whether the activity needs to be done.
“No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment”, according to gov.uk.
The guidance also suggests that you consider whether the people doing the work are 'extremely' vulnerable to Covid-19. If they are, the government strongly advises that they stay at home.
Your trade association may also have specific advice for your profession, for example:
If you’re a tradesperson, cleaner, or another professional that works in customers’ homes, working from your own home is unlikely to be an option for you.
The government recommends which steps you can take to keep yourself and others safe.
You can avoid households where someone has symptoms and is isolating, or where someone is shielding. The exception to this rule is when you need to fix a direct risk to the safety of the household.
You should also avoid face-to-face contact with households that have a member who’s clinically vulnerable, such as someone over 70 years old. This includes when answering the door.
The official advice says to keep yourself updated on the latest guidance to make sure you’re applying it to your work. For example, you should:
The government website also provides a poster you can download and display to show customers you’re sticking to the guidelines.
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The guidance on gov.uk suggests finding digital or remote alternatives to physical, in-home work where possible, such as video or phone consultations. But this is unlikely to work for you if you’re a cleaner or a tradesperson, for example.
However, you can follow the government guidance to speak to your clients in advance to arrange how you’ll carry out the work in their homes.
If you have other people working for you in other people’s homes, make sure you keep in touch with them even though you can’t meet with them face-to-face at the moment. It’s important to check on their welfare, mental and physical health and personal security.
Depending on the in-home service you provide, you might not be able to keep a physical distance from your customers. If you’re in this situation, the government advises paying attention to equipment, cleaning and hygiene to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
Try not to share tools and appliances, by allocating each piece of equipment to one person. And if something needs to be shared, try to limit the number of people using it.
Steps to take:
Ideally you’ll be able to use remote working tools so you don’t have to meet with someone face-to-face. If you have no option but to meet in person, you should keep two metres apart where possible. Avoid sharing things like pens, and have your meeting outside or in a well-ventilated room.
If there’s a fire or a break-in, for example, you don’t have to stay two metres apart when dealing with it. However, you should pay attention to hygiene and wash your hands afterwards, if you help during an accident or emergency.
Talk to your customers and anyone working with you about what’s expected of them before a job in someone’s home begins. It’s important that they understand the social distancing and hygiene measures you expect them to follow.
Make sure you frequently clean objects and surfaces that are touched regularly. Your usual cleaning products will be good enough. You should also agree with the customer how you’ll safely get rid of waste, making sure you remove all waste and belongings at the end of each shift.
There’s specific government guidance to follow if you’re cleaning after a known or suspected case of Covid-19.
If you need to arrange for the delivery of supplies or tools to a customer’s home, make sure you follow social distancing and hygiene measures.
The guidance also recommends buying or collecting in bulk as well as removing waste in bulk.
According to gov.uk, PPE includes things like safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses, as well as respiratory protective equipment, like face masks.
If you already use PPE in your work to protect against risks that aren’t related to coronavirus, you should keep using it. The government specifically says: “When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial.”
The government says face masks, like PPE, should be reserved for people (like health and care workers and industrial workers) who need them to protect them in their work.
On face coverings, while the government has previously said that the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small, it now claims “there is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them”.
There isn’t a mandatory requirement on using a face covering when working in people’s homes. The government says that if you choose to do so, you should handle your face covering correctly (for example by washing your hands before putting it on) and support your workers if they choose to wear one, too.
If you have people working for you, who go out to jobs in customers’ homes, they should work in pre-allocated groups. You should limit the number of people each worker comes into contact with, according to the guidelines. You should also make sure that everyone is abiding by the social distancing and hygiene guidelines, and not making any unnecessary journeys.
It’s important that your workforce is kept up to date with your expectations as to how they abide by the government advice.
Again, if you’re a courier or you make deliveries as part of your work, you should do all you can to maintain social distancing and avoid transmitting the virus on the surface of packages.
The government guidelines say you should minimise contact during deliveries wherever possible, and have single workers loading and unloading. If the job can’t be done by one person alone, the advice is to work in fixed pairs.
Other guidance includes calling when you arrive rather than ringing the doorbell, and using electronic payments and signatures where possible.
If your insurance allows it, the government advice is to travel alone, in your own transport, for work wherever possible.
This is clearly a challenge if you work as part of a delivery team, for example. In this case you should aim to:
It’s always a good idea to keep up to date with the latest government guidance.
Are you clear on your Covid-19 safety responsibilities for going back to work? What key questions do you still need answers to? Let us know in the comments below.
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