Covid-19 - Staff Risk Assessments
Risk Assessment Frameworks for
Staff in General Practice during Covid-19
Covid-19 has presented a significant challenge in assessing and mitigating risks to all staff in healthcare settings. The early data from Italy indicated a high rate of infection and death amongst healthcare workers and sadly this has been replicated in the UK.
Despite the pandemic crisis employers remain bound by their duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Management regulations to manage the hazard of Covid-19 infection and reduce risk to all staff.
As Covid-19 is a novel virus infection our understanding of it and the control measures that should be put in place have been evolving rapidly. This has led to some frustration about the lack of definitive guidance.
NHS Employers have published updated guidance on risk assessment, particularly for at risk and vulnerable groups within the workforce. This includes staff returning to work for the NHS, and existing team members who are potentially more at risk due to their race and ethnicity, age, weight, underlying health conditions, disability, or pregnancy. NHS Employers have taken an inclusive approach and have described that the guidance is applicable, with appropriate local adaptations, in all healthcare settings.
The Faculty of Occupational Medicine have produced helpful guidance on the general risk assessment of all NHS staff.
2021 The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) has now published a COVID-19 return to work in the roadmap out of lockdown: guidelines for workers, employers and health practitioners. They have also produced a return to work guide for managers.
The SOM - Supporting occupational health and wellbeing professionals
The Society of Occupational Medicine is the UK organisation for all healthcare professionals working in or with an interest in occupational health.
In early 2021 the SOM worked with Public Health England on a series of COVID-19 Work, worklessness and wellbeing webinars (recordings and presentation slides are here). The fact sheets have been developed to support employers, local authorities and regional governments, and health and social care workers to maintain and improve good health and work outcomes in their communities during the pandemic and its aftermath. Download the fact sheets below:
- Supporting businesses to build back better: The benefits of age diversity
- Supporting your approach to workplace diversity and inclusion
- Creating better quality work and workplaces
- Managing stress, burnout and fatigue in health and social care
- Supporting workplace mental health and wellbeing in COVID-19 and beyond
- Developing a COVID-19 secure mental health and wellbeing strategy
- Managing change – restructuring, redundancy, and homeworking
Covid-19 has affected different populations in different ways and as well as considering the risks for the whole team then each member of staff requires an individual risk assessment. Those at highest risk should be removed from the possibility of contracting infection at work as the first control measure. Employers and employees need an evidence based, fair and non-discriminatory tool to do this that would provide the appropriate protection for staff and mitigate the risk of any action against employers failing in their duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Initially, in the the absence of a national tool, the LMC would like to draw your attention to three individual risk assessment tools that you may wish to consider whilst assessing your staff. In addition to these, it should be noted that for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable the government has confirmed that, from 1 April 2021, shielding advice will be paused nationally. In summary, the new advice from the 1 April 21 is to continue to work from home where possible and if individuals cannot work from home, employers should undertake a comprehensive, individual, workplace risk assessment reflecting the current working context (ie improved testing, vaccination and relationship with transmission). The letter from NHSE about this advises employers should refresh risk assessments for all CEV staff to determine the appropriate work arrangements from the 1 April, reflecting the current workplace context. It also includes an advice and support sheet for staff at Annex A.
The first has been produced by a private Occupational Health company called Team Prevent and shared with national LMCS. It includes a risk table and proforma for completing the assessment. They have agreed that this can be shared with practices.
The second paper specifically looks at the higher risk of BAME community and includes a risk score.
Also, a research paper has been published on MedRxiv on the 9th of May by a variety of authors including senior clinicians within the BMA, Hospital Trusts, University College London and the University of Exeter. It examines the Covid 19 related deaths in the population and uses this to provide a risk stratification tool for Doctors. This paper has not been peer reviewed and as such should be used only as a guide to help decision making.
The BMA have a number of resources and information on their Covid-19 risk assessment webpage. This icludes a Covid-19 risk assessment tool that was updated in February 2021. The document can be downloaded and read in full here.
Pregnancy irrespective of score:
Please see our webpage on Covid-19 Pregnant Employees
Deployment of staff as a result of risk stratification.
Both papers lead to staff being placed in low risk, medium or higher risk groups.
Low risk staff are suitable to work in all areas with appropriate control measures such as hand hygiene, PPE and importantly minimising both the number and duration of any face to face contacts.
Medium risk staff should be deployed in cold sites away from the Covid-19 environment for face to face work.
High risk staff should be deployed in non-patient facing roles such as telephone triage, digital consultations etc. and, if possible, work from home.
This is intended to support managers in conducting an initial risk assessment of staff. It is not intended to be a definitive guide and each individual needs to be considered in the context of their health and the specifics of the role that they perform at work.
If you have any staff that you are unsure about their individual risk or if you feel are at very high risk of the consequences of Covid-19 infection then the LMC suggest that you seek Occupational Health advice.
The LMC cannot offer any specific Occupational Health advice to practices.