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Back to Business: Working Safely

Information on this page has been taken from the DDC Back to Business Guide v2 (Updated 17 June 2020)

This page will help you work safely and control the risks associated with running your business at this time.

It runs through a basic overview of precautions that may be needed and also links you to relevant guidance and specific industry guidance. No two businesses are the same, so you must consider your working practices and building layout in assessing how you control the risks.

Coronavirus Risk Assessment and COVID 19 guidance

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risks to their health and safety. Therefore, you should undertake a risk assessment focusing on Covid-19 and highlight actions which you can take to minimise the risk of COVID 19 in your business. 

For more information on how to undertake a risk assessment, go to the HSE Risk Assessment web pages. 

If you have fewer than five workers or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment, although you may still find it helpful to write it down.  

There is an expectation that businesses will publish their Covid-19 risk assessment if they have over 50 employees. 

A risk assessment is about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace and help you decide whether you have done everything you need to do.  Below are some measures you should consider in your business: 

  • Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to the workplace and in other areas where they will be seen.
  • Provide employees with tissues and waste bins lined with a plastic bag so that they can be emptied without contacting the contents.
  • Instruct employees to clean their hands frequently, using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 70% alcohol and to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser, soap, water, and paper towels and turn off hand dryers to prevent the spread of airborne particles. Place hand sanitiser in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Ensure employees keep at least 2 meters away from each other, where possible.
  • Move workstations or designate workstations as vacant during this time.
  • Reduce the number of employees in the workplace at any one time, perhaps introduce shift working.
  • Provide screens to protect employees from sneezes or coughs.
  • Prop open doors, so they do not have to be touched. However, you should consider your fire risk assessment if the doors are fire doors nor allow staff to work in an uncomfortable draft.
  • Make sure ventilation systems are operating properly and open windows to allow fresh air into the premises.

Risk Assessment Guidance

Who should go to work?

If there are staff members who can work from home, they should continue to do so. Employers must provide equipment to ensure employees can work from home safely.

Where it is not possible to work from home, the guidance on social distancing and hygiene (handwashing with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds) should be followed; and change tasks and job to reduce risk.

Some employees with specific medical conditions that put them at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus are still being asked to shield and will need special consideration as to their work activity. More guidance on shielding individuals is available here:

Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak

You must think about organising your work area or business so that you can fulfil social distancing measures.  

  • Take physical steps to ensure people work 2m apart including closing desks and checkouts
  • Provide signage to remind people to keep a 2m distance, use floor paint or tape to remind people of the distance.
  • Avoid staff working face-to-face, for example working side-by-side or back to back. 
  • Put up screens to create a physical barrier between people if social distancing measures cannot be carried out.
  • Businesses must keep the work and business area clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces.
  • Provide handwashing facilities (running water, soap and paper towels) at entry/exit points. People should be able to wash their hands when they get to work and leave. If this is not possible, provide hand sanitiser.

Managing Queues

While implementing social distancing practices, customers may have to wait to enter, browse or be served, resulting in queues.

Make sure your business has a plan for safely operating and managing the flow of people into, around, and out of your premises. We recommend that queues only run flush with the frontage of your premises, and are limited to your shop front only, to prevent merging. You will need to ask anyone waiting beyond the front of your premises to come back later.

Monitoring and managing queues are the responsibility of the business itself, and not the Police or local councils. You will need to assign personnel to manage your queues and limit the number of people who are waiting. If you have neighbouring businesses, it is a good idea to work together on how your queuing systems will work.

Good Hygiene

Provide signage and posters to promote good hygiene and details on the 20-second handwashing technique. Consider how you will inform employees whose first language is not English.

Provide handwashing facilities with running hot and cold water, soap and paper towels. Employees should wash their hands for 20 seconds, on arrival and leaving the site, and regularly throughout the day, especially after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing, after using toilet facilities and at breaks.

Provide hand sanitiser in multiple locations around businesses.

Set clear guidelines and procedures on cleaning, handling goods and merchandise

Cleaning and Disinfection

Businesses will already have cleaning schedules in place; however, these may need to be reviewed to increase the frequency of cleaning.

Hand contact points (e.g. door handles) are always important and should be cleaned more regularly than other surfaces.  All businesses will need to consider areas where employees and members of the public touch, which will need to be regularly cleaned to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID 19.

Always read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning products to ensure you have the correct contact time and dilution of the product. Ensure you provide staff with any necessary PPE to complete the cleaning.

The government has issued the following guidance:

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

Continue to provide all employees with the PPE that you normally would for the work activities they are undertaking and ensure each employee has their own PPE, and it should not be shared.

Following your Coronavirus risk assessment, if it identifies PPE as necessary, e.g. gloves or masks, you must provide this for all employees and give instructions on how to use the PPE.

If PPE has not been identified as necessary from your Coronavirus risk assessment, but employees want to wear a face covering, employees should support this where possible. You can find details of how to wear and make a face covering at the following link:

Retail Customers

You need to minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining 2-metres between individuals. This advice applies to both inside the business and in the external public areas where customers may wait or queue.

We would recommend you consider and implement the steps below, which could include:

  • Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage and posters.
  • Regulate entry to the shop to ensure you can always maintain social distancing in the shop
  • Providing regular announcements to customers about social distancing
  • Use floor markings and arrows to facilitate compliance with social distancing and any one-way systems
  • Provide hand washing or hand sanitisers for customers on arrival
  • Encourage customers not to touch products unless they are planning on buying
  • Encourage contactless payment where possible
  • Setting up ‘no contact’ return procedures where customers take return goods to a designated area. Store items that have been returned, or donated for 48 hours, or clean items with usual cleaning products, before displaying them on the shop floor.


You should also consider the security implications of any decisions and control measures you intend to put in place, as any revisions could present new or altered security risks that may require mitigation.

We would recommend you maintain use of security access devices, such as keypads or passes, and adjusting processes at entry/exit points to reduce risk of transmission. For example, cleaning pass readers regularly and asking staff to hold their passes above pass readers rather than touching them.

Government guidance on security can be found at: www.cpni.gov.uk/staying-secure-during-covid-19-0


We've created posters for you to download, print and put in the window of your business, to help people know what they should be doing to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and help you open safely.

You should also display a poster to confirm that you have read and are following the Government's COVID-19 secure guidelines