New guidance on making workplaces safer during COVID-19

23 April 2020

Author: Ben Johnston
Practice Area: COVID-19 , Health and Safety


The Department for the Economy recently published guidance on safe working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department also published a “priority sectors list”, detailing the sectors of business and business activities considered to be a priority at this time. The priority list and guidance were developed by the Engagement Forum on COVID-19, with representatives from business organisations, trade unions, local councils, government, the Health and Safety Executive NI, Public Health Agency and Food Standards Agency.

The ‘key principles’ of the guidance reinforce that employers are still required to fulfil their existing legal obligations under health and safety law “to protect the physical and mental health, safety and welfare of their employees and customers”, while employees also have a legal responsibility to follow instructions issued regarding safe working practices. The guidance advises that employers must close their business if, following consideration of possible measures, a safe working environment cannot be provided.

The guidance contains general advice for businesses on incorporating public health guidelines on topics such as symptomatic employees, hand washing and PPE. The guidance also includes practical advice on implementing safer work practices. For example, it recommends that businesses consider staggering shift patterns to reduce the number of employees in an area at any given time. Finally, the guidance also urges employers to be alert to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of employees.

Details of the priority list and accompanying guidance are available at: nibusinessinfo

If you would like any further information please contact Ashleigh Birkett or Ben Johnston from the Health and Safety team at Carson McDowell.