COVID-19: Changes to Risk Assessments

17th September 2020
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Nationwide (UK Wide Coverage) UK Wide Coverage

COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic and continues to be a public health emergency. As lockdown measures ease, businesses are starting to return to work, thinking about the risks coronavirus brings to the workplace and how they can be controlled.

Managing risk has always been an employer obligation. Regulation 3 of the Management of Healthy and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places a specific requirement on employers (and the self-employed) to identify the measures that need to be taken to avoid the reasonably foreseeable risks of affecting the workers, or others who might be affected by work activities.

In addition, Government coronavirus guidance documents also now lay out the general requirements for Coronavirus management. One key part of those guidelines is for businesses to carry out a COVID risk assessment in consultation with their staff, to ensure all risks are identified and necessary controls established to mitigate the risk.

A man wearing a hard hat undertaking a risk assessment

What is a risk assessment?

A risk assessment is a careful examination of what harm might come to people and a means by which you evaluate if the controls that are in place are adequate, or if there needs to be more done to prevent them.

Typically, there are five steps that are used when developing an effective risk assessment:

  1. Identify the hazards
  2. Decide who may be harmed, along with what that harm would look like
  3. Evaluate the risks
  4. Record your findings
  5. Review and revise your assessment if necessary (usually after an event or change)


A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm. Risks are listed along with the likelihood of them happening – the risk factor - and the severity – how severe the outcome if the risk occurred.

Before COVID, it is unlikely many risk assessments included an international pandemic as a risk. If they did it would probably have been scored as a low risk because then it was not seen as a likely event.

In fact, many years ago a national retail chain had planned an event that was due to happen in every store across the UK on a specified day. Whilst all relevant staff were consulted and a full risk assessment was undertaken, on the day of the event itself, sadly Princess Diana died in a terrible car accident. The risk assessment had not included such an event as it was not considered reasonably foreseeable. All events were cancelled immediately, and ever since then, a significant member of the royal family dying has been included in every risk assessment!

As will a pandemic now most certainly be included in all risk assessments conducted here on in.

COVID-19 changing workplace risks

COVID-19 is the strain of the Coronavirus which has resulted in a pandemic. The disease is known to transmit from person to person through moist particles from breathing, coughing and sneezing. The routes into the body can be from direct inhalation from an infected person or indirectly through transfer from contaminated surfaces including clothing, parts of the body and other surfaces.

The coronavirus presents many new risks to the workplace so it is vital that all existing risk assessments are reviewed and updated to include COVID-19 risks and controls to help businesses manage risk and protect their staff and customers. According to the HSE, COVID-19 risk assessments must include:

  • The work activity or situation that may cause the virus to spread
  • Who may be at risk?
  • How likely a person/s may be exposed?
  • What can be done to eliminate the risk – or if not possible to eliminate – to reduce or control the risk

A man wearing a COVID-19 social distancing high visibility safety vest

The two main methods of preventing the spread of infection are hygiene measures and social distancing.

The Government advice on social distancing and other measures to workplaces and business is continually evolving as more is known about this virus, so it is vital that risk assessments are reviewed regularly and updated in line with the latest guidance.

Employers with 5 or more employees must have a written risk assessment in place.

What we did

We are committed to keeping everyone. The health and safety of our employees, customers and the wider community is always our main priority, especially in these challenging times. Our values are, and always have been, rooted in keeping people safe.

At the start of lockdown, being committed to doing what was right both socially and morally to protect each other by curbing the spread of the Coronavirus, we temporarily closed 5 of our 7 training centres, with just our centres in Mansfield in Nottinghamshire and Crossgates in Fife remaining opening to support the MOD in specialist rescue and safety-critical work.

With all training centres re-opened again in June, we took the learnings from the Mansfield and Crossgates sites and developed a comprehensive Coronavirus response.

Coronavirus management is now specified as a fatal hazard risk across all MRS Training & Rescue locations. Introducing employees and customers onto our sites and sending employees to work on third party sites, presents risk.

The initial Coronavirus risk assessment looked at three key aspects of our business:

  • Course candidate assessment
  • Employee activities
  • Other visitors

For each we considered the activity, controls (both hygiene and social distancing) and what PPE / RPE was required to reduce the risk.

An example taken from our risk assessment is shown below:




Hygiene Controls

Social Distancing Controls


Classroom / Exam Room

  • Hand sanitiser (alcohol based) provision
  • Tissues provision
  • General waste bin with liner
  • Regular cleaning of hard surfaces
  • Catch it, bin it, kill it signage
  • Wash hands signage
  • Ventilation (open window)
  • Stock control
  • Provision of remote learning
  • Room management assessment
  • Tables / seating set out to ensure 2m spacing
  • Maximum number of candidates for each room to be calculated, recorded and observed for each classroom
  • Disposable face mask provision (clinical R2)
  • Information on face mask fitting, removal and disposable



A box of face masks on a desk

Having completed and consulted on the risk assessments, we then set out a range of management policies and associated operational procedures to mitigate the risk of virus spread on MRS sites. These included:

  • General Management on site
  • Training at MRS sites
  • Rescue cover
  • Offsite training
  • Travelling to a customer’s site
  • Health management relating to COVID for MRS employees
  • Provision of a Mines Rescue service


As all our training centres are now fully opening and offering our full suite of training courses and rescue provision, we understand you may have many questions about how we will be ensuring the safety of everyone involved. So, we have written a series of FAQ style articles to provide answers to lots of the questions we have been asked. Click on the links below to read more:


As always, if you have any further queries, we are here to help in whatever way we can, so please do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

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