COVID-19 secure risk assessment

On 11 May 2020 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed in the UK understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance instructs all employers to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment and consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union, or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers.

In addition, following the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announcement that cultural buildings can reopen from 4 July, The National Archives has also followed the published guidelines to help cultural institutions understand how to open safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

This document sets out the results of the COVID-19 site risk assessment for The National Archives, Kew, Richmond TW9 4DU, to support those colleagues returning to work in the building and for the reopening of the building to the public. It highlights the measures in place to ensure any National Archives staff, visitors or contractors that need to work in the building can do so safely.

1. Thinking about and managing risk

The risk assessment reflects the ‘Working Safely during COVID-19 in offices and contact centres guidance’ and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) risk assessment good practice guidelines. It was completed in consultation with The National Archives’ Departmental Trade Union representatives, alongside the COVID-19 assessment undertaken by the facilities management contractor, Bouygues, who provide services to The National Archives, to ensure all appropriate control measures are in place. The results have also been shared with all staff, in the form of practical guidance and instructions.

The risk assessment will be reviewed and updated as necessary, particularly as guidance on controlling the spread of COVID-19 changes.

The following notice is displayed in the building and on our website to show that The National Archives has followed the guidance.

COVID-19 risk assessment certificate.

1.1. Identified hazards and risks

The hazard identified for this risk assessment is coronavirus.

The following risks associated with this hazard have been identified through the risk assessment. These risks are applicable to National Archives staff, visitors and contractors resulting from the pandemic.

  • Risk of contracting and passing on COVID-19 infection
  • Risk of infection to high risk groups (including clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals)
  • Risk of infection during travel to and from the office
  • Risk of infection from shared office premises
  • Risk of infection from using workspaces and workstations
  • Risk of infection due to a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Risk of injury from accidents, incidents and security incidents
  • Risk of infection from handling incoming and outgoing goods
  • Risk of infection from handling public records

The remainder of this document identifies the key measures in place to control these risks and ensure that any National Archives staff, visitors or contractors that need to work in the building can do so safely.

2. Who should attend the site for work

This section addresses three of the risks identified:

  • Risk of contracting and passing on COVID-19 infection
  • Risk of infection to high risk (including clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals) groups
  • Risk of mental health and wellbeing impacts

The expectation for all civil servants is that they should be conducting their work in line with the latest safer workplace guidance which, at this time, remains that people should continue to work from home wherever possible. The vast majority of our workforce in The National Archives will continue to do this as our technology allows them to do so safely and effectively.

There will be some staff who will need to be in the workplace for at least some of the time, but the number of people at The National Archives will initially remain very low compared to normal. In line with the Working Safely during Coronavirus guidance, those coming in to The National Archives will be those who are unable to undertake their role, or specific tasks required of their role, from home, such as delivering The National Archives’ statutory functions to secure, maintain and provide access to public records.

The National Archives supports the ability of all our staff to work as safely as possible, whether remotely or in the building. During the first phase of our gradual return to office-based working, staff will be required to obtain management approval that their need to attend the office is in line with these criteria and may need to complete an individual or department risk assessment.

All staff requiring reasonable adjustments for any protected characteristic are considered under the Equality Act and are, in any case, entitled to a specific risk assessment to identify reasonable adjustments they may need. We take our duty of care as an employer incredibly seriously and we want to protect all our people, especially those who may be more vulnerable as we learn more about the nature of the disease. Individual risk assessments for at-risk groups give us the capacity to tailor advice to individual circumstances including, for example, if staff have a health condition, disability that may make them more vulnerable, or they identify themselves as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME).

Individuals who are in the clinically vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable or new/expectant mother categories, and those who have been advised to stay at home under existing government guidance, will continue to work from home. Individuals who are too ill to work will receive sick pay in line with The National Archives’ policy.

Individuals must not come into the office if they have symptoms of coronavirus, however mild, and should follow the government’s ‘Stay at Home’ guidance. Anyone who is advised to self-isolate as part of the government’s Test and Trace service should also not return to the office until they are no longer self-isolating.

The National Archives supports the mental health and wellbeing of all our staff. Managers are encouraged to check in regularly with their teams, and all staff are advised to contact their manager or a Mental Health First Aider in the first instance to discuss any anxieties or other wellbeing concerns which they may have. The National Archives has trained Mental Health First Aiders and staff also have 24/7 access to an employee assistance programme to discuss issues or concerns.

3. Social distancing at work

This section addresses the following identified risks:

  • Risk of contracting and passing on COVID-19 infection
  • Risk of infection during travel to and from work
  • Risk of infection from shared office premises
  • Risk of infection from using workspaces and workstations
  • Risk of injury from accidents, incidents and security incidents

Measures have been put in place to ensure that social distancing (two metres) can be maintained wherever possible and where this is not possible, other control measures have been put in place. This includes while arriving at and departing from the building and while working and moving around the building.

Anyone coming to the building will be expected to follow the latest safer travel guidance for passengers and only use public transport when absolutely necessary. On site cycle storage is available and there is on site parking for cars and motorcycles.

To control the flow of people in the building, staff will be encouraged to stagger their arrival and departure times to reduce crowding at entrances and exits.

The building has been marked with one-way systems where possible, with guidance signage on maintaining social distancing throughout, and there will be reduced capacity in the lifts and in other communal service areas such as bathrooms and kitchen areas.

During the first phase of our return to office working, staff coming into the office will be guided as to which workstations may be used, which will be at least two metres distance from anyone else, in one of the designated areas open for use.

Signs, floor markings and digital screens reminding individuals of the required social distancing and hygiene standards have been installed throughout the building, and hand sanitiser has been made available throughout the building (except areas where public records are present – alternative provision has been made that reduces the risk of damage to public records that may be caused by alcohol-based gel). Cleaning equipment is provided close to each work area, and staff are encouraged to wipe down their workstation regularly, including before and after use, in addition to the regular cleaning that takes place, outlined in section 5.

Most meetings will take place virtually but where in-person meetings are essential, they will be carried out in designated meetings rooms, ensuring at least a two metres distance between participants can be maintained. The maximum occupancy for each meeting room is clearly signposted.

All non-essential areas in the building have been closed. Anyone coming to the building is encouraged to bring their own food and to take breaks using the safe, outside areas. All communal seating areas have been reduced in capacity and clear signage is displayed regarding social distancing requirements.

Shared communal areas including showers and locker rooms are clearly signposted with maximum occupancy. Bathrooms have had urinals taken out of use and basins reduced to ensure social distancing.

Where shared equipment cannot be eliminated, such as printers and kitchen areas, cleaning products are provided to wipe them down before and after use. Some printers and kitchen areas have been taken out of use temporarily to reduce the cleaning burden.

All the normal building security procedures remain in place. Due to the low numbers on site, emergency evacuation procedures have been changed to a roll-call approach, with all staff and contractors required to manually sign in and out. In the case of an emergency, staff are not expected to stay two metres apart. Staff who have personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) will have the necessary support to evacuate if they are in the building.

Should an individual become unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 while in the office, it should be reported immediately to a first aider and they should isolate themselves within the building until they are able to travel home safely. Once home, they should follow the government’s ‘Stay at Home’ guidance and any advice from the government’s Test and Trace service if appropriate. Information on how areas of the office will be cleaned in these circumstances is outlined in section 5.

All first aiders at The National Archives are provided with personal protective equipment (gloves, face visors and masks), including for use by the person receiving care. First aiders have been further reminded of the need to pay particular attention to hygiene measures.

4. Managing visitors, contractors, and the public

This section addresses the following identified risk:

  • Risk of contracting and passing on COVID-19 infection

As the majority of meetings can be carried out virtually, visitors to the building will be by exception and only by prior arrangement.

Where there is an essential need for visitors, they will be hosted in designated meeting rooms, with social distancing in place. All visitors will receive a guidance document ahead of their arrival setting out the arrangements within the building and expectations of individuals, which they will need to confirm they have read and understood.

Plastic sneeze screens have been installed and other appropriate measures put in place in the reception area, where visitors, contractors, and staff are received and registered, to ensure the safety and protection of everyone.

Any contractor working in the building will be made aware of our operating protocols as well as any specific measures put in place by their employer. The National Archives will require sight of contractors’ COVID risk assessments prior to any on site activity.

The public’s return to The National Archives to consult public records will initially be managed by a booking system for a limited number of daily slots. Measures have been put in place to maintain social distancing, conduct cleaning after every visit, and provide for the quarantine of public records after handling. All public visitors, unless they have a legitimate reason not to, are now required by law to wear a face covering during their visit to The National Archives. All non-essential public areas will remain closed, and casual visitors will not be permitted entry. As conditions allow, and where safe to do so, the service capacity will be increased gradually to meet statutory duties and satisfy public demand.

5. Cleaning the site

This section addresses the following identified risks:

  • Risk of infection from shared office premises
  • Risk of infection from using workspaces and workstations
  • Risk of infection due to a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19 in the workplace

Before the wider reoccupation of the site, all building systems have been checked. Cleaning continued during the lockdown and appropriate hygiene practices have been provided.

Signage has been installed to provide reminders to maintain personal hygiene standards, including good handwashing technique and the need to increase handwashing frequency.

The National Archives has been operating a regime of increased frequent cleaning of common touch points throughout the day as a preventative measure and this will continue. This includes communal areas, toilets, showers, tea points, door handles (including fridges), light switches, handrails, security gates, lift buttons etc.

After a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, cleaning will take place in line with Public Health England guidance.

6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings

This section addresses the following identified risk:

  • Risk of contracting and passing on COVID-19 infection

The risks of COVID-19 in The National Archives are managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed team rotas where appropriate. In line with the Working Safely During Coronavirus guidance, The National Archives does not encourage the use of PPE beyond that which individuals would normally use for their work, with the exception of some identified roles such as first aiders (outlined in section 3), and where required in order to comply with The National Archives’s quarantine procedures for handling public records (outlined in section 9), and for those staff in direct public-contact roles. However, we recognise some individuals may prefer to wear a face covering and will support them in doing so. Labelled bins have been provided in the building for individuals to dispose of any disposable face coverings safely (washable face coverings are encouraged).

All visitors to the reading rooms, unless they have a legitimate reason not to, are now required by law to wear a face covering during their visit to The National Archives. Individuals will be reminded of good practice advice regarding face coverings, such as washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on and after removing it; avoiding touching their face or face covering while wearing it; changing the face covering if it becomes damp or if they’ve touched it, and continuing to practise social distancing wherever possible.

7. Workforce management

This section addresses the following identified risks:

  • Risk of infection from shared office premises
  • Risk of infection from using workspaces and workstations
  • Risk of infection during travel to and from work

Where possible and relevant, those now attending the office more regularly will be organised into distinct groups to reduce the number of contacts each individual has, and ensuring that where contact is unavoidable it happens between the same people. Where individuals are returning to the office less regularly (e.g. for a short period to undertake a specific task), they will be given clear guidance as to which areas of the building are open for use.

Work-related travel has been minimised as much as possible. Where work-related travel is essential, and has senior approval, staff will need to complete a travel risk assessment before carrying out their journey. The National Archives’ staff are given guidance on the safety arrangements they need to follow to protect themselves and others while travelling.

A full communications and engagement plan for the return to the office for National Archives staff has been developed. Staff receive regular updates through a variety of digital channels (emails, intranet, virtual meetings and video guides) and physical channels (signs, posters and digital screens in the building).

8. Inbound and outbound goods

This section addresses the following identified risk:

  • Risk of infection from handling incoming and outgoing goods

To minimise deliveries, only essential supplies and mail are being accepted to The National Archives. Deliveries are being handled in accordance with the Royal Mail guidance. Critical outbound goods are being collected daily, and social distancing protocols are in place for delivery and pick up.

For the receipt and despatch of public records, social distancing and quarantine protocols have been put in place.

9. Public records

This section addresses the following identified risk:

  • Risk of infection from handling public records

Considerable desk research has been conducted to establish the likely risk of transfer of the virus by handling public records, based on scientific research carried out across the world, and guidance from public health bodies.

The National Archives has developed a quarantine protocol to mitigate this risk, which is based on a 72-hour interval between each handling of a record. Measures have been put in place to embed this protocol wherever public records are handled on site. Additional restrictions have been placed on access to repositories, and quarantine will impact the capacity of the service to the public, when they return.