Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air continue to dominate the key Government messaging, but what do they really mean in a practical sense and where should we be focussing our efforts in the workplace or in public

Public and Occupational key messages and practical controls, England (Step 3)

Key Messages

  • Workplaces

    Non-Public facing businesses; Manufacturing, warehousing, offices etc.

Private and Public transport, company vehicles

If you are sharing a vehicle with someone whether travelling to and from work or as part of your job, the chances are you will be sat too close to another person and sharing the same air

If you absolutely must share a car with someone not in your household or support bubble there are 5 simple things you can do

  • Open your windows
  • Sit diagonally behind the driver
  • Keep the radio low so you do not need to shout
  • Sanitise your hands and surfaces before and after contact
  • And wear a mask/ face covering (but this is the last line of defence, do not purely rely on this as your one and only control)

Canteen, Kitchenette, Toilets, Changing Room, Smoking Shelter etc.

Many workplace outbreaks over the last 14 months can be linked back to these type of communal spaces

This is where people feel most relaxed, and more often than not workplace outbreaks can be linked back to these areas, due to complacency, poor cleaning regimes and/ or personal hygiene is not as good as it could be

  • Good ventilation
  • Adequate cleaning regimes and consistency is key
  • Make sure occupying numbers are in place and monitored, and;
  • Personal belongings stored in lockers.

Doors and handles, toasters and kettles, microwaves, etc.

  • You need to truly identify all your high touch points, the things people touch frequently, and you really need to consult staff to make sure you have captured everything
  • Clean, clean, clean and do not underestimate how important it is to get the cleaning right to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
  • Cleaning needs to be every few hours or so depending on how frequently something is touched
  • Consistency and quality of cleaning is essential so make sure the person doing the cleaning understands this
  • Do not clean something that is not touched, it is a waste of resources

Doors, Windows, Fans, Ventilation units (non-recirculating)

  • Ventilation is key
  • The risk of transmission is greater in spaces that are poorly ventilated
  • There are different ways of providing ventilation, including mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, natural ventilation which relies on passive flow through openings (doors, windows, vents) or a combination of the two
  • Public

    Public facing businesses; Leisure and hospitality, travel and tourism etc.

‘Monkey see, monkey do’…

  • What you do will largely determine how others are influenced and encouraged to do the right thing, the right behaviours, if you do not follow the rules why would those you can influence go out of their way to abide by the rules and do the right thing
  • If you wear a mask, others will follow
  • If you keep your distance others will take a step back and create space
  • If you lead someone through a door and sanitise your hands before and after, and/ or hold the door open with your arm … funnily enough if you take a look behind you, you will probably see the person copying your behaviours

It is a two-way process (listening and talking)

  • Engage with your staff and customers, have a conversation with them (it is a two-way process)
  • Educate and inform what your controls are, how people should behave, what they should and should not do
  • Use different ways to engage with people, one size does not fit all
  • Simply displaying notices and posters or signage will do very little in conveying key messages… ‘actions speak louder than words’

Public behaviours

  • If you turn a blind eye to poor behaviours, others will see this as your acceptance, and that you condone and even promote these behaviours and likely to see you as a poor leader
  • However, if you do not turn a blind eye and tackle poor behaviours, others will follow
  • Address the behaviours before they become systemic
  • Do the right thing, demonstrate the right behaviours, others will follow

Staff are your most valuable asset

  • Without staff you would struggle or cease to exist, so it is crucial that they are kept safe and well
  • COVID does not stop at the front door, what you do in your business for your customers will translate into your workplace, behind closed doors in your canteens, toilets and changing areas
  • You and your staff work in a workplace, so all the arrangements that should be in place and best practices for workplaces should be in place 

Space is always the safest place

  • Two (2) metres social distancing rules still apply
  • One (1) metre + risk mitigation (where 2 metre cannot be achieved and there are no alternatives to carry out the work/ task and it must continue to go ahead then 1 metre social distancing is permitted providing there are risk mitigation control measures in place)
  • Risk mitigation – Risk mitigation controls can include working bubbles, good ventilation, good personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitising methods, working back to back or side by side, wearing a visor and a mask. A mask alone is not risk mitigation. The more risk mitigation controls in place the better, one control alone is unlikely to be effective

Keep them clean, and to yourself…

  • Washing your hands regularly using a running (fresh) water supply with soap for at least 20 seconds is always the best way to keep your hands clean and reduce the likelihood of unsafe level of viral build-up and spreading the virus
  • There is no COVID-19 legislation to say the water must be hot, because unfortunately that would not be possible for many businesses without significant investment or due to impracticalities. However common sense on good hygiene practices should prevail, so if you can use hot running fresh water and soap, that’s what you should be aiming for
  • Sanitiser is great when you do not have access to readily available handwashing facilities as it’s not always possible or feasible, so sanitiser is a good stop gap. But handwashing is always best, and sanitising straight after hand washing is even better

You gotta have faith, face, face..

  • It is a legal requirement to wear a face covering in an indoor public place
  • If your premises are a mixture of public and private facing, or there are times when members of the public are not occupying a space they would ordinarily occupy (i.e., during quiet times of business) you should still continue to lead by example and wear a face covering. Your customers will follow your good or bad practices
  • For private places of work, your risk assessment should determine when a face covering should be worn, simply put… if you cannot always ensure social distancing, such as moving around the premises when not sat at your desk or workstation then a face covering should be worn
  • Although there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of a face covering and there are added limitations such as the cleanliness of the covering and how it is worn and stored when not in use, a face covering none the less may help in some capacity to limit the release of aerosols from coughing and sneezing. So, in that respect a face covering does little to protect you, BUT it does more to protect others, and that is the point!
  • As a known route to viral infection through our faces, eyes, and mouth, after all most of what goes inside of us and out of us is our faces, this is the main area we should be protecting, so people should be strongly discouraged from touching their faces

Ventilation is finally a key control, now that is a breath of fresh air

  • Ventilation should be used as a control measure to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19 in enclosed spaces
  • Ventilation will not reduce the risk of droplet or surface transmission, so other control measures such as cleaning and social distancing are also required
  • There are different ways of providing ventilation, including mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, natural ventilation which relies on passive flow through openings (doors, windows, vents) or a combination of the two
  • The risk of transmission is greater in spaces that are poorly ventilated. HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning explains how to identify those spaces and steps to take to improve ventilation
  • If you have fire doors that if propped open enable good natural ventilation, then you should consider the risk of fire vs. COVID-19 transmission, which is higher
  • First and foremost, there should be a fire risk assessment in place for the premises pre-COVID
  • When assessing the risk of fire spread and impacting safe evacuation vs. the risk of COVID spread and transmission the fire risk assessment should be re-reviewed and considered which is of higher risk. E.g., if the fire risk is low but the risk of COVID is higher the businesses should prop the internal fire doors open to encourage improved ventilation (if it does not improve ventilation and reduce the number of high touch points then doors should not be propped open.)


  • Identify which doors are used the most, opening and closing doors all day long is bound to have so many people handling them
  • Perhaps some of the identified doors are actually internal fire doors, standard practice would be to ensure these are closed, however in these unusual times you may want to re-assess theses doors to determine the fire risk vs. the risk of spreading the virus
  • To assess if you can prop open your fire doors you will need to review your fire risk assessment, you may find that the fire door provides little effect in reducing the spread of fire or protecting escape routes or the risk is so low that the spread of the virus is so much higher than the risk to fire and escape
  • Prop open doors with a door wedge for example or something weighty (not a fire extinguisher), or you could use a magnetic door lock to hold the door open which releases the door upon actuation of the fire alarm
  • Magnetic door locks can be linked directly to your fire alarm or standalone devices that release the doors upon hearing the fire alarm (you will however have to test them to make sure they work correctly before installing)
  • Use your arms and clothing to open and close doors
  • Use sanitiser wipes to open and close doors so that way you can clean as you go
  • Display hand sanitiser dispensers next to doors to encourage people to sanitise their hands before and after using the door

Strip Curtains

  • Identify all the strip curtains you have and ask yourself, do you really need them all
  • Remove the strip curtains you do not need; it is one less thing to worry about and continue to keep clean
  • Clean and sanitise every few hours the strip curtains you do need to keep, remember that people will not always enter and exit at the same points, and if you take a step back and look at how dirty these things are with hand prints and grease all over them, you will be horrified
  • Remember it is not just your hands that touch these things, they will always brush up against your face, head, body and clothing, and every part of you they come into contact with, unless thoroughly cleaned and sanitised every few hours, the virus will continue to be transmitted from person to person
  • If you do decide you need to keep the strip curtain, you really need to put in place a robust cleaning and sanitising regime that is carried out every few hours
  • It is hard work keeping up with the cleaning so you may want to mask out the area most frequently touched from torso to head, taking into consideration the height of your staff, and highlight this with tape and focus your cleaning purely on this section
  • You could also make it clear which part of the strip curtain should be handled, using brightly coloured tape, as this will help you as stated above with cleaning but also encourage everyone to touch the same point (it sounds counter intuitive to have everyone handling the same point but providing the cleaning is relentless, it will actually help you with cleaning)
  • Sanitising fogging machines would also be helpful in keeping them clean

High Touch Points

  • You need to truly identify all your high touch points, the things people touch frequently
  • Do not underestimate what things are touched frequently, you really need to consult staff to make sure you have captured everything
  • The number of high touch points you need to identify can become overwhelming, so it is best to remain focussed on what it is TRULY a high touch point and not what is touched once in a blue moon or hypothetically it could be touched
  • Conversely make sure you do not miss out any high touch points, remember this is not just shared equipment, machinery and control buttons in the workplace this is the toaster, the kettle, the microwave, the fridge, the vending machine, the chairs and tables in the canteen, and most things you find in the toilets and changing rooms
  • Clean, clean, clean and do not underestimate how important it is to get the cleaning right to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
  • Cleaning needs to be every few hours or so depending on how frequently something is touched, and the consistency and quality of cleaning is essential so make sure the person doing the cleaning understands this
  • Clean as you go, we all know that many hands make light work and god only knows how relentless and boring cleaning can be so try and encourage staff to handle high touch points with a sanitiser wipe as they use it, such as opening a door or holding a handrail with a wipe in hand
  • If you can eliminate or reduce the frequency a surface is touched it ceases to be a high touch point and does not need cleaning that frequently, so you can focus your cleaning elsewhere, ‘now that is a win’!
  • Do not clean something that is not touched, it is a waste of time and energy


  • Use ventilation to mitigate the aerosol transmission risk of COVID-19
  • Ventilation should be used as a control measure to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-19 in enclosed spaces
  • Switch off purely recirculating air devices such as localised air conditioning units unless you can guarantee an uninterrupted supply of fresh air into the space (not normally would you encourage opening windows when air conditioning units are being used as they are less effective but it absolutely essential that fresh air is in constant supply and you are not breathing in recirculated and potentially contaminated air)
  • Open your windows, open your doors (this includes the fire doors you may have identified you can prop open, see the ‘doors’ section of ‘best practices’ for details) to introduce good air circulation and ventilation
  • Introduce desk and floor standing fans to improve air circulation


  • Keep personal belongings to an absolute minimum and do not leave out in communal areas or stored with other people’s belongings, taping, or removing coat hooks off might help
  • Provide sanitiser where hand washing facilities are not available, hand washing is still the best option, and applying sanitiser after washing hands is better yet
  • Educate staff and customers and encourage them to keep their hands clean and avoid touching their faces
  • Get into a habit of washing hands every 30 minutes or so, McDonalds used to if not still do have a ‘time-out’ timer, the timer alarms every 30 minutes to inform staff to wash their or sanitise their hands
  • Remove and store your work clothing away as soon as you get home, wash your hands and face as soon as you get in

Risk Assessment

  • When considering what controls you should put in place in your risk assessment you need to apply the hierarchy of controls, Elimination should always be considered in the first instance, if you can prevent the task from going ahead altogether you have removed the risk
  • Relying on behaviours and wearing a face covering as a control is at the bottom of the hierarchy, so you need to be thinking further up the chain, for example controlling the risk by changing how it is carried out
  • Involve your staff/ workers in the risk assessment process, chances are they will know much more about how tasks are really done than you do and the more involvement from staff you have, the chances are they will have a more vested interest in the controls in place and make them work


  • The controls you put in place need to be reasonable, proportionate, and not over the top
  • Keep it simple, if the controls you put in place are too complicated or difficult to achieve then the chances are it will not last long and/ or will not work at all and leave a gap in your controls
  • If the first control you think of is a mask or face covering you need to try harder and ask yourself, is that really the best I can do?
  • Your controls need to work in a real life setting so do not set yourself up for a fail and above all you need to actually monitor and check they work and continue to work, if they are not working there is nothing wrong in changing it
  • Make them work by testing them, talking about them with others, engage with your staff, get them involved in making them work and you need to properly communicate and explain to people what it is and why it needs to be done
  • Simply displaying a poster on a wall is going to do very little for anyone and potentially drive further disengagement (posters have their place but should not become wallpaper, you need to keep them fresh and you need to actually explain them to people before sticking them up)

Indoor businesses (controlled/ managed environments)

  • Gatherings/ parties of no more than six people (any number of households) are permitted, or;
  • Gatherings/ parties of no more than two households (two households which are linked are treated as one household, i.e. support bubble)
  • Social distancing for those not part of the same household or linked household support bubble must still maintain social distancing despite being part of a gathering/ party
  • No gathering/ party should mix with other gatherings/ parties
  • Support groups can meet indoors (such as Alcoholics Anonymous ‘AA’ meetings) of no more than 15 if absolutely necessary they meet in person and not in a private dwelling, children under 5 do not count
  • Any number of mourners are able to gather at a funeral as long as the venue can comply with social distancing and is COVID secure
  • Wedding ceremonies of no more than 30 people can take place indoors
  • A civil partnership or alternative ceremony where 1 party is seriously ill and not likely to recover
  • Wedding and funeral receptions and life milestones such as christenings, bar mitzvahs can take place indoors other than a private dwelling if no more than 30 people and organised, birthdays ARE NOT PERMITTED

Organised and facilitated ‘Relevant Gatherings’ can take place indoors, consisting of more than 30 people, if the following apply:

Education, Training or skills programme, Work purposes, Emergency incident, House move, Care or assistance to vulnerable person, Legal proceedings, Immigration detention accommodation, Elite and other Sports, Contact between parents and children where they do not live in the same household (broken homes), Students and vacation households, Picketing, Organised protests, Observing an election or referendum

Organised and facilitated gatherings/ events outdoors 

  • 30 people can attend an outdoor organised and facilitated gathering/ event such as a wedding ceremony or reception, a funeral, commemorative event providing it is COVID secure
  • No more than 30 people can attend an organised and facilitated gathering/ event outdoors, unless listed as an ‘exempt gathering’ 
  • Gatherings/ events cannot take place in a ‘usually’ unmanaged/ uncontrolled space such as a public park, children’s playground, playing field, council land, woods and forest etc. unless it is an ‘exempt gathering’ AND COVID secure
  • Outdoor gatherings or events must be organised by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation AND COVID secure
  • COVID secure arrangements should always start with the risk assessment process
  • Arrangements should ensure that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted by the social contact limits (unless another exemption exists, such as for organised sport or exercise, supervised activities for children or a significant life event)

Not… ‘Home Alone’

  • A group of 6 or a larger group of any size from up to 2 households (including their support bubbles) can meet in your home and stay over
  • Social distancing, good hygiene measures and ventilation are not a legal requirement BUT why put your friends and loved ones at risk when you can put in place the aforementioned good practices to reduce the risk to everyone, not to mention wearing a face covering


  • Designated venues in certain sectors must have a system in place to request and record contact details of their customers, visitors and staff to help break the chains of transmission of coronavirus.
  • It is a legal requirement that your NHS QR code poster is displayed and ideally at the front entrance or prominent position
  • Arrangements should be in place to provide other means of recording details if someone does not have the NHS App or a phone 
  • All visitors/ customers 16 or over must register their attendance at your venue
  • If 2 or more people test positive for COVID-19 and have been in a venue on the same day, then other people who registered their attendance at the venue on that day will receive a notification with the necessary public health advice. This notification will either come from their NHS COVID-19 app if they checked in using the NHS QR code, or via a text message if they provided their phone number.


  • People who develop symptoms of COVID-19 or live in the same household as somebody who does must self-isolate
  • The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:
  • High temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
  • If you have one or more of the symptoms, you must self-isolate straight away for 10 days – or longer if you still have symptoms other than cough or loss of sense of smell/taste
  • Your isolation period includes the day your symptoms started and the next 10 full days


  • If you are identified as a ‘close contact’ your isolation period includes the date of your last contact with a person who tested positive and the next 10 full days, however;
  • Your household does not need to self-isolate, but they should avoid contact with you as far as possible and follow advice on hygiene
  • Self-isolation means staying at home and not going outside your home at any time.
  • You must self-isolate for 10 days after you were in contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19. This is crucial to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus and failure to do so can result in a fine, starting from £1,000.
  • If you go on to develop symptoms, anyone you live with must then self-isolate and you must report your symptoms and get tested
  • It is crucial that you complete your 10-day self-isolation period if you’ve been identified as a contact, even if you get a negative test result


  • Lateral flow testing (LFT) – this type of testing is purely indicative; it is used for routine testing only to indicate the likelihood of the virus being present. If you have COVID-19 symptoms or generally feel unwell of a viral nature, like the common cold, you must take a PCR test, not a LFT test
  • PCR testing – Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a more accurate test for identifying the presence of the COVID-19 virus
  • PCR testing is for confirming the presence of the virus if you are experiencing symptoms OR have received a positive LFT

Positive PCR Test

  • If you get a positive test result, this means that when you took the test, you had COVID-19. You and other members of your household must self-isolate
  • It is crucial that you complete your 10-day self-isolation period if you’ve been identified as a contact, even if you get a negative test result at any point during the isolation period, as the timing of any test will invariably influence the outcome. (e.g. low viral loading on day 1 of infection may not be detected, but by days 3-5 of infection viral loading has increased, it is likely that getting a test at this stage will identify the presence of the virus which was not detected when tested on day 1)

Positive LFT Test

  • A positive LFT needs to be followed up with a PCR test straight away
  • A LFT must not be used if you have symptoms or have been identified as a close contact
  • A close contact should simply self-isolate for 10 full days

Negative test

  • If you get a negative test result, this means you are at low risk of having COVID-19
  • Other members of your household can stop self-isolating. If you feel well and no longer have symptoms similar to COVID-19, you can stop self-isolating. You could still have another virus, such as a cold or flu – in which case it is still best to avoid contact with other people until you are better

Close Contact

  • Anyone who lives in the same household as another person who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Or, anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Face-to-face contact within one metre for one minute or longer, including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre, perhaps through sharing a public or private vehicle to and from work (i.e. car sharing), or simply having a natter with someone over lunch in the breakout area or canteen
  • Or within two metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)


Contact Tracing

  • A contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • You can be a contact any time from 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms (or, if they did not have any symptoms, from 2 days before the date their PCR positive test was taken), and up to 10 days after, as this is when they can pass the infection on to others
  • Identifying yourself as a contact is absolutely crucial in helping to reduce the spread of the virus to others, as you may have the virus, but perhaps it has not been detected by a test yet or symptoms have not yet developed if at all, so you could unknowingly spread the virus

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