Important updates regarding Coronavirus COVID-19 During ‘Lockdown Period’
N K Law Current Working Policy
NK Law Solicitors Covid-19 Risk Assessment – Rochdale Office V1 05.11.20
This Risk Assessment has been prepared following the publication of the government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy published on 11th May 2020 and updated on 12 June 2020 which follows on from the earlier measures that this practice has already put in place prior to the government lockdown on 23rd March 2020 and onwards.
This document will be reviewed at monthly (or as may be required) intervals with the next review due on or before 5 December 2020.
(This Policy also applies to the Accrington consultation room subject to building policy also-Please note that the consultation room is by appointment only and a maximum of 2 persons from the same household)
Covid-19 is an infectious virus that can result in a variety of medical conditions ranging from asymptomatic or mild flu like symptoms at one end of the scale to severe respiratory illness resulting in hospitalisation or death at the other extreme.
It is a relatively new virus, of which scientists are gradually learning more each month, but at this stage it is believed that: “When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects, such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. If they are standing within 1 metre of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them.” (World Health Organisation: Getting Your Workplace Ready for Covid 19 March 2020). https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/getting-workplace-ready-for-covid-19.pdf
The current scientific consensus is therefore that Covid-19 may be transmitted through direct personal contact with an infected person, by being in close proximity to an infected person, or through contact with surfaces touched/contaminated by an infected person.
Who is at Risk?
The following groups are at risk from the virus:
a) Director and staff in the office.
b) Director and staff working from home.
d) Visitors to the office including, but not limited to, cleaners, maintenance workers, tradespeople, delivery drivers and postal workers.
Eliminating the Risk:
Ultimately the risk of transference of the Covid-19 virus can only be eliminated completely by closing the office to staff, clients and visitors, and requiring all contact between these groups, and individuals within these groups, to be remote.
As with most other organisations, however, it is not possible to operate the practice in this manner and it is not therefore possible to completely eliminate all risk.
Reducing the Risk and Preventing Harm
We have identified a number of reasonably practicable control measures that can be put in place to very significantly reduce the risk of transference of the Covid-19 virus. The measures that we have put in place are designed to avoid any physical interaction between staff, clients and visitors, or as a minimum to avoid these people being in close proximity to one another.
These measures will be reviewed at monthly intervals (or as may be required) as the presence of the virus in the community changes and as the science around the virus develops, but for the moment the following measures are in place:
We have kept the number of people present in the office on each working day to the lowest level reasonably practicable for the operation of the business and in areas of the building. In order to achieve this, we have mandated that:
- The Reception was closed to members of the public after 23 March 2020 but re-opened to clients in a controlled manner by appointment only on 3 August 2020.
- It will remain the default position that any member of the NK Law Solicitors who can work from home will work from home until further notice.
- We have set up Zoom on our computer network and advised all lawyers that where at all possible meetings with clients are to be held remotely. Or if you do not have Zoom App than contact us via What’s App on 07779208350.
These measures have been put in place to significantly reduce the numbers of people in the office at any one time and have so far been extremely effective in this regard. This has meant in practice that whereas on a typical day pre-virus 30 or so people would be working in or visiting the office, the average number is now between 10 and 15 people. In other words, we have maintained a reduction of those present in the office of over 50%.
We judge that the measures above are the most effective control measures that we can put in place as, in simple terms, if fewer people visit the office, there is significantly reduced risk of exposure to infection from anyone or any surface within the office.
Some people still however, have to attend the office; if it is to continue to operate as a legal practice and we have therefore, identified the following additional measures to reduce risk to those who may be present in the office on any particular day.
For those people who have to work in the office we have implemented strict social distancing rules, in accordance with the guidance issued by Public Health England and have re-arranged aspects of the workplace to facilitate the same.
All staff have been given guidance on, how to observe social distancing by remaining at least two metres apart at all times in the office. The office is set out over three floors and has a small courtyard type arrangement all of which helps to facilitate this, allowing for significant distances between most of those working in the office.
We have mandated that all those present in the office follow good hygiene practices and wash their hands using soap and water and hand sanitiser on entering the office and before and after meetings in the office.
We have reduced the potential communal touch point areas by ensuring that where possible all, avoiding the need for people to touch the same whilst in the office.
We have asked cleaners to ensure that particular attention is given to communal touching areas when undertaking a daily clean of the premises.
Where it is necessary for clients to physically attend the office, we have identified that the following rooms may be used for client meetings: interview rooms 1and 2 on the ground floor (in each a maximum of the host plus 1 guest, all wearing a face covering); office 1 and 2 on first floor ( in each a maximum of the host plus 1 guest, all wearing a face covering); consultation rooms on first floor ( in each a maximum of the host plus 2 guests, all wearing a face covering); the Boardroom on third floor (a maximum of the host plus 4 guests).
Meeting in office 1 & 2 may only be held with limited guests from the same household all wearing a face covering. Meetings in the Boardroom and the upstairs meeting room may only be held with guests from the same household unless it is necessary for guests from different households to attend. In such circumstances a Director must authorize the meeting and the participants must observe social distancing throughout the meeting.
We have put in place arrangement to log in/out of all the visitors as per guideline instructions. Therefore, all visitors are expected to log in their entry as prescribed. The reception office is reserved for waiting area only. In the waiting area maximum of 4 are permitted, all wearing face covering.
With effect from 3 August 2020 access to the office for clients has been by appointment only. A maximum of 3 people will be permitted to wait in the reception area at any one time observing 2 meter social distancing from people not in their household. A client group is a group comprising the client(s) and whoever will attend the meeting with them provided they are from the same household bubble.
When clients attend the office, they will be asked to sanitize their hands using one of the sanitizing dispensers we have installed in the reception area. They will also be asked to wear gloves and masks and sanitize with the sanitizer provided on entry.
When meetings are to be held the following procedure will be followed:
When an appointment is booked for a client in interview room 1 & 2 or office room 1 & 2, the client will be told they will be required to wear a face covering during the meeting. They will be asked to bring their own face covering but told to leave the building should they not hold a mask on them.
Clients with breathing difficulties, clients who find it difficult to wear a face covering due to impairment or disability and children under 11 years old will not be required to wear a face covering. Where possible meetings with these people will be held in the Boardroom or the upstairs meeting room where face coverings are not required due to the possibility of 2 metre social distancing.
On entry to the building members of the public should utilise the QR code displayed on the front entry door.
When an appointment is booked it must be entered in the reception/fire diary book with their name and contact number with other details in line with ‘Track and Trace’ guidelines.
Staff who attend meetings with clients will each be provided with two face coverings each, but will be permitted to use their own if they prefer.
When a meeting is held in interview room 1, 2, 0ffice 1 or 2 the host and the clients must all wear a face covering/disposable mask throughout the meeting.
Before the meeting the staff member will wash/sanitize their hands and will invite the client to do so also.
During a meeting in interview room 1, 2, office 1 or 2, the window will be opened to allow ventilation.
During the meeting the lawyer and client will sit on opposite sides of the table and will observe social distancing of 2 meters where possible and, where full 2 meter social distancing is not possible, will observe distancing of no less than 1 metre plus.
After the meeting the lawyer will sanitise both sides of the meeting room table and the inside and outside handles of the meeting room door, using the anti-bacterial wipes provided, and will prop the meeting room door open, using the door wedge provided, to allow ventilation of the room between meetings.
Individual visitors, including but not limited to maintenance workers, tradespeople, delivery drivers and postal workers will be allowed access to the office where it is necessary for them to make a delivery or provide services. When such a visit is required the following procedure will be followed:
Reception will not allow them access to the office when doing so would mean more than the maximum number of people permitted in reception at any one time is exceeded.
The maximum number is 4 clients in the building, plus people who will attend the appointment with them, and for this purpose an individual visitor counts as a client.
A hand sanitiser dispenser will be located at each external entrance door to the office for use by all visitors.
Due to the pandemic Covid-19 policy, you must adhere with it. You must mask, gloves. If you have symptoms of Covid-19, then do not attend. Under the operative policy, limited number of attendees are allowed.
Since the reception re-opened to the public on 3 August 2020 it has been staffed. The following procedures are now followed by the reception staff:
- At reception a maximum of 3 clients are permitted to wait.
- At the beginning and end of the day staff shift will wash/sanitize their hands will clean their reception/workstation using the anti-bacterial wipes provided.
- When a permanent receptionist takes a break, the temporary receptionist who staffs reception during their absence will use the reception workstation not being used by the permanent reception they are standing in for and at the beginning and end of their time on reception will wash/sanitize their hands and will clean the reception workstation they use with the anti-bacterial wipes provided.
We have placed hand sanitizing dispensers at the entrance to be utilised by visitors.
We have extended the provision of sanitizing wipes to more areas across the office.
We have introduced a Precautionary Self Isolation system which applies when a member of the household or support bubble of a member of staff does not have Covid-19 symptoms and has not tested positive for Covid-19, but has them self been advised to self-isolate, because they have been in contact with someone who has symptoms or has been tested positive. In this situation, fee earners will be asked to work from home for 7 days and support staff will be asked to work from home if possible, to work from an isolated room in the office if it is not possible to work from home and to isolate at home if neither of the other two options is possible, in each case for 7 days.
Interim Office Arrangements:
- Each room in the office has been designated as suitable for a maximum number of people. The number of people in that room at any one time must not exceed the designated maximum under any circumstances.
- Where more than one member of staff share a room, they shall liaise to ensure that the number using the room at any one time does not under any circumstances exceed the designated maximum.
- Meetings with clients and colleagues will be held remotely wherever reasonably practicable.
- Where paperwork or other documents need to be given to a partner or member of staff, for signature or otherwise, they should be emailed or pre arranged to be dropped off or left in a pigeonhole where reasonably practicable.
- Partners and staff meeting clients or other professionals outside the office, will observe 2 meter social distancing at all times, before and during the meeting and will wash their hands, using soap and water or hand sanitizer, before and after the meeting.
- Personal hand sanitizer bottles have been provided to anyone who needs to conduct a home visit or attend on any other professional appointment outside the office.
- If a member of staff handles packaging or other materials that have arrived from an external source i.e. from a delivery driver or in the post, they should use the hand sanitizer after handling the same.
- Partners and staff will work from home where reasonably practicable, but no partner or member of staff will work permanently from home.
- Sanitizers dispensers and wipes have been provided at each entrance door to the office and rooms for use by staff, clients and visitors.