Scottish Government releases manufacturing and retail sector guidance for easing lockdown

The Scottish Government has issued guidance for the manufacturing and retail industries detailing the steps to be taken as Scotland eases its lockdown restrictions.

Scottish Government releases manufacturing and retail sector guidance for easing lockdown

The Scottish Government has urged however that the publication of the guidance does not signal an immediate change in Scotland’s lockdown policy. At the current time manufacturing and retail businesses should be closed down on a precautionary basis unless involved in essential activity against the virus or to support the wellbeing of society and able to provide confidence in maintaining a safe workplace.

The guidance sets out the Scottish Government’s minimum expectations across five key areas which both manufacturing and retail companies will need to consider as part of their planning for a restart and ongoing production while minimising the transmission of the virus.

The key areas are:

  • Assessing risk - involving the workforce in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace
  • Workforce planning - supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not
  • Operational guide and checklist - changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce
  • Deliveries, distribution and visitors - protecting your workforce and those who come on-site
  • Training and compliance

The guidance states that a person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service must take all reasonable measures when manufacturing firms are allowed to open:

  • To ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
  • To ensure that they only admit people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance
  • To ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer).

The document also highlights a series of implementation phases which manufacturing and retail firms must adhere to. These include a planning phase where firms must establish plans to re-open the workplace in consultation with the workforce on an ongoing basis.

That planning must be based around risk assessments and safe systems of work physical distancing, hand washing, and fair work principles and be designed to enable a restart that allows the business to trade while protecting employee health and well-being.

Physical distancing and hygiene measures require work to be carried out before a restart – for example screens, one-way systems, 2- metre zones, canteen re-arrangement, PPE provision, hand sanitisers etc. Then briefings and inductions into the new ways of working. These all take time and require resourcing and commitment.

Experience confirms the value of trialling the new way of working before a fuller restart is attempted, so a limited-scale pilot to test systems, find weaknesses and make improvements before a fuller restart is essential.

The Scottish Government has said that a risk assessment or adoption of mitigation measures should not be a one-off exercise, rather part of a regular and ongoing dialogue and feedback loop between employers and trade union or workforce representatives to identify what measures are working, where refinements are possible and any gaps remaining.

Reviews of measures and risks should be frequent, with daily assessments of progress initially not unusual. The open and ongoing engagement between trade union or workforce representatives should enable adjustments to be made quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage, including potentially tightening workplace restrictions or reducing numbers onsite if the dynamic risk assessments indicate this is necessary.

In terms of returning to work, the Scottish Government has said that working from home should continue whee possible. It is recognised that this is not going to be possible for many retail employees but where it is possible for back office/management functions this should be undertaken.

Health factors should also be considered in any phasing of who returns to work, with employees living in vulnerable or shielded households only expected to return when new safe working environment measures have been fully tested and a return to onsite work is consistent with individual medical advice.

The Scottish Government has also urged that new retailing arrangements should be tested and modified in agreement between employers and employees, including by phasing where possible. Employers should be aware of other regulatory compliance measures and any impacts.

The guidance also urges that employers should take account of travel to work and childcare considerations in phasing a restart to their operations.

The guidance will come into effect from yesterday.

Dr Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, commented on the guidance, she said: “We have been calling for detailed guidance from the Scottish Government on safety measures to enable businesses to begin to plan and prepare. It is welcome to see these issued for our manufacturing and retailing businesses. Operating safely and safeguarding the health of our employees, customers and supply chains is in the best interests of all of us.

“We will now look at this detail to understand what businesses in these sectors need to do practically in order to begin to prepare for re-opening. We will be working with the Scottish Government and companies across Scotland to adapt, adopt and implement these guidelines. It would now be helpful to see timelines so that businesses and our employees have a common goal in sight.

“Further, the Test and Trace system will be a major contributor to Scotland being able to open for business.’’

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, added: “Shopkeepers are working hard to ready themselves to re-open safely, drawing on the lessons learned by essential shops of all sizes and formats during the past nine weeks and investing significantly in physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect customers and staff. This new official guidance and accompanying checklist will prove useful as retailers refine their plans and implement the necessary adaptations.

“It should also help customers understand the changes they will see to their usual shopping routine and what is expected of them too. Shoppers should be prepared for different store layouts, one-way aisles, screens and queuing, similar to that seen in pharmacies and other essential retailers.

“It is encouraging that Ministers have listened to our representations and that they have moved swiftly to take a more rounded approach to those retailers who can re-open in the second phase of the exit from lockdown. This should prove beneficial to the retailers concerned and customers.

“Over and above this guidance for shops, what is needed now is a plan for shopping. That will need to provide practical steps and advice so customers can confidently understand how to safely travel to and navigate high streets and town centres. Government should involve local authorities and business improvement districts in this work so local plans can be developed to help set these places on the road to economic recovery.”

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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