The following are guidelines to implement, maintain and improve a retailer’s ability to protect against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from COVID-19 related disruptions
when they arise.
The article covers identification and defence against COVID-19 by addressing:
- Business Continuity Risk identification and mitigation
- Management of the risks
- Site recovery.
This article focuses on retail related activities but does not address every possible situation for all retail organizations. It is recognised that resourcing constraints may impact on a retailer’s ability to implement these guidelines in full.
Terms and Definitions of the Article
This is the process of identifying persons who may have come into contact with an infected person (“contacts”) and the subsequent collection of further information about these contacts.
The broader name for the family of diseases that includes COVID-19, and its entry has been revised to show that relationship. A new example has been added to the entry for novel
(“new”) COVID-19 The new name for a new disease, coined as an abbreviated form of coronavirus disease 2019
A person-to-person contact or spray of droplets during coughing and sneezing
The person-to-person contact log of all site attending employees which will assist in contact tracing as and when positive cases arise
The first documented case of an infectious disease or genetically transmitted condition or mutation in a population, region, or family
The separation of infected individuals and healthy individuals
The separating of well persons, who have been exposed to the infection, from other well persons during the incubation period of an illness
Working From Home
A situation in which an employee works mainly from home and communicates with the company by electronic means
The overall process of risk identification, risk analysis, and risk evaluation
Restricted Movement and Self-Isolation
The avoidance of contact with other individuals for a period of time during the outbreak of a contagious disease usually by remaining in one’s home/room and limiting contact with family members
Physical Distancing (Social Distancing)
The practice of implementing measures to maintain safe distances for preventing the spread of disease treatment medical treatment for COVID-19 symptoms and/or related complications
How to defend against the spread of COVID-19
Organizations should refer to the latest public health advisories issued by local Government bodies.
Symptoms of COVID-19
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) to appear. They can be
similar to the symptoms of cold and flu. Common symptoms of coronavirus include:
• a fever (high temperature – 38 degrees Celsius or above)
• a cough – this can be any kind of cough, not just dry
• shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
• 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
Generally, these infections can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened
immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and
chronic lung disease.
Spread of COVID-19
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is spread in sneeze or cough droplets. You could get the virus if
• come into close contact with someone who has the virus and is coughing or sneezing
• touch surfaces that someone who has the virus has coughed or sneezed on and bring
your unwashed hands to your face (eyes, nose or mouth)
Employees are advised to follow public health advice and guidance including ensuring good
hygiene practices, such as frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette, and physical
distancing to protect themselves and their work colleagues against infection and should seek
professional healthcare advice if unwell. Employees should avoid making contact with their
face and in particular their eyes, nose and mouth. Where necessary, workers should wash
their hands immediately before touching their face. Employees who have symptoms of acute
respiratory illness are recommended to stay home if they are well enough to do so or contact
the health service or their GP if they are acutely unwell. They should not come to work and
should self-isolate for 14 days from symptom onset, the last five days of which should be
Common household disinfectants will kill the virus on surfaces. Clean the surface first and then use a disinfectant.
Coronavirus can survive for:
• up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel
• less than 4 hours on copper
• less than 24 hours on cardboard
Strategy to minimize spread
Competence and training requirements
The organization should have a process for identifying and delivering the COVID-19 training requirements.
The organization should:
• ensure that the necessary person(s) receive appropriate COVID-19 training to implement the requirements of this document.
• determine the necessary COVID-19 competence and training of person(s) doing work under its control;
• where applicable, take actions to acquire the necessary competence, and evaluate the effectiveness of the actions taken;
• retain appropriate documented information as evidence of competence.
Applicable actions can include, for example, the provision of training to, the mentoring of, or the reassignment of currently employed persons; or the hiring or contracting of competent persons. The organization should require contractors working on its behalf to demonstrate that person(s) doing work under its control have the requisite competence and training for COVID-19.
Provide information to employees on the following:
• Signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
• How COVID-19 is spread.
• Physical distancing in workplaces
• Cleaning routines and hygiene controls (including respiratory hygiene, cough etiquette, handwashing.
• Use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and medical equipment (e.g. thermometers, disposable gloves, masks, and disinfectants) as relevant.
• What to do if an employee or a member of the public becomes unwell and believe they have been exposed to COVID-19.
• When individuals in the workplace have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
• Cleaning offices and public spaces where there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
• Rubbish disposal, including tissues.
• Travel Restrictions.
• Restricted movement Advice.
• Familiarising key staff with the COVID-19 business continuity plan.
• Cross-training workers and establish covering arrangements to minimise disruptions.
Return to Work
Establish and issue a pre-return to work form for workers to complete at least 3 days in advance of the return to work. This form should seek confirmation that the worker, to the best of their knowledge, has no symptoms of COVID-19 and also confirm that the worker is not self-isolating or awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.
Include the following questions on the form:
If a worker answers Yes to any of them, they are strongly advised to follow the medical
advice they receive or seek medical advice before returning to work:
• Do you have symptoms of cough, fever, high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, breathlessness or flu like symptoms now or in the past 14 days? Yes/No,
• Have you been diagnosed with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection in the last 14 days? Yes/No,
• Are you a close contact of a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days (i.e. less than 2m for more than 15 minutes accumulative in 1 day)? Yes/No, • Have you been advised by a doctor to self-isolate at this time? Yes/No,
• Have you been advised by a doctor to cocoon at this time? Yes/No. Provide an induction training for all workers.
This training should at a minimum include:
• the latest up to-date advice and guidance on public health
• what a worker should do if they develop symptoms of COVID-19
• details of how the workplace is organised to address the risk from COVID-19
• an outline of the COVID-19 response plan
• identification of points of contact from the employer and the workers
• any other sector specific advice that is relevant Arrange for the putting in place of the necessary controls identified in the risk assessment to prevent the spread of COVID-
19 in the workplace.
Visitors and customers should be advised to stay home if they are feeling symptomatic and follow HSE guidelines on self-isolation.
Employee hygiene practices
Employee hygiene practices are important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employers should erect appropriate signage on their premises.
Wash hands regularly and avoid touching of the face with hands. Hand gels with at least 60% alcohol content can be used if soap and water are not available. You should always wash hands:
• After coughing or sneezing and after toilet use;
• Before eating;
• If in contact with a sick person, especially those with respiratory symptoms.
When coughing and sneezing, you should cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue. Put used tissues into a closed bin and wash your hands.
Introduction of physical distancing measures should be implemented across all spaces within retail business types, including entrance of store, points of sale, shop floor, warehouse, delivery area etc.
Each space should achieve the following:
keeping a distance of 2 metres (6.5 feet) between individuals or per current government
• in settings where 2 metre worker separation (or per current government guidelines) cannot be ensured by organisational means, alternative protective measures should be
put in place, for example:
• engineering controls: install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards between workers
• maintain at least a distance of 1 metre or as much distance as is reasonably practicable
• minimise any direct worker contact and provide hand washing facilities, and other hand hygiene aids, such as hand sanitisers, wipes, etc. so workers can perform hand
hygiene as soon as the work task is complete
• make face masks available to the worker in line with Public Health
• customer facing roles must adhere to physical distancing protocols (see above) when assisting customers
• avoid making close contact with people (i.e. do not shake hands);
• reducing time spent in close proximity with others;
• workplace signage.
• staggering times for collections/appointments/deliveries;
• reducing office density/support staff through working from home or split shift arrangements;
• the use of common routes, e.g. stairs, doors, elevators, must be adjusted to ensure that physical distancing can be maintained between workers;
• restricting/staggering the use of canteen facilities;
• moving canteen tables/chairs and restricting the number of staff per table;
• use of technology for video/virtual meetings for office support staff;
• limiting the number of meetings including length and proximity of gatherings between employees/others;
• shift handover arrangements should be altered to ensure the appropriate routines are followed for physical distancing (maintaining 2 metre distance).
• delete/alter shift patterns to reduce worker numbers;
• isolating individual buildings (e.g. minimise or, if possible, eliminate travel between warehouse/store and retail floor area).
Restriction of visitors
A restriction on visitors on business to the retail store should be put in place, i.e. suppliers,
contractors, sales people, etc. However, where business critical visitors are required to attend
the site, a controlled access process should be in place including adherence to sanitisation
processes and full personal contact details (e.g. telephone number, last place visited should be
collected to assist with contact tracing). See Annex A for Visitor/ Contractor COVID-19
Restructuring and splitting teams/shifts
The following should be implemented where it is practicable to do so:
• revision of staffing rosters and splitting of teams to ensure separation of personnel in
order to limit joint exposure and protecting the business function;
• cross-train, and identify alternative sources of labour to facilitate a full complement of
the required skills needed on each team/shift;
• avoid switching of employees from one shift to another;
• implement an ‘air gap’ or delayed shift changeover to accommodate a full cleaning/disinfection of all shared equipment, and reduce unnecessary interactions between different shift personnel;
• minimise the sharing of equipment and/or tools; and
• identify and suspend all non-essential operations which do not directly impact business functionality.
Work areas can be divided into zones with personnel allocated to work within each zone. Zones could be identified by colour, number, section, etc. Movement between zones should
be minimised and controlled at all times. Zoning can be used for retail settings, warehouses and distribution centres.
Cleaning of all general work areas and frequently touched objects and surfaces should be
conducted at regular intervals using a detergent. Disinfectant is required in bathrooms / toilets
and when a known suspected case of COVID-19 has been in an area. Standard household
disinfectants are suitable.
Examples of surface that require routine cleaning include:
• Entrance door handles where doors are not automatic
• Self service scanner
• Card Reader Pin Pads
• Customer facing counter tops, i.e. butcher counter, deli, etc
• Handles on refrigeration units, i.e. ice cream freezer
• Weighing Scales
• Manual Handling Equipment, i.e. forklifts, pallet trucks, etc
• Communication equipment i.e. headsets, barcode readers, mobile scanners, printers.
• Staff and customer toilets.
Appoint a COVID-19 co-ordinator and a Lead Worker Representative.
The COVID-19 co-ordinator is the lead person from the employer side who is responsible for the planning and co-ordinating of COVID-19 activities. The Lead Worker Representative is an employee whose role is to work with the employer to assist in the implementation of the measures identified in the Return to Work Safely Protocol. It is important that employers have a robust communication strategy in place to prevent rumour and misinformation and to:
• provide up-to-date reliable information to employees;
• provide up-to-date reliable information to suppliers and customers;
• clarify the company’s procedures and policies;
• ensure central visibility regarding resourcing and operational needs;
• provide up-to-date signage in appropriate locations.
This can involve cross functional team comprising key areas of a business or be a single appointment depending on the complexity of the organization.
Communicating with suppliers, customers and other stakeholders
• Identify essential suppliers and service providers and discuss continuity issues with them such as understanding their business continuity plans.
• Identify essential customers and ensure that plans are in place to meet customer needs.
• Develop a plan on how and when to activate alternative suppliers and/or alternative delivery means to customers.
• Identify stakeholders in your local network and share best practice concerning defence against COVID-19.
Communicating with employees
Identifying the communications co-ordinator to disseminate your communications plan in line with business needs and the business continuity plan. Employers should ensure all
managers and staff are familiar with company policies and relevant legislation including:
• sick leave;
• lay-off and short time;
• force majeure;
Managers must be prepared to deal with these issues as they arise, and employees need to be clear about what is required. The appointment of a communications co-ordinator will centralise the information and manage the resulting impact. This ensures that the retailer is aware of absences across the business, other operational issues and any problems with suppliers or other related issues, in real time. This will facilitate making informed decisions on the allocation of resources.
Strategy to minimise spread – Outside a retail premises
The same physical distancing principles should apply to outside the entrance of a retail store.
This can be achieved in a number of ways and include but is not limited to:
• The implementation of a queue management system with correct distance markings;
• Ensure that queues maintain the recommended physical distance from any other
queues in the immediate/surrounding area;
• Signage should be placed outside the store regarding numbers allowed in/policy with
children entering/acceptable behavior towards staff, etc;
• Signage on public responsibility of personal sanitizing and physical distancing;
• The provision of hand sanitiser at entrance for customers with regular monitoring to
ensure adequate amounts are available throughout the day;
• The provision of disinfectant at/outside entrance for cleaning trolleys/baskets before
use and door handles on non-automatic doors;
Control of numbers into a retail store
Measures should be put in place to reduce the number of customers coming into the store.
These can include:
• Special access times for OAP and people with disabilities
• Limit numbers accessing the premises
• Limited access for children
• Introduction/Promotion of delivery services, click and collect services and prioritise
delivery services to customers who are vulnerable or in isolation.
For click and collect, allocate specific times for collections, appointments and deliverables
while eliminating physical interaction between staff and customers as much as is practicable
(i.e. online or phone orders)
Strategy to minimise spread – Inside a retail premises
Additional measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19 inside a retail premises can
• 1 trolley per customer;
• ceasing all self-service activities;
• cover/bag food that cannot be washed, e.g. bread;
• setting up screens/barriers at checkouts/desks/food counters where possible;
• encouraging use of card payment methods including contactless payment;
• customers and visitors entering the retail building should be encouraged to wear face
coverings with appropriate signage to communicate this to customers;
• close any in-store public eating areas;
• introduction of lane monitors to monitor and remind customers to maintain physical
• floor markings to highlight physical distancing requirement i.e. check-out areas, shop
floor, butcher counter, deli, etc;
• reduce customer numbers instore when shelf restocking is taking place or restrict
customer access to aisles/areas when restocking is taking place;
• regular public address announcements reminding customers to maintain physical
distancing and non-touching of products where it is not required;
• In-store communications via video screens reminding shoppers to adhere to physical
• removing tables/chairs from the staff canteen and restricting the number of staff per
• staggering the times staff may use the canteen facilities;
• cleaning facilities should be provided in staff canteen along with regular waste
• closing changing room facilities
• limiting customer handling of stock – for example, through different display methods,
new signage or rotation of high-touch stock
• storing items that have been returned or handled extensively in a separate room for 72
hours before displaying them on the shop floor
Strategy to minimise spread – Warehouse [Distribution Centres]
Key points to minimise spread
• Restrict all visitors to distribution warehouses to ‘business critical’ only.
• Controlled access process for business-critical visitors incorporating:
• Adherence to sanitisation processes
• Declaration of any travel from overseas in the previous 14 days.
• Declaration of any contact with known or suspected cases
• Declaration of any symptoms of respiratory illness such as fever and or cough
Supplier drivers should be given guidance on specific procedures and where possible to use
separate facilities (e.g. portacabins and portaloos) and should be kept separate from the
Management should contact suppliers and hauliers and request that they are not sending
drivers who have travelled from affected areas to your sites.
Provision of sanitation kits to warehouse drivers to enable them to regularly clean their
vehicles including forklifts – the kit will include gloves, wipes, sanitiser and instructions.
Where possible it is recommended to have one designated driver per vehicle.
It is recommended to take the following steps after each delivery; this is a brief but
comprehensive sanitisation completable in a few minutes. In order for this to be successful
plan in advance and bring wipes and waste bags on each delivery.
Remove gloves after delivery, clean hands and put on clean gloves.
Focus on key contact points – steering wheel, hand brake, indicator/wiper stalks, gear shift,
window controls, fuel cap, vehicle and communications radio controls, door handled
Decontaminate any shared equipment e.g. pens, phones etc.
Use a separate wipe for each individual item, do not cross contaminate, change wipe sooner if
visible soiling present. Double bag wipes in a waste bag, store in the vehicle until able to
dispose of at next available location with suitable waste disposal facilities.
Entering a warehouse
At the entrances to the warehouse provide cleaning materials (i.e. hand sanitiser, wipes, etc)
for Mechanical Handling Equipment and communication equipment, i.e. headsets, phones,
etc, with an instruction for people to clean the equipment before and after use.
• Where possible to provide individual mobile instruments for each person e.g. scanner,
• Commonly used machines should be wiped cleaned after each use e.g. driver card
download device (tacograph), clock in machines, door coded entry
Regular checks should be taken by the warehouse supervisor or COVID-19 team to ensure
that critical actions are in place and being implemented consistently.
Ongoing communication through briefings and posters with consistent and simple messages
on personal responsibility, this could be part of daily shift start up meetings.
Delivery by warehouse drivers to retail outlets
• Clean (wash and/or sanitise) hands before and after each delivery transaction
• Transport vehicles and containers must be kept clean and in good condition and be
easy to clean and/or disinfect
• There should be staggered delivery times so that not all suppliers arrive at the same
• Recommend that where possible the driver should stay in his cab until loading or
unloading has taken place
• Request instruction from the retailer as to their COVID-19 guidelines for delivery and
• Driver should be familiar with the system to confirm delivery – taking name, scanning
• Use wipes to sanitize pens or mobile scanners after delivery
• Clean the vehicle
• Driver should use gloves when refuelling
Retailers can continue to fulfil online orders, but this can only be done on the basis where
they are confident in their ability to comply with the relevant public health guidelines and can
adhere to the following:
The administration/processing activities associated with online orders and fulfilment
must be carried out while working from home (i.e. working from home and not office
The employer must only have a minimum level of staff on site (e.g. in warehouse) for
The requirements in relation to physical distancing must be rigorously adhered to in
the carrying out of the fulfilment and delivery activities
Response to suspected cases
Employers should put in place a process to identify workers with symptoms of COVID-19 before the start of each shift and remind employees of the need to report to managers
immediately if any such symptoms develop during the shift. There should be a defined response structure that identifies team(s) responsible for responding to a suspected case. At a minimum, a COVID-19 manager should be appointed. When responding to a suspect case, there are number of actions that may need to be considered. These should be included in the response plan. The appointment of incident response personnel for stabilization, continuity and recovery activities are recommended. A designated isolation area should be predetermined as part of the response plan. The designated area and the route to the designated area should be easily accessible and as far as is reasonable and practicable should be accessible by people with disabilities. The designated area should have the ability to isolate the person behind a closed door and be suitable to facilitate the following:
- Ventilation, i.e. via a window
- Hygiene practice by providing:
- hand sanitiser, disinfectant
- gloves, masks
- waste bags
- Where a closed door area is not possible, the employer must provide for an area away from other workers.
If someone becomes unwell with COVID-19 symptoms they should be accompanied to a designated isolation area via the isolation route, keeping at least 2 metres away from the symtomatic person and also making sure that others maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from the symptomatic person at all times. The unwell individual should be provided with a face mask, if available, to be worn if in a room with other people or while exiting the premises.
An initial assessment should be made on whether the unwell individual can immediately be directed to go home, call their doctor and continue self-isolation at home. Where that is not possible, the unwell individual should remain in the isolation area and call their doctor, outlining their current symptoms. They should avoid touching people, surfaces
and objects. Advice should be given to the unwell individual to cover their mouth and nose with the disposable tissue provided when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the waste bag provided.
The incident response personel should notify the retail management and arrange transport home or hospital for medical assessment. Public transport of any kind should not be used.
The retail management should carry out an assessment of the incident, which will form part of determining follow-up actions and recovery. Advice on the management of staff and
workplace will be based on this assessment. Immediate action following a suspected case should include closure of the isolation area until
Contact with confirmed cases
If a confirmed case is identified in your workplace, staff who have had close contact as
assessed by Public Health, should be asked to stay at home for 14 days from the last time
they had contact with the confirmed case.
All affected staff should be actively followed up by the COVID-19 manager/response team.
If the person develops new symptoms or their existing symptoms worsen within their 14-day
observation period they should call their doctor for reassessment.
The above eventualities should be recorded by the COVID-19 manager/response team.
Personnel who have been in close contact with a confirmed case include:
• any individual who has had greater than 15 minutes face-to-face (2 hours, a risk
assessment will be undertaken by Public Health taking into consideration the size of
the room, ventilation and the distance from the case. This may include office and
school settings and any sort of large conveyance. Personnel who have been in casual
contact with a confirmed case includes: • any individual who has shared a closed
space with a confirmed case for less than two hours. Any individual who has shared a
closed space with a confirmed case for longer than two hours, but following risk
assessment, does not meet the definition of a close contact.
All organizations, and where possible individuals, should keep a contact log to facilitate
contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 case in the workplace. This may be through the
use of sign in sheets, clocking systems, visitor logbooks, delivery personnel details, third
party service provider visitor information. This information should be stored securely,
maintained centrally and readily available upon request. Such information may be requested
by the authorities to assist with contact tracing.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Employees should be informed on the appropriate use of PPE, including appropriate removal
of disposable gloves. Employees should be reminded not to touch their faces when wearing
Gloves are generally not required for infection prevention and control purposes outside the
healthcare setting. If gloves are used, they must not be considered a substitute for hand
hygiene and hands must be cleaned whenever gloves are removed.
There may be a need for the retailer to prepare for circumstances under which a reduction or
scaling back in operations is required. This may also include changes to the products,
services, or interactions with customers to allow the business to remain operational.
In the event that first aid is required in the workplace it may not be possible to maintain a
distance of 2 metres. Workers with a specific role in acting as first responders should be
provided with updated training on infection prevention and control principles including
performance of hand hygiene and appropriate use of PPE when delivering first aid.
For some places of work such as hotels, leisure facilities, offices, dental clinics and
hairdressers, the employer needs to put in place control measures to avoid the potential for
Legionnaires’ disease before they reopen.
Heating, Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC)
Air conditioning is not generally considered as contributing significantly to the spread of
COVID-19. Switching off air conditioning is not required to manage the risk of COVID-19.
For organisations without air conditioning, adequate ventilation is encouraged, for example,
by opening windows where feasible.
Exposure – Management and reduction of detected on-site cases
Where a retailer already has a business continuity planning process, consider addressing COVID-19 within that process.
Where a business continuity planning process is not in place, organization should plan and
implement a COVID-19 business continuity plan to minimise disruption to operations and
ensure that business remains viable during the virus outbreak.
Organizations should use the national resources, posters and guidance that are available and
updated on a regular basis to reflect the rapidly emerging situation.
The COVID-19 plan and procedures should:
• be specific regarding the immediate steps that are to be taken during a disruption;
• be flexible to respond to the changing internal and external conditions of a disruption;
• focus on the impact of incidents that potentially lead to disruption;
• be effective in minimizing the impact through the implementation of appropriate
solutions; e. assign roles and responsibilities for tasks within them.
Setting up teams
The organization shall implement and maintain a structure, identifying one or more teams
responsible for responding to disruptions.
The roles and responsibilities of each team and the relationships between the teams shall be
Collectively, the teams should be competent to:
• assess the nature and extent of a disruption and its potential impact;
• assess the impact against pre-defined thresholds that justify initiation of a formal response;
• activate an appropriate business continuity response;
• plan actions that need to be undertaken;
• establish priorities;
• monitor the effects of the disruption and the organization’s response;
• activate the business continuity solutions;
• with relevant interested parties, authorities and the media.
For each team there shall be:
• identified personnel and their alternates with the necessary responsibility, authority and competence to perform their designated role;
• documented procedures to guide their actions including those for the activation, operation, coordination and communication of the response.
Business Impact Analysis and risk assessment
Considerations for the Business Continuity Plan
Business Impact analysis and risk assessment is a key element in any business continuity
plan, as well as in the management of COVID-19.
• Business analysis enables the retail store to assess the impact one or more COVID-19
cases would have on the supply of its products and services. This enables the retailer
to prioritize the resumption of activities.
• A risk assessment enables the retailer to assess the risks of prioritized activities being
disrupted so that it can take appropriate action to address these risks.
Understanding the risks of disruption to these prioritized activities enables the retailer to
The outcome of business impact analysis and risk assessment enables the organization to
determine appropriate parameters for its business continuity strategies and solutions.
It is for the retailer’s top management to determine the thresholds of impact that are
unacceptable to the store, warehouse employees and public, i.e. number of confirmed cases as
a proportion of the total number of employees and how it will impact the business continuity
of the retailer.
Ongoing government advice and directives should be closely monitored, which will ultimately have an impact on the retailer’s continuity plan.
Risk assessment in the event of one or more cases
An after-action review (AAR) of the response to a confirmed case should be carried out with the aim to improve preparedness, response and recovery capacities and capabilities through a continuous quality improvement cycle, in order to lessen the impact of future incidents. The conclusions and output from the incident review should feed into the retailer’s decision-making process relating to the recovery of the business following one or more confirmed cases.
To aid this decision making, a threshold of the number of confirmed cases in the workplace, along with proportionate action to be taken, e.g. segregation of workers/zones, alternative site and ultimately closure of the business, should be established as part of the Business Continuity/COVID-19 Plan.
Human resource management
The following actions should be taken:
• Appoint a crisis management co-ordinator to ensure that employees are familiar with
the COVID-19 requirements and comply with them during this period. A deputy may
also be appointed.
• Develop a plan for the continuity of leadership in the event of absence of key decision
makers and executives.
• Consider flexible work arrangements for employees, including working from home.
Review employee management policies such as absenteeism, sick leave, overseas
travel, workplace closure and recall of non-critical employees and their families from
• Develop a risk assessment document for each employee to complete. Obtain a health
and travel declaration from employees.
• Defer all non-essential travel. Management should identify what is essential travel.
o If business travel is unavoidable and alternative options such as
teleconferencing and videoconferencing are not possible, employers should
arrange for their employees to consult a doctor for travel health advice prior to
o Requirement to report any foreign travel either on authorised leave or on
personal time off to managers prior to returning to work
• Employees presenting symptoms of COVID-19 shall be instructed to self-isolate for
14 days and contact a GP for further health advice.
• All suspected and confirmed cases must be treated confidentially and sensitively.
• During self-isolation, consider flexible work arrangements, such as working from
• Where flexible working arrangements are not possible, employers should refer
employees to the government support agencies. See section 7 for more details.
• Employees returning to work following self-isolation require health clearance/should
be monitored closely for 14 days, with the last 5 days fever free.
• Exercise readiness to implement public health response measures, e.g. contact tracing
and physical distancing. Particular consideration should be given to customer facing
staff, including duration of contact during customer transactions and appropriate
• Review health insurance policies for workers
Report issues to your employer
If an employee develops symptoms or they have come in contact with an infected case, they need to inform their employer and provide any contact log information. They should
immediately follow the self-isolation recommendations. All information provided by the employee must be treated confidentially.
The organization should ensure that all persons working under its control (e.g. staff,contractors, suppliers) are aware of the COVID-19 plan.
Persons doing work under the organization’s control shall be aware of:
- their contribution to the effectiveness of the COVID-19 plan;
- the implications of not conforming with the COVID-19 plan and requirements;
- their own role and responsibilities before, during and after disruptions.
Attendance and absence management
It is important to review, communicate and formally implement the absence and sick leave policies in place in the retailer. In advance of any potential increase in absence, it is essential that all employees are fully familiar with policy requirements, particularly around what constitutes acceptable reasons for absence, the notification and certification requirements and the social welfare procedures.
It is important that employers follow through with their policies and are consistent. The first absence in an unusual situation such as the potential exposure to COVID-19, may initially be dealt with on an ad hoc basis which may set an undesirable or unsustainable precedent should absence levels suddenly escalate. Employers need to consider the effect that significant employee absences would have on their workplace. Various types of absence need to be considered as it is possible that:
- several employees may contract a virus;
- employees may have family members who require care;
- there may be a fear factor, where employees consider absenting themselves for fear of contracting a virus.
Employees who have travelled to areas affected by COVID-19 and employees who have been in contact with individuals who have COVID-19 or indeed any virus of special concern
should follow the Health Protection Surveillance Centre guidance for advice in the first instance and then notify the retailer before attending for work. Check on employees’ health by phone or email during their absence from work.
If an employee is absent due to a fear of contracting the virus an employer must consider the risks and consider whether the employee is a vulnerable employee. Where there is no
increased risk for the employee, the employer can request them to attend work. An employee who continues to be absent from work in these circumstances may be subject to disciplinary action for unauthorised absence, in line with the retailer’s policy.
At some point, based on public health advice, certain aspects of company policy and procedure may require adjustment in accordance with the situation as it evolves. Therefore, it
is important to keep the policy under review and to communicate clearly any changes.
The organization should use performance indicators to review and evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the COVID-19 measures and their outcomes in order to identify
successes and areas requiring correction or improvement. The data obtained can be used to identify patterns and to enable the organization to obtain information regarding the
performance to the COVID-19 requirements.
Procedures for monitoring, measuring, analysing and evaluating the performance and the effectiveness of COVID-19 requirements should include:
- determining the methods for monitoring, measurement analysis and evaluation, including:
- specifying what is to be monitored and measured;
- identifying how, when and by whom the monitoring and measuring should be performed;
- setting performance metrics, including qualitative and quantitative
- recording data and results to facilitate subsequent corrective action analysis;
- monitoring the extent to which the organization’s COVID-19 requirements and objectives are met;
- measuring compliance with applicable Government and HSE COVID-19 requirements;
- monitoring nonconformity and other evidence of deficient COVID-19 performance.
- recording and monitoring training received, including;
- evaluation of training received against defined training needs and requirements;
- the improvement of the development programme as needed.
- Internal audit at planned intervals to assess the performance of the COVID-19 arrangements.
measurements that are appropriate to the organization and ensure valid results;
General tips for cleaning/disinfecting rooms that persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 were isolated in.
- Keep the door to the room closed for at least one hour before cleaning. Do not use the
room until the room has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and all surfaces are
- The person assigned to clean the area should avoid touching their face while they are
cleaning and should wear household or disposable single use non-sterile nitrile gloves
and a disposable plastic apron (if one is available).
- Open the window while you are cleaning.
- Clean the environment and the furniture using disposable cleaning cloths and a
household detergent followed or combined with Chlorine based product such as
sodium hypochlorite (often referred to as household bleach). Chlorine based products
are available in different formats including wipes.
- Pay special attention to frequently touched flat surfaces, the backs of chairs, couches, door handles and any surfaces or items that are visibly soiled with body fluids.
- Place all waste that has been in contact with the person, including used tissues, and masks if used, in a plastic rubbish bag and tie when full. Remove your apron and gloves and discard into the waste bag and clean your hands. Place the plastic bag into a second bin bag and tie it, then clean your hands.
- Store the bag in a safe place until the result of the test is available. If the person tests negative, place the waste in the normal domestic waste bin. In the event the person tests positive, Public Health will advise what to do next.
- Once the room has been cleaned and disinfected and all surfaces are dry, the room can be put back into use.
- There is no need to clean carpets (if present) unless there has been a spillage.
Cleaning of communal areas
If the person spent time in a communal area or they used the toilet or bathroom facilities, then
these areas should be cleaned with household detergent followed by a disinfectant (as
outlined above) as soon as is practicably possible, Pay special attention to frequently touched
sites including door handles, backs of chairs, taps of washbasins, kettles, toilet handles, etc.
Once cleaning and disinfection have been completed and all surfaces are completely dry, the
area can be put back into use.
Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on
surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by
disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral
respiratory illnesses in community settings.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations,
countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and
follow the directions on the label. No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is
recommended at this time.
Cleaning of contaminated area
For further detail on environment cleaning following a confirmed COVID-19 case within the
workplace see Interim guidance for environmental cleaning in non-healthcare facilities
exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
All waste that has been in contact with the individual, including used tissues, and masks if
used, should be put in a normal waste bag. Tie the bag when it is almost full. Double bagging
should be used. Note the date and time on the bag with a permanent marker when the waste is
placed in the bag. The waste bag should be kept for 72 hours, then thrown into the normal
Recovery – Recovery of processes and business functions after detection
The purpose of recovery is to re-establish business activities to support normal working
following a disruption. Actions should be considered to recover a facility in the event of a
COVID-19 related incident where either the retailer or the HSE directed temporary closure.
The retailer should have documented procedures to restore and return business operations
from the temporary measures adopted during a Covid-19 related incident. These should
address relevant audit and corporate governance requirements.
Returning a premise back to operation can be achieved by:
• cleaning all surfaces that the infected person has come into contact with including;
• all surfaces and objects which are visibly contaminated with body fluids
• all potentially contaminated high-contact areas such as toilets, door handles,
telephones, counters, workstations, mechanical handling equipment;
• migrating operations from temporary locations back to the restored primary business
How best to return to business as usual will depend on the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak
and estimates of how long it could take to establish the necessary facilities.
The documented procedures should provide for a detailed assessment of the situation and its
impact, the determination of tasks and steps for recovery. A checklist for facility and
operations recovery can be found at the end of this section.
The retailers documented procedures for recovery should include provision for the
resumption of all activities and not just those identified as prioritized activities. The recovery
process also recognizes that activities with a lower priority be resumed at some point in time
and should have resources allocated.
Where a retailer has closed due to a COVID-19, the employer is required to review and update their occupational health and safety risk assessments and safety statement in order to take account of any work changes which may arise following implementation of control measures to control infection spread.
The organization should ensure that all persons working under its control (e.g. staff, contractors, suppliers) are aware of the retailer’s business recovery policy and business recovery objectives. The retailer should ensure that all persons under its control understand their role with regard
Analysis of business impact
An analysis of business impact enables the retailer to set priorities for resuming activities that have been disrupted. A retailer should identify and classify as “prioritized” any activities where failure to resume them quickly could result in an adverse impact. Activities other than those needing to be recovered quickly can be prioritized. For example, an activity that cannot be resumed for six months but could take a minimum of eight months to resume should be prioritized.
The analysis enables the organization to identify the resources that could be required for recovery.
Selection of recovery strategies and solutions
Business continuity solutions for resuming or recovering a prioritized activity can be expensive. Where the organization estimates this to be the case, it may select alternative
solutions that are acceptable to meet its business recovery objectives or, treat affected products and services as exclusions from the scope of their business recovery objective. All decisions should be guided by the latest public health advice and the Return to Work Safely Protocol for Employers and Workers
The organization should determine the resource requirements to implement selected solutions.
Safety & welfare during recovery
Special attention should be paid to any groups with physical and learning disabilities or other specific needs (e.g. pregnancy, temporary disability due to injury). Planning in advance to meet these requirements can reduce risk and reassure those affected. The long-term impacts of incidents should not be underestimated. The organization should develop appropriate solutions, including consideration of relevant social and cultural issues, to promote employee safety and wellbeing throughout the duration of the recovery of operations.
Documenting recovery of activities
Retailers should document all decisions taken to recover an activity.