Supermarkets, shops and workplaces in Wales are to be compelled to carry out a specific coronavirus assessment under new legislation being introduced amid concerns that some businesses are not taking restrictions seriously enough.
The Welsh government said on Friday the risk assessments would be the “starting point” for implementing measures required to minimise exposure to Covid-19 in places open to the public and workplaces.
Businesses will have to consider issues such as:
• Whether ventilation is adequate.
• Ensuring physical distancing is taking place.
• Use of PPE and face coverings.
• It will also include considering how employers maximise the number of people who can work from home.
The government said the highly contagious new strain of the virus meant it had looked again at the rules regulating workplaces and premises that remained open to the public.
Mark Drakeford, the first minister, said: “Risk assessments must be reviewed and updated regularly, whenever circumstances change, and I want to make clear in law this includes whenever the coronavirus alert levels change in Wales.
“Recording the risk assessment will only be required by those who employ five or more people. We are working closely with employers, trade unions, local authorities and the health and safety executive to consider the detail on how to keep work settings safe.
“Ministers have also met this week with key retailers to discuss their vital role during the pandemic. They set out the actions they are taking, from providing sanitisers for hands and trolleys on entry; limiting the numbers in store at any one time; and making regular announcements reminding people to keep their distance from others.”
Drakeford has also described as unacceptable reports of abuse faced by some shopworkers. The Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers had reported that some shop workers have been threatened and spat on.
Wales is under a level 4 “stay at home” lockdown, meaning people are only allowed to go out for essential reasons, such as shopping for food. Pharmacies, banks and post offices are allowed to remain open. People aged 11 and over must wear a face covering if they are able and maintain social distancing.
On the frequently asked questions section of its guidance, the Welsh government says: “When speaking to the staff in a shop, please maintain social distancing and please be respectful of them. Shopping in current circumstances is a different experience, but please bear in mind that this is not the fault of shop workers who will only be doing what they are required to do by law and by their employers.”
Separately, the Welsh government is facing questions about whether it is still planning to run external tests for A-level and GCSE students.
In December, the government said students would receive grades based on a mix of internal and external assessments, rather than end-of-year exams. There is growing concern that the new lockdown will make this system unfair for some students.
The government said following the shift to full-time remote learning, its advisory group would be considering how to “build on and adapt” the proposals.