Opening up facilities as restrictions ease 15/07/2021

Advice on opening up facilities as restrictions ease from Came & Company Local Council Insurance and the Risk Management Team at Arthur J Gallagher & Co.

Introduction and background

Came & Company Local Council Insurance have received a number of queries from town and parish councils with respect to opening up facilities as restrictions ease.

Insurers are experiencing an increase of claims being brought, in respect of COVID-19 infections, where the claimant is alleging that someone else has been negligent in some way and that resulted in them, the claimant, contracting the virus.

Whilst it is not possible to prevent a claim being brought in the first instance, as this the individual claimant’s right/prerogative, having a robust risk management approach that can be evidenced through your risk assessments and safe operating protocols will increase the likelihood that the claim can be defended.

This short briefing note provides some guidance as to the risk factors and mitigation that you will need to give consideration to in that risk assessment process, as you start to reopen facilities and move towards a more ‘business as usual’ outlook going forward.

Eased restrictions/rules

Whilst there may be what appear to be hard deadlines for the removal of ‘law based’ restrictions and rules, the Government has made it clear that best practice guidance designed to reduce the potential transmission of the COVID-19 virus will remain and, wherever practical, organisations and businesses should still factor these arrangements and mitigations into their risk assessments.

The need to consider the hazards associated with the COVID-19 virus, as part of your general risk assessment, is not waived immediately restrictions are lifted in the wider daily life context and, in fact, is likely to remain for the short to medium term future.

Council Meetings

One of the first matters you are likely to be considering, if not done already, is how to recommence ‘in person’ council meetings.

This should be considered using your COVID-19 risk assessment and we would strongly recommend maintaining:

  • Minimal direct personal contact and a degree of social distancing, i.e. no handshaking or other physical greeting, 1m minimum social distancing where practical, including seating arrangements
  • Wearing of facemasks/coverings when entering and leaving the room
  • Provision of hand sanitising facilities at entrances and exits
  • Cleaning materials available to wipe down surfaces before and after meetings
  • Adequate ventilation through the room during the meeting

Hiring out of facilities

When hiring out your own facilities to third parties for events such as birthday parties, other organisation meetings, etc., you will need to review your hire agreements to reflect the roles and responsibilities of each party to the contract in light of the best practice guidance.

If you are the premises provider, owner or landlord;

  • In discharging your duties under the Occupiers Liability Act(s) you will be expected to ensure the premises are fit for purpose/use before each hire, including making arrangements to present/hand them over to the individual or organisation hiring in a clean and hazard free condition.
  • It would be prudent to provide basic cleaning equipment at the premises, e.g. wipes, disinfectant sprays and paper towels, together with instructions as to the expectations of the hirer in leaving the room(s)/facility in a clean and safe condition after use.
  • Establish post hire checks, together with additional cleaning if required, before the next hire of the room(s)/facility.

If your organisation is hiring facilities from another, for the purpose of holding meetings etc., then the suggested mitigations outlined above work, in effect, in reverse. Engage with your landlord/hirer to agree each other’s roles and responsibilities in advance and ensure that you follow and implement the controls agreed.

This is just one guide available for free in the Resource Centre of Came & Company’s web site.

DALC’s Covid-19 advice can be found here and NALC’s Covid-19 advice is available here.

Kevin Millard – Regional Representative for Devon

Direct Tel. 01483 462 897

The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only. The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information.