Since management made the decision to rush into the opening of the jobcentres to the public we have been pushing for proper consultation on the content of the Covid-19 Jobcentre Customer Facing Risk Assessment.
We have had some constructive meetings and have improved the content significantly. There are still a number of sticking points so we were not able to agree the Covid-19 JCFRA but this version should help improve the consultation at site level on the local content of the JCFRA. Management are also giving a clear steer in their communications that the best way to get a good quality JCFRA completed is for the site management to jointly discussing the content with the local health and safety rep(s). Reps should fully participate and engage in the JCFRA process to ensure that control measures are properly discussed and implemented to make the jobcentres as safe as possible for all staff whether DWP staff, security guards and cleaners as well as the public. Reps can include a disclaimer to confirm they have been fully involved in the risk assessment process where this has taken place but are unable to sign off the completed risk assessment as the main control measure to eliminate the risk would be to keep the doors shut to the public and not reopen.
Any JCFRAs that have already been done must be reviewed to incorporate the content of this new version. This new JCFRA Covid-19 addendum covers all the areas that the covid-19 JCFRA dealt with in April. So all the control measures to deal with the covid-19 risks should be carried over into this review and put onto this latest JCFRA form. All sites should have their normal pre-pandemic JCFRA and one covid-19 JCFRA covering all the risks,
No Jobcentres should re-open unless all the control measures are fully implemented
It is important for reps to fully participate in the JCFRA process to ensure that all the issues in the site are fully discussed and control measures clearly discussed on what is needed to address the risks of each particular site and to stress that all control measures need to be fully implemented. If there is any doubt about all the control measures being in place the doors should remain closed whilst any issues are dealt with and the control measures are implemented.
Whilst this message has been stressed to PCS at national level that no Jobcentre will be re-opened until it is safe to do so, we are aware that site managers are being put under pressure to open sites quickly. The safety of staff and the public is paramount in this rollout and we will support site managers ensuring that all safety measures are properly implemented in sites.
All measures should take into account the risks both for unacceptable customer behaviour but also for Covid-19 too. PCS has been clear that in some instances covid-19 is being weaponised by the public and UCB incidents like spitting at or coughing over our members could have life impacting consequences. Many of the normal control measures to keep staff safe may work fine with one aspect of the risks but they need to work for both covid-19 risks and UCB.
Limiting caller numbers
The emphasis should continue to be using other channels and not face to face contact with the public and all contact with the public should be pushing telephony and digital channels. We have raised that we want this included in the CHRA and the guidance for all staff to avoid encouraging the public to call into the jobcentres. The safest place to deliver services to the public is for them to remain at home whilst we support them.
When the checks are done for over the phone before an appointment and when the claimant arrives at the jobcentre to see if the claimant or anyone in their household has covid-19 symptoms, it must be made totally clear that there will be no repercussions on anyone’s benefit for not attending an appointment when they need to self-isolate. We see this as an essential control measure to avoid the spread of coronavirus but management did not want to include this in the JCFRA covid-19. The pre-appointment phone call should also highlight to the claimant what the arrangements are in the site to protect everyone from the risk of covid-19 and that the claimant should attend by themselves and that face coverings will be available. It also gives the opportunity if the claimant has safety concerns about travelling to and attending the jobcentre to offer contact via other channels instead.
Daily meetings before opening doors
Each morning before opening there should be a meeting of all staff including the guards and the cleaners to ensure there is full coverage of all job roles for all the opening times. If there is any problem with cover of any of the job roles which are all essential to the safety of the site, the site should not open and appointments The opening hours should be adjusted if there is not full coverage of the normal opening hours then safety considerations could look at limited opening hours when there is full coverage of all the job roles. For example, if there is a problem with the cleaner arriving on site the site should not open until a replacement cleaner arrives, given how important this job role is and the fact that the work needs to be done properly. The meeting can discuss any snags that have arisen through live opening and ensure things work smoothly and safely.
Local factors – keep opening under review.
The opening of the jobcentre should be kept under review and anything that could impact on the safety of the site must be taken into account and if it is safe to keep the doors open to the public. This could include local spikes of covid-19 cases, local lockdown measures or staffing issues.
Exterior of the jobcentre
The blanket message that we cannot put signage outside in the public areas or pavements has been changed. The government guidance is that local businesses should work with local authorities and neighbouring businesses in how the exterior and social distancing can be managed. This could include 2m distanced points to queue and safe access and egress of sites being marked out. Stickers to do this can be ordered from the catalogue.
Screened welcome desk, podium, focal point
Management are working on a range of options to provide a physical welcome point for every site. This point would need to be safely screened as well. There needs to be a variety of options because there is huge variation in layout of our sites and this point needs to be as close to the entrance as possible.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done to triage callers which is why we have reached agreement with management that this needs to be a physical point. The claimants should have been already asked if they or anyone in their household have symptoms before they get to the triage point. The claimants should be asked the reason for their visit and referred to other channels wherever possible to reduce the numbers that will be seen face to face. The Staff Protect List should be checked for all callers. Contact details need to be taken for all callers for track and trace and that should include everyone who comes into contact with any staff and including those who leave to use other channels. There needs to be a contact list kept for visitors as well as a staff register with each day clearly marked. These lists for track and trace should be stored safely for 21 days.
PPE and safety
All staff working in the front of house and triage area must have pendant/portable alarms. The potential for the security guards and the floorwalkers coming within 2 metres of the public is high and this is likely to be the situation which riskiest in terms of covid-19 transmission- face to face and talking. All staff should work to maintain 2 metres social distancing at all times but we recognise this can be difficult to maintain for staff in some job roles dealing with the public. Reps should work to ensure that control measures are put in place for all staff doing the front of house work to avoid the risk of contracting and transmitting covid-19 and this should include wearing of facemasks and visors for all staff working without a screen. PCS believes this needs to be PPE and are disappointed that management are dismissing this huge risk to our members and only providing face coverings and visors to staff. We have previously had confirmation that FFP2 facemasks were being provided to staff who might need to breach the 2 metres to undertake their job role which would provide mitigation for the contracting or transmission of covid-19. Management have point blank refused to provide facemasks of this quality for the staff to use in jobcentres. And in fact the face coverings that are arriving in sites seem to be of dubious quality with labels like fun masks which is further incensing our members that scant regard is being paid to health and safety. PCS will continue pressing for PPE to be provided to staff in jobcentres and in the meantime reps should press to include the wearing of visors and facemasks as a control measures for all the staff working without screens and that they need to be worn.
PCS pressed that all claimants should be required to wear face coverings whilst in the jobcentre. Management refused to agree this. However, since our meetings there have been further measures announced about other public area and the wearing of face coverings and we will keep raising this issue. Whilst this is a measure to protect everyone from the Covid-19 risk we do also recognise that it could have an impact on the UCB safety measures as face coverings will impact the identification of individuals in CCTV footage.
Safe route ways should be fully discussed in the JCFRA and marked out on the floor to help manage the flow of people around the Jobcentre. Different coloured tape could be used to help mark the routes to the interview desks - follow the blue tape to desk 1 etc. – to keep everyone 2 metres apart. One way systems should be put in place where this is possible. At all times the staff sat at unscreened desks, the staff safe routes and access to staff common areas should be factored into safe routes for the public to use around the office. No one should be put at risk by coming into less than 2m contact. The safe people flow around the office is likely to impact on the safe maximum capacity levels for the site.
PCS has raised serious concerns about the safety of the screens that are being installed in jobcentres with a number which have been smashed during the installation. In one instance pieces of broken glass were projected 5 metres when a screen smashed in the NE. PCS has not been assured by management’s assertions that the quality of the glass screens is robust enough to deal with UCB threats. The design of the screens and the lack of flexibility in the way they are attached to desks means there are problems with fixing the screens to some of the desks in jobcentres. They are clamped to the desks so a daily check of the screens is now included in the JCFRA and that they are firmly fixed to the desks. The size of the screens and the fact that there are only 2 fixings at the bottom means that they do waggle quite considerable which does no inspire confidence either. There should be local discussion with the H&S reps about where the screens should be located. Ideally this should be done after the JCFRA has been discussed but the haste to rush in the changes means that in a lot of sites this is being done the wrong way around. All staff should continue to work to 2 metre social distancing as the screens are an additional measure to this and are not sufficient in themselves to keep the staff and the public safe from the risk of transmission.
All sites will have an extra cleaner who will be working throughout the opening hours to keep all the touchpoints clean and also thoroughly clean the interview points and WAD workstations between claimants. Chairs for claimants should be switched for plastic chairs from upholstered chairs to help aid this cleaning. Whilst hot desking should be avoided – if there is a rotation of staff seeing the public the cleaners must thoroughly clean the staff desks between users too. Appointment timings should take into account the extra cleaning that needs to be done between individuals and avoid the overlap between claimants turning up for appointments early. As the cleaning products are potential weapons the cleaners need to be aware of the risk of using these products in a public area and take care that no one has the opportunity to grab these sprays. Cleaners’ safety is important as they will be in the public area cleaning all day and this should be factored into the site control measures. There needs to be safe measures for the collection and disposal of waste which arises from the covid-19 safety measure.
The hand sanitiser units need to be fixed securely and screwed to the wall rather than using the adhesive or Velcro fixings to avoid their use as potential missiles. The batteries are difficult to insert and need to be installed correctly or there is a risk of shorting. This is even more important given the fact that the hand sanitiser is flammable. The public should be advised that the sanitiser is flammable to avoid any potential accidents if they were to smoke after using.
New LIMP scenarios
There are 2 specific LIMP scenarios developed around COVID-19 and these should be done before sites are reopened to refresh awareness of the risks to staff who have mainly been doing non face to face working for the past period.
BAME risk assessment and individual issues
The BAME risk assessment must be done properly and all BAME staff must be given the opportunity to do this. Full PCS guidance on this is included in other group bulletins.
The JCFRA also repeats the Government guidance that employers should be maximising the support for staff to work from home and increase the opportunities to work from home by providing the equipment to do so. The change in work for the jobcentre staff by reopening the doors to the public may create problems for individuals and members should raise these with their team leader. Local reps can help individual members take up their issues and find ways for management to address these.
A specific Co-Lo Covid-19 JCFRA is being currently being negotiated which will cover all the issues in this new Covid-19 JCFRA and the specific risks in the co-located sites. Management should await this new risk assessment form before proceeding.
It is disappointing that we were not able to reach agreement on the Covid-19 JCFRA in the talks. The sticking points were about the provision of PPE to the staff in the front of house and the fact that management did not want to include the specific reference when we are asking if anyone has symptoms that the message should be clearly delivered that not attending an appointment will have no repercussions on their benefit as they must self-isolate. It is also disappointing to see that the Q&A does not reflect the progress made in talks that all sites need to have a screened welcome desk, podium or focal point and solutions are being sought to ensure that all sites can have this.
It is vital that we push for the JCFRAs to be done as a joint process and all aspects should be jointly discussion between site managers and local H&S reps with a view to agreeing what control measure should be put in place. Where the rep on site is new they can get support to do the JCFRA in the meetings from more experienced H&S reps dialling or skyping in.