This document sets out Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s response to the risks associated with Covid-19 to its staff, volunteers and visitors, including contractors and temporary workers, as well as any members of the public who might be affected by the Trust’s operations. It does not seek to explain all the ins and outs of the virus as this information is widely available elsewhere, nor replace existing policy and practice ensuring, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of Trust staff and volunteers.
Covid-19 is a hazard; the virus is spread in minute water droplets that are expelled from the body through sneezing, coughing, talking and breathing. The virus can be transferred directly by inhalation or via the hands, and from there to surfaces, then from surfaces to the face (normally by touch). It can survive on surfaces for a period after transfer (depending on such things as the surface type, its moisture content and temperature). If contracted, while many survive infection and make a full recovery, some may die from the disease. This is a serious hazard and as of January 2021, in light of a further national lockdown daily cases have exceeded 60,000 per day and there is a new strain that has an increased transmissibility. What this means is that there is more Covid-19 cases in the population of which the diseases is now more infectious than at any point before.
People over the age of 60 or clinically vulnerable could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Some people, including those aged 70 and over, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions, and pregnant women, are clinically vulnerable. There is a further group of people who are defined, also on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, that is people with specific serious health conditions.
The assessment summarises the mitigation taken to reduce the risk, applying a hierarchy of control. Elimination is outside the control of the Trust, substitution is not possible.
Fig 1. Hierarchy of control methods (IOSH)
Mitigation is focussed on touchpoints and face-to-face contact. Workshops and offices are being re-organised to gradually allow more people to return to work whilst keeping staff apart, e.g. single occupancy offices, separate tool storage areas. Staff toilets within offices are allocated to a defined small group of individuals during the working day and cleaned before the start of the next day. Toilets on nature reserves remain closed. Vehicles are not shared; staff either use their own vehicle to travel to/from work (not public transport) or a Trust vehicle, which is allocated to a single member of staff. If a vehicle does need to be used by another person, it is cleaned before they use it.
Our main way to reduce risk to our staff and volunteers is to keep numbers of people in any one area to a minimum. Working from home is the priority for all staff where this is possible. If this is not practical then there is a limit set for the number of people in offices and workshops at any one time and this is administered via a booking system. Information on handwashing is provided and systems in place for cleaning touchpoints. Social distancing is maintained within buildings. Signage has been put in place in offices and on the busier nature reserves, to remind visitors to keep their distance from each other and staff.
Certain types of work may not be safely carried out by one person. Should social distancing not be able to be maintained, there will be an agreed system in place to limit the time and frequency spent on the task, ensure the area is well ventilated and ensure it is the same team if it has to be repeated.
From 6th January 2021 our visitor centre and shop at Brandon Marsh will be closed to the public. The Parkridge centre and reserve will be closed and the cafe will only offer a takeaway service, in line with the law. All other nature reserves remain open. Practical management of our nature reserves will be reduced to staff and contractor delivery only and all practical volunteering will be suspended. Outreach sessions and events are paused whilst lockdown is in place but activities that provide support through one to one mutual aid, therapy or other forms of support that assist with peoples’ mental health continue where safe to do so.
Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment has been the subject of much debate nationally. Following the risk control hierarchy, it is recognised as a last resort, PPE is the final protection an organisation relies upon to protect its workforce. Only where all previous controls (engineered and administrative) have proven insufficient to protect people, should it be considered.
The Trust has implemented a procedure to ensure that volunteering activities adhere to the Trust’s Covid-19 policy and government guidance by creating a Volunteer Safe Operating Policy and Procedure. Whilst volunteering is legally permitted under current lockdown rules, the Trust will assess the essential nature of the work being undertaken and reserves the right to suspend volunteering activity or alter the approach to how volunteering continues under the stricter but permissible rules. All volunteers must read, understand and acknowledge this document before returning and have a Safe System of Work in place either individually or for the group they are volunteering with. The measures within these protocols mirror those that apply across the organisation. This is reviewed and monitored frequently.
Monitoring and Reporting
It is recognised that there will be reduced supervision and oversight of working practice as a direct result of implementing social distancing measures. Line managers will undertake increased contact with staff and volunteers by telephone, request feedback from staff and ensure compliance and monitoring of controls.
With the guidance changing on Covid-19 almost daily, this assessment will need to be regularly reviewed and updated. As a minimum this will be undertaken by the Senior Management Team at their monthly meetings. Changes to working practice will be phased and communicated. A step-by-step approach will require consultation with staff and approval of the Chief Executive or in their absence a member of the Senior Management Team.
The Trust are constructing COVID-19 risk assessments and safe systems of work to be implemented alongside existing risk management policies and procedures. These will be reviewed on a regular basis in order to comply with the latest government instruction and advice.