UKHSA publishes new recommendations for COVID-19 infection prevention and control

The UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) has published new recommendations to support infection prevention and control of COVID-19.

Published: 04 October 2021 Health & safety

The UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) have published new recommendations for COVID-19 infection prevention and control.

Key messages from the recommendation include:

  • Re-adopting standard rather than enhanced cleaning procedures. The recommendation that enhanced cleaning can be discontinued in agreed low risk areas such as planned or scheduled elective care and providers can revert to standard cleaning procedures between patients. WHO and other international authorities have stated that there is currently limited evidence on transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via surfaces. The Independent Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) has advised that hand hygiene is likely to be more effective than enhanced cleaning for reducing transmission via contaminated surfaces, which has benefits for preventing other disease transmission and reduces healthcare burdens.
  • Staff working in areas where COVID-19 control measures have been relaxed should be fully vaccinated asymptomatic and not a contact of a positive case. Staff will be required to continue to comply with the current guidance on asymptomatic testing. Rigorous adherence to routine IPC precautions by all staff remains critical for patient safety and must continue to be implemented.
  • Reduction from 2m to pre pandemic level distances for patients in ‘low risk pathways’

The Society have some concerns about this change in advice and firstly stress that any change in workplaces as per the above recommendations would need to be seen in updated risk assessments first. Whilst it is the responsibility of the employer to carry out risk assessments and not of our elected safety reps, our reps do have an important part to play in the process. Our safety reps and members have a wealth of experience and a detailed knowledge of the workplace and the jobs that are being done.

Our safety reps being consulted around any changes to workplace risk assessments is therefore imperative and HSE guidance to employers is to involve employees and their reps throughout the risk assessment processes. This ties into the duty on employers in the Safety Reps Regulations 4 A (1)(A) to consult with safety reps, in good time, on any matter that may have a substantial effect on the health and safety of employees. Other rights our reps have is to make representations on specific and general matters (SRSC reg.4 (1) (c and d) and to inspect after a substantial change in working conditions (SRSC reg 5 (2). A good guide to risk assessments can be found here A4_STI (

As stated above, the duty is on the employer to protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect workers and others from coronavirus (COVID-19). We know that Coronavirus can transfer from people to surfaces and it can be passed onto others who touch the same surfaces, which makes thorough and continual cleaning imperative.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on cleaning is very clear and states the necessity to identify frequently touched surfaces such as doors, bannisters, buttons and anything that is frequently touched, especially if it's touched by lots of people, may need more regular cleaning than normal. Examples of frequently touched objects include:

  • work surfaces like desks, platforms and workstations
  • handles on doors, windows, rails, dispensers and water coolers
  • common areas like toilets, reception, changing rooms, corridors and lifts 
  • control panels for machinery, control pads and switches
  • computer keyboards, printers, touch screens, monitors and phones
  • taps, kettles, water heaters, fridges, microwaves and cupboards
  • shared equipment like tools, machines, vehicles, pallet trucks and delivery boxes
  • post and goods coming in or being shipped out

Cleaning regimes could involve deep and periodic cleaning, with deep cleaning identified as a thorough clean of all frequently touched surfaces at least once a day.

To view the updated UKSHA recommendations, please see here.

If you have any queries about the support SoR Health & Safety Reps can provide, please contact our Health and Safety Policy Officer Rhys Martin.