The British Woodworking Federation Group
Safe Operation of Businesses

Safe Operation of Businesses

These FAQs were last updated on 25th September 2020 and are intended to provide an overview for BWF members. We would recommend reading these FAQs in conjunction with the ‘Working safely during coronavirus’ guidance provided by the government – click here. 

It is important to note that face coverings should not provide a false sense of security. It remains essential that social distancing and general hygiene practices are still followed as the primary control measure to minimise the chance of contracting the virus.


Do I need to carry out a risk assessment?

Yes and they must be in line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance .Employers have a duty to reduce Covid-19 related workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Employers must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected.

The BWF has produced a Covid-19 Secure Risk Assessment to help member businesses work through a variety of steps to help them carry out their own Covid-19 Secure Risk Assessment. It’s crucial that the Covid-19 Risk Assessment is continually reviewed and any changes in the workplace documented, and the Risk Assessment updated. Members can download the Covid-19 Secure Risk Assessment by logging into their member account and clicking here.

If you do not carry out a risk assessment, the HSE or your local council can issue an enforcement notice.

Do I have to share the results of my Covid-19 Risk Assessment?

It is important you share the results of your Covid-19 Risk Assessment with your workforce. There is an expectation from Government that a notification is displayed in a prominent place in your business to show you have taken steps to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. If you do not have a notice, you can download one from the Government website – click here. 

In line with Government Guidance it states that if possible, you “should” consider publishing the results of your Covid-19 Secure Risk Assessment on your website and if you are an employer with over 50 employees, the Government “expect” to see the results of the Risk Assessment on your website. Therefore we would recommend a company publishes a Simple Statement of the Covid-19 Risk Assessment they have carried which clearly shows they are taking steps in relation to reducing the transmission of the Coronavirus seriously, detail the steps taken (this can be in list format) and provide a final summary.

Where can I access official government advice?

The government have published 14 guides covering a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe. Further guidance will be published as more businesses are able to reopen.

All of the guides can be accessed here  and we believe the most relevant ones for BWF members are as follows:

– Construction and other outdoor work

– Factories, plants and warehouses

– Offices and contacts centres

– Other people’s homes

– Vehicles 

The government are supporting local restrictions to maintain the spread of COVID-19. Businesses can still operate but may be subject to additional sanctions. For more information visit the local restrictions section of the government website – click here.

What is the official definition of a face covering and is it classed as PPE?

A face covering can be a covering of any type, except a face shield, that covers the mouth and nose. It is recommended that it be made of cloth or other textiles and should be two, and preferably three layers thick, and through which you can breathe.
Face shields may be used, but only if they are worn in addition to a face covering underneath, as the evidence shows that they do not provide adequate protection.

Face coverings are not classified as PPE (personal protective equipment) which is used in a limited number of settings to protect wearers against hazards and risks, such as surgical masks or respirators used in medical and industrial settings.

Face coverings are instead largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

What is the latest guidance on the use of face coverings?

Guidance on the use of face coverings has recently been updated. England updated its guidance on 23rd September 2020; Scotland and Wales updated guidance on 22nd September 2020. As of 25th September 2020, we are still waiting on an update from Northern Ireland.

In general each devolved nation has slightly different rules and exemptions, for example young children, customers assisting lip readers and customers with certain disabilities or health conditions may be exempt from wearing face coverings. You should therefore refer to the additional information provided on the links below to confirm the exemptions relevant to you.


Face coverings are required to be worn by customers in most indoor premises and on public transport.

– From 24th September, it will be compulsory for retail, leisure and hospitality staff to wear a face covering in areas that are open to the public and where they come or are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public, i.e. in customer facing areas (including trade counters in builders and plumbers merchants and showrooms).

– Also in line with Government guidance on premises providing hospitality, face coverings must be worn in canteens except when seated at a table to eat or drink.

– The full list of premises and the exemptions are summarised on the Government website – click here. 


Face coverings are required by staff and customers on public transport, public transport premises and any premises which are open to the public including retail, hospitality, leisure and beauty premises.

– This includes trade counters in builders and plumbers’ merchants.

– Exemptions can be found on the Scottish Government website – click here.


Face coverings are required by staff and customers in all indoor public places including retail, hospitality, leisure and beauty premises.

– This includes trade counters in builders and plumbers’ merchants.

Exemptions can be found on the Welsh Government website – click here.

Northern Ireland:

– Face coverings are required on public transport and within shops and shopping centres.

– Face coverings are not mandatory where you are able to maintain social distancing by using a system of ticketing or appointments e.g. cinemas or a hairdresser, in gyms for aerobic exercise.

Exemptions can be found on the Northern Ireland Business website – click here.


There is no requirement for face coverings to be worn by staff where you can meet social distancing requirements. If you cannot meet social distancing requirements and believe staff may be in close contact with one another and/or customers for more than 15 minutes where there is no alternative mitigation, then you should review your risk assessment. Face coverings in accordance with the hierarchy of control should always be considered a last resort.

What should I do if a customer/supplier refuses to wear a face covering?

In the event that a customer/supplier enters your premises without a face covering or with an incorrectly worn face covering then you should consider your options.

It’s important that you always consider the safety of yourself and other colleagues when challenging someone who refuses to wear a face covering. Here are some points for consideration:

1.There are certain exemptions to the requirement to wear a face covering e.g. younger children, customers assisting lip readers and customers with certain disabilities or health conditions. This should be taken into consideration before approaching the customer (see the exemptions above);

2.If appropriate, ask the individual to apply their face covering/adjust it correctly, if they claim that they are exempt this will need, in the first instance, to be taken at face value. If staff members believe that the individual is lying, then they should raise this with their manager and appropriate action be taken according to the business risk assessment;

3.If the individual refuses to apply a face covering correctly and it is appropriate to do so, then you should offer to deal with them outdoors in accordance with social distancing (2 metres);

4.If the individual refuses to cooperate then you should continue to help them and stay either behind a service counter with a screen or maintain social distancing (2 metres);

5.If you cannot serve the individual from behind a service counter with a screen or maintain social distancing of 2 metres, then you should wear a face covering and ensure that the transaction takes less than 15 minutes;

6.If you have had to get to stage 4 then you should report this to your line manager.  Your health and safety (and that of your customers/suppliers) is important. Your line manager should gather as much information as possible and a decision will be made on how to deal with this. This may involve (where appropriate) writing to their employer or barring them;

7.If at any stage any staff member feels that there is a real risk of verbal, or physical abuse, then the Police should be called.

Any instances, where staff must go beyond step 4, should be recorded as a near miss on the business risk assessment.

Is there guidance I should be issuing to employees who use public transport to travel to work?

Information is available for employers to share with their staff to help them plan their journey to and from work, which includes advice on car sharing where the use of face coverings is now recommended. For more information, click here.

Should we implement the Track and Trace App?

The official NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app for England and Wales has now been launched.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) are also saying the industry must lead the way in take up of this app and their press release can be found here

The Track and Trace App is reported to be the fastest way of knowing when you’re at risk from coronavirus. The quicker you know, the quicker you can alert your loved ones, and your community. The more that use the app, the more we will hopefully be able to control the spread of the virus.

To get started and to download the app , go to Android’s Google Play or Apple’s App Store and search for “NHS Covid-19”.

Member of Construction Products Association
National Specialist Contractors Council
Passive Fire Protection Federation
Trade Association Forum
The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products
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