Employers are required by law to manage health and safety in the workplace.

Each organisation has their own ways of doing this and the roles of individual risk assessors can be different. However, risk assessments must now take coronavirus into consideration.  

Government guidance highlights five key points an employer must implement as soon as is practical. The list states that employers should carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions. If you have employees with sight loss there are some particular areas you should consider as part of your risk assessment.

1. Risk assessments should address tasks, and everyone involved

The legislation requires employers to identify groups that might be at risk of harm, but telling someone that “you must be risk assessed” sends out a negative message. It sounds much more positive to tell someone that activities are being assessed.

2. The individuals involved must be consulted

Make sure that you involve your staff or their representatives in the process. Your blind or partially sighted employee is usually the best person to describe how their sight loss affects them and you should be tap into that knowledge.

3. Adjustments should be considered as part of the process

Employers have a responsibility to make “reasonable adjustments” to working practices and physical features. This is likely to include the provision of auxiliary aids and changes to make the workplace accessible. This might be beyond your area of responsibility as a risk assessor, but you must be prepared to take proposed changes into account.

4. Don’t make assumptions about the level of someone’s functional vision

Most blind people have some useful vision. Asking the individual to describe their sight is often the best way to gather information to assess risk. Professionals who work with blind and partially sighted people at work can be another source of information. You should not make assumptions. 

5. Social distancing 

Employers should, where possible, maintain the designated social distancing space – that is, in every part of the workplace including corridors etc.

Blind or partially sighted people may find social distancing difficult if they are unable to see their colleagues.  If this is the case the onus should be placed on colleagues to make their colleagues with sight loss aware of their presence and keep to the appropriate distance.

There are lots of things to consider to ensure you do everything possible to get social distancing in the workplace right.

These include thinking about:

  • entrances and exits
  • the layout of the office itself
  • how you deal with visitors
  • travel
  • catering
  • communications.

We have put together a factsheet with a whole range of areas that your risk assessment should address. This should prove a good starting point.

Download the risk assessment factsheet