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COVID-19 advice for re-opening guest accommodation safely

How to re-open guest accommodation safely after Covid-19

How to re-open guest accommodation safely after Covid-19

In the fifth blog of our series of reopening businesses, we turn our attention to hotels and guest accommodation. Here we outline the current government guidelines for mitigating the risk of coronavirus transmission to staff and customers for those running accommodation businesses. It is worth noting that this guidance is England specific and guidance varies from country to country. Additionally, any current COVID-19 mitigating policies should not override health and safety law and do not diminish employers’ responsibility to ensure equality and accessibility in the workplace. 

You must first complete a COVID-19 Risk Assessment to ensure you have thoroughly reflected on what actions you need to take to make your business COVID secure. You can read more about this and other general advice to businesses here. Where you hire your premises to a third party for an event or function, both the venue provider and event operator should conduct their own risk assessments and work together to allocate responsibility. 

Hotels and guest accommodation as a sector includes any premises that generates income from being rented or hired. There are many different types of accommodation and different guidance for each type to ensure safety. 

Where your accommodation offers additional services, have additional facilities or attractions attached, only those that are permitted within current guidelines should be open. These should each be operated in accordance with separate risk assessments specific to that setting. This includes following advice on serving food within bars and restaurants and through room service. You can read our guidance on Food Service Businesses here.

You can find further guidance from UK Hospitality here https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/COVID19SecureGuidelines and refer to full government guidance here https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/hotels-and-other-guest-accommodation

Reception and communal areas

In guest accommodation that offers reception and communal areas between households, reception areas should be kept clean, with screens and social distancing measures in place between guests and staff. Activity in these areas should be minimised and regular cleaning in place. Lift usage should be minimised and priority given to those with mobility issues. Clear signage and sanitizers should be made available. Premises should offer safe ventilation as much as possible, especially in common areas. Measures taken should be clearly communicated to guests and bar and dining areas should conform to guidance specific to that sector. Guests should be encouraged to wear face coverings in communal corridors and housekeeping procedures updated to focus on cleaning all contact surfaces, regular handwashing and clear lists to follow to ensure thorough cleaning between use.

Where accommodation offers room service, this should be offered outside the door and tips left on the bill. Keys should be cleaned between use. Items that guests may share, such as shared newspapers, should be removed. Shared ‘dormitory’ rooms should remain closed unless they are to be used by one exclusive household. 

Communally shared facilities such as kitchens and social areas should stay closed and shared showers should be assigned to one household each where possible. Where showers must be shared, they should be cleaned between use, kept clear of personal items and staggered using booking systems where feasible. Where toilets must be shared, a regular cleaning schedule should be implemented, thorough hand washing facilities provided and social distancing measures put in place. All shared facilities open to guests should be regularly cleaned throughout the day. Shared water points such as washing up areas must also be cleaned regularly.

Self Catering

Where guest accommodation comprises self catering, keys should be handed over in a socially distanced way and thoroughly cleaned between use. Properties should be cleaned and disinfected between stays with comprehensive checklists of all contact surfaces. Waste should be removed safely, minimising contamination to staff and surrounding areas.

Cleaning 

Prior to reopening all guest accommodations should be thoroughly cleaned and checked. Ventilation and air conditioning should be maintained and settings checked to ensure that they are working to the best effect for the property. Ventilation systems should be operating at maximum, and doors and windows kept open as much as possible. Air conditioning should not move air between areas of different parts of the building. 

Once reopened, guest accommodation, including all communal areas and toilets should be cleaned frequently. Particular attention should be paid to areas that are touched regularly such as door handles and light switches. Windows and doors should be kept open as much as possible to increase ventilation. 

Housekeeping should not take place with a guest in the room unless they are self isolating. In this situation additional measures should be taken to protect the safety of the staff member performing duties. The frequency of in-room services during a guests stay should be altered to minimise contact but ensure regular cleaning. 

Housekeeping should pay particular attention to the cleaning of all regularly touched surfaces and a comprehensive lists for staff members to follow should be produced. Items that are not needed by guests can be removed to reduce surfaces requiring cleaning. Those items that can be removed and cleaned between guests should be, such as cups and glasses. Towels and bedding should be washed and replaced between uses.

UK Hospitality has further guidance on cleaning in hotel and other guest accommodation environment and further advice on cleaning of non healthcare settings can be found here.

Kitchen and food serving areas should be cleaned to the highest hygiene standards. There is more specific guidance on this in our recent blog for food businesses here.

Good hand-washing is a key tool in the fight against coronavirus and as such should take priority in measures taken within your business. Offering increased hand washing provision, along with clear signage to encourage hygienic use thereof, is key. Toilets should be well supplied with hand-washing materials, hygienic disposal of waste and clear social distancing measures in place. Clear markings, regular cleaning with a visible cleaning schedule and sanitiser on entrance to toilets is recommended. As ever, ventilation should be maximised with doors and windows kept open as much as possible. 

Arriving and leaving venues

Guest accommodation businesses should communicate their plans and procedures to guests prior to their arriving on site via websites, booking process and confirmation emails or calls. Where queues for guests arriving may occur, a clear plan to manage queues in a socially distanced but safe way should be implemented. This should include encouraging queues outside wherever possible. Hand sanitiser or hand-washing facilities should be available on arrival and at key points of movement throughout the venue. Check in and out should be staggered to maintain social distancing and the arrival of other visitors such as contractors should be limited at busy times for guests. Introducing and encouraging the use of one way systems to keep guests apart will also help with this process. 

Booking systems should be updated to ensure relevant information for NHS Track and Trace systems can be followed. This includes names and contact details of guests as well as duration of stay and staff that they were served by. These records should be kept for 21 days and made available if required to assist with tracking and containing any outbreaks.                                                                                                                     

Businesses should work with neighbouring businesses, other venues, travel operators and local authorities to manage arrival and departure of guests. This should avoid bottlenecks and impact on others by considering how people arrive and the route they may take. Consideration should be given to the impact of multiple venues reopening on local traffic to the area. Working together to manage this may include reducing capacity at venues to ensure there is not an influx of people to the local area.

Groups of guests  Groups of guests should be limited to a group of no more than two households (or up to six people from different households if outside). Groups should never be more than 30 people in private homes as it is against the law. Permitted venues can host meetings of up to 30 people indoors where social distancing can be maintained. The venue must be able to demonstrate it has followed all COVID-19 guidance. Businesses, charitable or political organisations can host larger groups outside at businesses and venues where they have completed a risk assessment and follow all guidance to mitigate risk. Those operating venues or running events must take steps to prevent large gatherings from taking place. No indoor performances in front of a live audience, or indoor ‘grassroots’ sport should be held at a venue and the industry specific advice for outdoor performances must be followed including only professional singing and instrument playing.

Plans must take into consideration arrival and departure of guests to both the host venue and other local venues at the same time. Local authorities will not issue licenses for events that could encourage large groups forming. Venues hosting large gatherings could be closed by the government. Venues should take steps to  discourage guests from singing, chanting or shouting with actions such as removing background music so people do not have to raise their voice to talk. Dancing should also be discouraged by removing dance floors whilst reconfiguring venues. Expectations and guidelines should be communicated clearly to guests before and during their stay.

Venues with exhibition and conference spaces are allowed to conduct viewings in small groups to plan for future events from 1 August but are not yet allowed to host events. Advice for this area can be found via the following links: Visitor Economy guidance, Meetings Industry Association, UKHospitality guidance, Association of Event Organisers 

Meetings

Where possible business meetings should be held remotely. However, where your venue offers business meeting facilities, these can be hired but you must take precautions to reduce the risk of transmission at the venue. Social distancing must be maintained in meetings, through layout and physical distancing of attendees. Hand washing and sanitiser should be made available. Items at the meeting should not be shared and anyone with symptoms should not be in attendance. Where possible encourage meetings to be held outside or in well ventilated spaces. Meeting spaces should be cleaned thoroughly between uses and signage and instructions clear to all involved. These guidelines apply to both meetings held in your venue by the public, and internal meetings between staff.

Security

Guest accommodation providers should review their current security policies in light of the changes being made to their business to make it COVID secure. It is vital that security is not compromised but that current security measures are adapted to assist with social distancing measures. Examples include reviewing queues at screening and searching points, adapting physical searches to protect both the security staff and guests and reviewing access methods such as keypads to ensure cleanliness. Stewards and other security staff should feel safe to conduct their duties whilst maintaining security at your venue.

Method Grid is an effective tool to use when implementing security procedures. Creating a collaborative security policy that can be shared and updated easily amongst relevant members of staff will assist in ensuring your venue stays secure both to coronavirus and the usual security threats to your business.

COVID symptoms in guests

In the event that you have a guest displaying COVID symptoms whilst they are staying with you, you must know how to deal with them to prevent an outbreak. Guests should have clear instructions of the actions that they should take if they become unwell. Your policy could include asking the guest to clean their own rooms or make their own beds. You should take measures to prevent onward infection to other guests or staff members. 

Refer to specific guidance for dealing with symptomatic guests here.

Protecting your staff

Workers should continue to be supported to work from home if they can, especially if vulnerable or live with someone who is. The hospitality industry has a large proportion of staff required to return to the premises but administration staff may still be accommodated at home where feasible. You should provide equipment, access and support in order to facilitate this. 

Where vulnerable staff have to work on premises, additional measures should be taken including giving them low risk tasks away from other staff and guests. Where a member of staff displays symptoms of coronavirus, or lives with someone that does, employers must support them in self isolating in keeping with current trace and track policies. 

Ensure that all of your policies for working from home, or on premises, or during self isolation, support and make reasonable allowance for all staff and do not discriminate against anyone because of protected characteristics, particularly those who have disabilities and new or expectant mothers. 

Social distancing staff

Those that are working at your premises should maintain social distance as much as possible. Whilst at workstations staff should remain 2m away from other members of staff, and customers. Where reasonable social distancing measures cannot be implemented you should review whether the activity is essential for your business and how it can be removed or adapted to reduce risks. Activities where people do have to come into closer contact with one another should be limited in duration, with mitigating measures such as side by side working, increased hand washing and the introduction of screens. People should work with minimal numbers of other people and wherever possible in ‘fixed teams or partnering’ to ensure the number of people each person is coming in contact with is limited. All work spaces should be reviewed to introduce the maximum amount of space between workstations and reduce contact between staff members and between staff and the public. 

Staff shift patterns should be managed to allow for set groups of people or ‘bubbles’ of staff working together with minimal cross over so that transmission can be limited and outbreaks contained. 

Social distancing for staff must be implemented in all parts of the premises, including all staff areas and store rooms. Staff arrival and leaving work should be staggered, with hand washing at arrival and prior to departing. Staff should be encouraged to walk, cycle or drive to work rather than take public transport. Personal items should be stored separately and clean uniforms worn to each shift. Where facilities allow it, staff should change into their uniform after arrival, in socially distanced changing facilities. If laundry of uniform can be performed on site it should be. 

One way systems around the premises for staff should be implemented where possible, limiting contact at high traffic areas such as stairs and corridors and reducing capacity in shared areas such as lifts. Limit the amount staff members need to move around the venue, giving them allocated places to work and introducing communication and hand over points so that they do not have to move to other team members unnecessarily. 

Communal areas where staff take breaks should also be social distanced. Staff should be encouraged to take breaks outside but within the premises. Additional space within the premises should be utilized to create more space for breaks. Offering packed meals rather than canteen food and adjusting layouts to maximise social distancing will allow staff to remain onsite during breaks. Regular cleaning of communal staff areas should be carried out, with particular attention to toilets and other facilities.

Movement in and out of your business

The guest accommodation industry offers many opportunities for the transmission of the virus through goods and merchandise. Risk mitigation measures should be put in place to reduce these risks. Items should be cleaned as they enter the premises, along with equipment they come in contact with. This includes deliveries, merchandise and laundry. Those handling goods should conduct hand-washing before and after accepting deliveries. Work vehicles should be cleaned regularly, especially delivery vehicles and those that are taken home. Delivery drivers coming to your business should not be expected to leave their vehicles and where they require rest or toilet facilities they should be accommodated in as contact free way as possible. Where your business makes deliveries, these should be made by one person where possible and systems in place to minimise contact during delivery including contactless payment and paperwork. Work related travel should be kept to a minimum and where necessary conducted within private vehicles with minimum people travelling together. Work trips should be assessed and managed within guidelines. 

Accommodating needs

Employers must always pay particular attention to the needs of vulnerable members of staff, and those who have other disabilities or require additional support to do their jobs well. Expectations of staff should be clearly communicated and feedback encouraged and listened to. New layouts and systems should be clearly marked out and signposted for staff.

Consideration to the impact to staff of these measures should be given careful attention. Within the guest accommodation sector, staff working in reception areas should be supporting in the increased time check in and check out will take. Housekeeping should be given additional time and support to clean rooms thoroughly and safely. 

Employers should review their accident and emergency procedures to accommodate for new social distancing policies. Social distancing does not need to be maintained in the event of an incident where it would be detrimental to safety but measures should be put in place to thoroughly clean and reinstate social distancing as quickly as possible after the incident has passed. 

PPE should still be worn if currently used for safe work practices. The government does not advise the use of additional PPE. The UK Government advice states, ‘COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.’ Only where there is an extremely high risk of infection, for example whilst dealing with a symptomatic guest, should PPE be encouraged in the workplace. Employees should follow current guidance when wearing face coverings, namely in shops and on public transport. If a member of staff wishes to wear a face covering this should be supported by their employer.

Sector specific guidance

Further guidance can be found at the following sources: Visitor Economy guidance , UKHospitality, British Beer and Pub Association, National Caravan Council , British Holiday and Home Parks Association, Professional Association of Self Caterers, B&B Association, Short Term Accommodation Association, Country Land and Business Association

Communication

Once you have conducted your Risk Assessment and have clear policies and procedures in place for mitigating the risk to your guests and staff of infection from COVID-19, you must communicate these plans clearly to all those affected. This can be through signage throughout the premises, markings on the floors and walls and posters giving guidance. Guests can be emailed at booking and information made available via websites and social media as well as in rooms at the venue. 

Communication with staff should be collaborative and regularly reviewed based on their feedback. An online platform such as Method Grid is an excellent way of collating your Risk Assessments, plans and procedures in an easy to access way. Grids detailing your plans can be shared with teams and responsibilities for action allocated. If you have multiple premises these grids can be cloned to allow you to replicate and personalise your plans for each location. Additionally, if your venue has multiple facilities such as restaurants, spas and shops, you can clone your Risk Assessment and tailor it to each part of your business. 

Sign up for a free Method Grid account and check out the full range of functionality to see how it can help you make your business COVID secure today.

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