Apr 20th, 2020
10 mins

Social distancing measures are steps you can take to reduce the social interaction between people in any environment. As a country, we all need to do what we can to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. That is why the government has given clear guidance on social distancing. This guidance is helping reduce the spread of the virus and reduce the mounting pressure on our National Health Service, allowing those most acutely affected with COVID-19 to access the care they need.

Manufacturing plays an important role in the economy. It can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.

Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.

If you decide the work should continue, staff should work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face if possible.

You should increase the frequency of cleaning procedures, pausing production in the day if necessary, for cleaning staff to wipe down workstations with disinfectant.

You should assign staff to the same shift teams to limit social interaction.

You should not allow staff to congregate in break times; you should consider arrangements such as staggered break times so that staff can continue to practice social distancing when taking breaks.

You should communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more at the beginning and end of every break, when they arrive at work and before they leave. To help with this, you should consider adding additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities, providing soap, water and/or hand sanitiser.

When entering and leaving, you should ensure your workforce stays 2 metres apart as much as possible. To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.

The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances. This may be best evaluated by the premise’s manager with assistance from the health & safety team, however a few general indicators may be relevant to the majority of retail outlets:

  • use additional signage to ask employees not to enter the premises if they have symptoms
  • regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded
  • use floor markings inside the commercial spaces to facilitate compliance with the social distancing advice of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills
  • use vertical signage to direct customers into lanes if feasible to facilitate movement within the premises while maintaining 2 metre distance
  • make regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly
  • place plexiglass barriers if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers
  • provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser

Food safety practices in food processing plants should continue to be delivered to the highest hygiene standards including the use of some personal protective equipment and frequent hand washing.

All employers are expected to follow social distancing guidance, including food businesses, as far as is reasonably possible. Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, employers should consider what measures may be put in place to protect employees. Once staff have left the food processing areas and removed protective clothing, social distancing and further hand washing guidance should be adhered to.

The policy around Social Distancing is continually being reviewed based on new information that becomes available, please refer to government advice for the most up to date information. (Government advice for Food producing establishments)

Where possible and practical, personnel should be asked to work from home – particularly relevant for office workers. This has the added benefit of reducing the number of personnel, and hence risk, to those remaining on site.
Clocking in areas can lead to personnel in close proximity. Consider start/finish times being staggered to avoid a mass rush.

Consider markings on the ground to encourage appropriate levels of distancing – this should be 2m.
Where possible allow a buffer area to avoid close congregation of personnel.

All employers are expected to follow social distancing guidance as far as reasonably possible.

Where the production environment makes it difficult to do so, employers should consider what measures can be put in place to protect employees – this should be reviewed, and necessary mitigation steps introduced where possible.
Consider time segregation, running line slower for longer, or physical segregation, eg Perspex panels to segregate workstations (remember, they need to be cleanable).

Factory canteens are a key opportunity for personnel to congregate and invade social distancing.

Consider staggering breaks, providing additional space to allow personnel to spread out more or taking breaks in personal cars (important to remind colleagues to sanitise their cars regularly). Changing areas can also lead to clustering of people; consider PPE being laid out for people to provide quicker, easier access, or consider locker blocks being reorganised. Review smoking areas – staggered breaks or extend the smoke areas to allow appropriate distancing, use spacings on the ground to direct personnel.

Corridor areas – consider use of ‘one way’ traffic flows, or ‘keep left’ flows to minimise contact, confusion and reduce time spent in confined areas.

NIFDA Good Manufacturing Practice Covid-19

The English government has since updated this guidance as from 11/05/2020 please see:



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