Reopening Checklist – FAQs

What are our legal responsibilities?
The legal framework for operating during the pandemic is set by government – Coronavirus Act (2020) and (in England) The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020.

Beyond this, we continue to operate under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and any new practices designed to prevent Covid 19 infection should be made in accordance with your Health and Safety Policy and a risk assessment framework.

You must also ensure that any changes you make continue to comply with the Equality Act (2010) and do not disadvantage disabled people in comparison with non-disabled people (and that you are making reasonable adjustments).

The sector (e.g. museum) guidance is advisory, rather than a legal framework.

How can we welcome volunteers back to the workplace safely?
This is covered in 3.1 of the Guidelines. Volunteers should only return to their roles in the museum if:

a) The correct legal framework is in place for reopening museums (Principle 1) and, where applicable, you follow current advice on protecting people who are at higher risk (this applies to paid staff and volunteers).

b) Volunteer activities and roles have been risk assessed and any mitigating measures – e.g. adaption to workspaces, training, enhanced hygiene practices are in place to ensure that they can carry out their volunteer work safely.

c) They are willing to return. Volunteers can decide whether they wish to return, and they should be included in consultation, training and communications about reopening.

d) Provision is made for maintaining volunteer wellbeing (including for those who may not be able to return).

What do we HAVE to do before reopening?
Every museum must carry out risk assessments to show how they will manage the risk of transmission of Covid-19 to provide a safe environment for staff, volunteers and the public. The solutions to this will depend on the circumstances, layout etc of your museum.

Section 6 of the Guidelines  provides a range of practical advice on the steps that you might want to consider to create a safe and secure environment.

What should we do about PPE (protective personal equipment)?
The Guidelines covers this under Section 5.

Where you are already using PPE at work for non-Covid specific risks you should continue to do so.

The Guidelines state that the risks of Covid 19 should firstly be managed through social distancing, hygiene and working in fixed teams before PPE is considered. It also covers when PPE may be useful when a high risk of Covid 19 transmission has been identified (e.g. for first aiders). The need for any PPE to reduce the risk of Covid transmission should be identified in your risk assessments.

What about face coverings?
On 31 July the Prime Minister announced that the government is extending the list of areas where face coverings will be mandatory in England, with these changes starting 8 August. In addition to shops, supermarkets and public transport as is currently the case, the Prime Minister mentioned face coverings will be made mandatory in a number of additional indoor settings, specifically mentioning museums. Further details will be set out in the coming days.

Additional guidance on face coverings is available in Section 5 of the Guidelines. Government guidance on face coverings is also available.

How can we manage social distancing?
The Guidelines state that we should maintain social distancing, where possible. Refer to section 3.4 for more information. Ways of maintaining social distancing at your museum include:
• putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance
• avoiding sharing workstations
• using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep social distance
• arranging one-way traffic through the workplace or museum space if possible
• use staff or volunteers to manage visitor flow in pinch point areas such as toilets

In circumstances where you cannot maintain social distancing, you can manage transmission risk (include this in your risk assessment) by measures including:

• considering whether to continue to perform the activity
• keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
• using screens or barriers to separate people from each other (NB there is no specification for these, they just need to form an effective barrier against coughs, sneezes etc.)
• using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
• staggering arrival and departure times for staff, volunteers and visitors
• reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’, this could also include keeping visitors in family groups.

How can we best manage visitor numbers? Do we need a ticketing system?
Social distancing is covered in 3.4 of the Guidelines. It is recognised that museums may not be able to accommodate their normal visitor capacity. Check what your building capacity is for fire regulations, or use social distancing rules.

The Guidelines  include practical ideas on managing visitor numbers in your museum effectively. This could include introducing timed tickets to avoid queues and breaching capacity in the museum. Consider using the systems you may already have in place for events and activities – from a phone booking system, to free use of Eventbrite through to specialist booking system software. Look at AIM Supplier’s Directory for examples.

I can’t find the exact answer to my question about reopening!
No guidance can possibly cover all the issues or considerations and challenges reopening might raise, but the Guidelines do include a wide range of scenarios. More detailed guidance and signposting to other resources on specific topics (for example the South East Museum Development Reopening Toolkit and examples of how other museums are tackling issues will be held by your Museum Development team, so do check out their website resources and get in touch.

How do we support collecting data for NHS Test and Trace?
A late addition to the development of the Guidelines was a request in Section 2.1 relating to Test and Trace, that museums should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of staff shift patterns, customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. 

AIM, working with the Museum Development Network, will provide additional guidance on how this might be approached, particularly for those museums who do not currently use pre-arrival visitor booking systems, and update on this as soon as practical.

NOTE Further UK Government Guidance on Track and Trace has now been made available here (July 2 2020).


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