The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced it is restarting “proactive” inspections, as a large proportion of the country returns to work following the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The move follows a government announcement of more cash for the organisation and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, promising the regulator would carry out “spot inspections” to make sure businesses were safe places to work. The HSE stopped carrying out routine inspections after the lockdown announcement in March, despite many sectors such as construction & warehousing continuing to operate. In early April, the organisation warned that it would take action over sites / workplaces and issue fines for non-compliance with social-distancing measures, but it has yet to do so.
This is despite 5,000 reports of Coronavirus-related workplace issues being received via the HSE website between 9 March and 7 May. In addition, there have been 198 RIDDOR reports of dangerous occurrences and 71 fatal disease reports relating to Coronavirus across all industries in the same period.
No enforcement notices relating to Coronavirus have yet been issued, but an HSE spokesman insisted that on “many occasions” after it started investigating complaints, firms took action that meant enforcement notices were not needed and that the required measures and controls had been put in place to improve health and safety standards since the complaint was made, or that the companies had suspended works before any action could be taken against them.
An HSE spokesperson said:
‘Inspectors continue to visit workplaces following up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace including over COVID and ensuring compliance. On the spot inspections are resuming imminently.’
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that the HSE could access extra funding of up to £14m, which could be used for “extra call-centre employees, inspectors and equipment”. The HSE spokesman said the organisation was putting together plans on how to use the money to help “manage this unprecedented health risk”.
On the 13 May 2020, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons:
“We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers and are COVID-secure and COVID-compliant. The Health and Safety Executive will be enforcing that, and we will have spot inspections to make sure that businesses are keeping their employees safe. It will, of course, be open to employees who do not feel safe to raise that with not just their employers but the HSE as well.”
Accordingly, it is crucial that employers ensure that their workplace is as safe as reasonably possible and they have followed the relevant ‘Working safely during COVID-19…’ government guidelines. To assist in this regard, we have developed a COVID-19 Health & Safety Toolkit comprising of the following:
- General Risk Assessment Template
- Site Inspection Template
- Individual Risk Assessment Template for Vulnerable Persons
- Inspection Template for Office Premises
- Accompanying guidance
- One hour of advice from our qualified and experienced Health & Safety Consultant, Paul Brown, regarding the tailoring of the documents to your specific environment, or on any other related Health & Safety matter (by telephone, email and / or virtual meeting)
The Toolkit will help employers to:
- identify and evaluate the risks present in their workplace and operation
- decide what measures are required to adequately control these risks
- record their actions
- communicate the Coronavirus-related safety measures they’re taking to employees