The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced it is restarting ‘proactive’ inspections, as much of the country gets back to work after the lockdown was eased.
The safety regulator stopped carrying out spot-checks after the lockdown announcement in March, despite sectors such as construction continuing to operate.
More than 4,500 complaints were made to the watchdog between 9 March – when the first UK case of coronavirus was confirmed – and 3 May 2020.
The HSE advised Inspectors will continue to visit workplaces and will follow up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace including COVID and will be ensuring compliance is in place, with on the spot inspections are resuming imminently.
It confirmed it has responded to around 5000 workplace concerns and this will continue as more businesses return to work.
In his 10 May speech, prime minister Boris Johnson made available up to £14m for the HSE for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment during the easing of the lockdown, to support HSE’s capability to address an increased number of concerns and enquiries from workers, their families and employers alike.
One key way you can show that you are protecting your workforce is by following the Health and Safety at Work Act and government guidance on working safely during coronavirus.
As an employer must follow a number of steps to keep you safe at work. These are:
- assess the risks of coronavirus in your workplace by conducting a Covid-19 Risk Assessment, in consultation with workers and any unions
- set up a system to minimise or eliminate these risks
- implement these systems (it is not enough to set up a system, as an employer you must also follow through with it). For example, you have to have a policy of hand washing, but also provide enough sinks, hot water and soap; and
- review these systems regularly to ensure that they work
- you must should share their Covid-19 Risk Assessment with employees
There are many measures you can take to keep you workplace, employees and others not in your employment safe. These will depend on your workplace, but may include:
- Ensuring good ventilation in the workplace
- Staggering working hours and shifts, so that fewer people are in the workplace at any one time, and employees avoid rush hour on public transport
- Adding floor markings and signage to implement social distancing
- Setting up screens or barriers between workers
- Instructing employees to wash their hands as often as possible, for at least 20 seconds (and provide soap and hot water)
- Regularly deep cleaning the workplace
If social distancing cannot be followed in full when carrying out a certain activity, you must consider whether this activity is necessary for the business to operate. If it is, then they have to take all possible actions to reduce the risk of coronavirus when employees are carrying out this activity.
Remember, as an employer you have a legal duty to ensure the safety of your employees (and others coming to the work place) as far as is reasonably practicable.