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Covid-19 health and safety Q&A

Most organisations will have been impacted significantly by Covid 19 which will have also had a knock on effect on their health and safety arrangements either for their employees, members of the public or other individuals who are affected by their operations.

We've answered a few of the most common questions arising from the pandemic. 

What do I need to do to make sure my organisation continues to meet its health and safety obligations?

The provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act which underpin all arrangements for an organisation’s health and safety have not changed.  However, how companies operate in order to meet their obligations under the health and safety legislation is likely to have been reviewed within the last few weeks given the inherent risk of being exposed to Covid 19 in the workplace.  There is therefore an ongoing obligation to carry out and keep under review a Covid 19 risk assessment to ensure that arrangements are in place to minimise the risk of employees and others being exposed to risks to their health and safety. 

As usual with risk assessments, a written record of Covid 19 risk assessments clearly evidencing when they were reviewed and how any changes are communicated to employees and others will be best practice to demonstrate compliance and limit any future liability.  There is a whole host of specific information and guidance available from the government (which has been regularly updated) which sets out prescribed requirements to particular work place settings.  As a minimum the relevant guidance should be followed and organisations must also regularly check for any changes to the guidance.  Most organisations will be required to evidence in writing what steps they are taking to ensure social distancing requirements are met in the workplace and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have also recently released some guidance on this.

There has been a lot of interest in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in healthcare and care settings currently and we would anticipate that PPE will become a significant and important consideration when organisations consider how they are going to protect their workforce and others as we emerge from lockdown.

Is Covid-19 a reportable disease under RIDDOR?

Organisations are under an obligations to report certain accidents and diseases to the HSE who have recently clarified the requirements for reporting instances of Covid 19.  The HSE have confirmed that cases of Covid 19 in the workplace only need to be reported when:

  • an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
  • a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
  • a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.

Do I still need to carry out statutory inspections for equipment in the work place?

The HSE have recently issued guidance on this confirming that thorough examination and statutory testing of lifting and pressure equipment remains a legal requirement.  However the HSE have also confirmed that they are taking a pragmatic and proportionate approach to enforcement for non-compliance in this area noting that equipment should only be used outside of its test regime if it can be demonstrated that it is critical for essential work and can be operated safely.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at April 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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