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October 25, 2021

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Regulating occupational health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic 

The HSE has published a document explaining the regulator’s role as COVID-19 restrictions are removed. It notes that the HSE’s activities will continue to be guided by the requirements of the sectors it regulates as well as advice from the UK government and public health bodies. 

Employers are advised to continue to comply with health and safety at work laws. This includes updating risk assessments to protect workers and others from the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. 

The HSE will: 

  • Help businesses in Great Britain work safely by providing advice and guidance.
  • Check that appropriate workplace measures are in place to protect workers from transmission of COVID-19.
  • Proactively inspect high risk industries.
  • Inspect critical areas and activities in major hazard offshore oil and gas and the onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industries.
  • Investigate work-related deaths, serious major injuries, dangerous occurrences and reported concerns across all industry sectors. This includes those related to COVID-19.
  • Regulate how employers meet their responsibilities as the pandemic continues. 

HSE’s role in test and trace

A public health body in Great Britain may at any time: 

  • Identify a cluster of cases in a workplace. 
  • Declare a workplace pandemic. 

If this happens, the HSE says it will consider how it can support a public health assessment of the part any workplace has played in the transmission of COVID-19. As part of this work, the HSE will usually inspect: 

  • Any COVID-19 transmission risk controls in the workplace. 
  • How a business has implemented their COVID-19 risk controls. 

If a need to improve risk controls is identified, the HSE will consider action in line with its enforcement policy. 

The document notes that, if a public health body in Great Britain also identifies levels of concern in local community infection rates, the HSE will work to understand whether workplaces in that community are contributing to COVID-19 transmission levels. 

To access the HSE’s advice in full, click here.

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