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July 3, 2020

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HSE urges businesses to make sure they are COVID-secure

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has called for businesses to follow the government’s 5 steps to being COVID-secure as the lockdown eases and more sectors begin to open their doors.

The HSE’s Chief Executive Sarah Albon announced during a Downing Street daily coronavirus press conference last month that the HSE is prepared to use its enforcement powers when necessary and will also consider criminal prosecutions.

The latest warning reiterates that inspectors are out and about, putting employers on the spot and checking that they are complying with health and safety law.

5 steps to being COVID-secure

The government has issued five practical steps that businesses can take to become COVID-secure and putting measures in place to control the risk of coronavirus to protect workers and others. They are:

  • Step 1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in line with HSE guidance;
  • Step 2. Develop increased cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures;
  • Step 3. Take all reasonable steps to help people work from home;
  • Step 4. Maintain 2m social distancing where possible;
  • Step 5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.

Philip White, Director of Regulation at HSE said: “Becoming COVID-secure should be the priority for all businesses. By law, employers have a duty to protect workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus. It’s important that workers are aware of the measures that will be put in place to help them work safely.

“Ensuring workplaces are COVID-secure will not only reassure and increase confidence with workers, but also customers, partners and the local community. Nobody wants lockdown measures to be reversed and the Government has made clear that it will not hesitate to do so if the virus is not properly controlled.”

Inspections have been ongoing throughout the pandemic, with the HSE saying it has utilised a number of different ways to gather intelligence and reach out to businesses with a combination of site visits, phone calls and through collection of supporting visual evidence such as photos and video footage.

Some of the most common issues that HSE and local authority inspectors are finding include: failing to provide arrangements for monitoring, supervising and maintaining social distancing, failing to introduce an adequate cleaning regime – particularly at busy times of the day – and providing access to welfare facilities to allow employees to frequently wash their hands with warm water and soap.

HSE says it will support businesses by providing advice and guidance; however where some employers are not managing the risk, it says it will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.

“All sectors and business of all sizes are in scope for inspections and we will ask questions of duty holders to understand how they are managing risks. We understand that the vast majority of employers want to make their workplaces secure and are doing everything they can to keep people and their business safe and healthy,” Philip added.

“Ultimately, becoming COVID-secure benefits the health of our nation; the health of our communities, of businesses and the health of the UK economy. As a nation, we can’t afford not to become COVID-secure.”

Click here or the latest information and relevant safer workplaces guidance.

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Barry Cooper
Barry Cooper
3 years ago

The HSE are visiting sites, but are also using FFI to pay for it; I am not sure what material breach has occurred for them to justify using FFI, except to fund the visits

3 years ago

Important information

John Moss
John Moss
3 years ago

If “essential services” are exempt from the prosecutions implied in Sarah Albon’s statements, who defines which activities constitute such services? Past examples of HSE prosecutions will prevent many employers re-starting their activities anyway. Not knowing how “essential” a particular activity is does not help a situation in which the UK must restart its work output if it is to survive at all, being truly a situation in which the mantra “there’s no such thing as an accident” does not apply.