New Report Reveals Employers Are Failing to Protect Workers From COVID
Are you doing enough to protect your workers and avoid HSE enforcement action?
A recent BBC article reported concerning figures which suggest that either employers are failing to protect their workers from COVID-19, or failing to adequately communicate effective COVID controls to their employees.
The report states that between 6 and 14 January, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 2,945 complaints about safety issues. Due to this, the HSE has had to scale up its efforts to check and support firms, and has carried out more than 32,300 site visits during the pandemic.
The number of complaints in just over a week is staggering. As a result, the head of the UK’s unions has called for ministers to crack down on employers “who break COVID safety rules”. A spokesperson for the HSE said figures on enforcement action, which can include verbal advice or a written warning, will be verified at a later date.
Local authority and Health and Safety Executive inspectors continue to inspect employers premises and checking that they are complying with both COVID and more standard health and safety law. The HSE has also introduced telephone spot-checks in response to the coronavirus crisis.
As we reported previously, the government continues to increase the powers and resources available to enforce legislation throughout the pandemic. This includes scaling up the number of spot check calls and visits they make, increasing their reach into as many businesses as possible during the current lockdown period.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady stated that: “If the government is upping enforcement, ministers should start with employers who break COVID safety rules.” She also called for an increase in resources for the HSE “to stop rogue employers getting away with putting staff at risk. Every employer needs to know an inspection could happen any time”. The government should also make it clear that everyone who can work from home should do so, Ms O’Grady added.
A recent survey conducted by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) also suggests that some staff have faced pressure to return to the workplace despite a recent positive coronavirus test.
- Of 1,172 UK workers surveyed, 40% said they had worked within 10 days of a positive result.
- More than 10% of respondents also said they had been ordered on-site when they could have “easily” and “safely” worked from home.
These are concerning numbers, especially when the government continues to stress that people can only go to their workplace if they cannot reasonably work from home.
The Government, HSE and trade unions, all worked with businesses and medical experts to produce comprehensive COVID-secure guidance so that businesses permitted to remain open can do so in a way that is as safe as possible for workers and customers. The guidance is kept under review as the pandemic and the scientific understanding of the virus evolves.
With the number of vaccinations increasing, there will be a time when lockdowns and restrictions are eased, however this is not a time for complacency. COVID secure measures are likely to be required for some time yet.