The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is carrying out spot checks on businesses that have reopened since the UK went into lockdown.
The UK regulator’s inspectors are visiting workplaces across a range of sectors following up any reports or concerns about safety in the workplace including incidents over COVID-19 and ensuring compliance. They are also carrying out proactive checks to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from COVID-19, the safety authority confirmed to IOSH magazine.
Between 9 March and 29 June, the HSE received 23,569 COVID-related contacts, of which 7784 were COVID-related concerns, 9944 were COVID-related calls and 5871 were COVID-related advice requests.
Of the 3856 businesses contacted between 26 May and 2 July, 2386 spot checks were carried out by a mixture of phone checks and site visits. The phone checks included obtaining visual evidence such as photos and video footage.
Out of nearly 4000 spot checks, 295 were follow ups to check on issues with cleaning regimes, social distancing as well as failure to engage with the regulator. All but 41 of these were deemed compliant after the second check. The remaining 41 are currently subject to inspector visits and further investigation.
‘Putting dutyholders on the spot, and checking on how they are managing risks, has always been part of our regulatory approach,’ said an HSE spokesperson.
‘This has continued to be the case throughout the pandemic. We’ve responded to workplace concerns and are inspecting some workplaces in response. This will continue as more businesses return to work.’
The 2019/20 figures do not include RIDDOR-reportable deaths linked to contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, as these will be counted alongside other deaths from occupational disease.
‘With the virus prevalent in the community at large it is very difficult to be certain that an individual case of the disease resulted from occupational exposure,’ the HSE said in a statement to IOSH magazine. Cases reported are those which employers suspect could be due to an occupational exposure.
The HSE plans to publish data on work-related COVID-19 deaths ‘at a later date’.
‘We want to publish this data on number of cases reported to the enforcing authorities where occupational exposure is suspected as the cause given the considerable public interest and are working hard to do so as soon as possible,’ the spokesperson told IOSH.