The Health and Safety Executive are restarting their “proactive” site inspections, and are taking action to ensure compliance.
They originally suspended their site inspections in March due to lockdown and health concerns for their Inspectors.
It’s reported that between 9 March and 7 May, the HSE received 4,813 reports about workplace issues relating to coronavirus, with 16.7% of those for the construction industry. However, HSE Chief executive Sarah Albon has explained that many of these calls were from members of the public in England who were mistaken that the sites in question were not allowed to operate.
As lockdown eases and more businesses begin operating again, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in the House of Commons: “We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers and are COVID-secure and COVID-compliant. The Health and Safety Executive will be enforcing that, and we will have spot inspections to make sure that businesses are keeping their employees safe. It will, of course, be open to employees who do not feel safe to raise that with not just their employers but the HSE as well.”
Are you doing enough to ensure compliance?
As an employer you must ensure you have done all that is deemed reasonably practicable to prevent or minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection. In the absence of any specific legislation or Approved Codes of Practice the only evidence in which to base control measures is current Government guidance. If employers are following the guidance and maintaining the appropriate control measures it would be extremely unlikely that a prosecution would be successful.
Similarly, under civil law the employer must show that they have acted reasonably and under the same premise as above it is unlikely that you would be found liable for negligence.
It is important that employers are able to provide evidence that they are following the guidance by documenting the fact that they have carried out risk assessments, informed and trained employees, implemented appropriate control measures, carried out proactive monitoring techniques such as inspections and are constantly reviewing controls in light of any new information becoming available.
As previously mentioned, the HSE is dealing with large numbers of concerns about workplace practices and there is evidence that they are taking action where they identify a material breach. A material breach is something an Inspector considers to be serious enough that they need to confirm the details in writing. They may then charge a fee for intervention, which will be based on the amount of time that the Inspector has had to spend identifying the breach, helping to put it right, investigating and taking enforcement action. This includes the cost for the whole visit, along with other associated work, so can be costly at £154/hour.
How can Alcumus help?
Alcumus PSM offers a tailored health and safety solution through a dedicated consultant who gets to know your business and how you operate.
We have also developed bespoke COVID-19 support packages to help businesses through the current pandemic and help them create safe workplaces.
If you have any questions about HSE visits, or would like to know how Alcumus PSM can help you manage your health and safety, please contact the Alcumus PSM H&S Consultancy team on [email protected].
Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health and safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Written by Tracy Gundry, Senior Health & Safety Consultant