CORONAVIRUS - COVID-19
The HSE position with regards to COVID-19
The HSE, in a joint statement with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have clarified that the health and safety of workers remains paramount.
“Employers must continue to provide workers with information about risks to their health and the actions their employers must take to avoid harm.”
This has established that COVID-19 can be classified as a workplace hazard and as such there is a duty to risk assess this and apply suitable control measures.
This is therefore included in any risk assessments, toolbox talks, policies and procedures, or any other tool that you may use, in your business to protect workers.
One of the key things that the HSE have said that they will be prepared to enforce, and potentially take action against is a failure to implement measures to minimise the spread of workplace-related COVID-19 infections.
“If it comes to the HSE’s attention that employers are not complying with the relevant Public Health England guidance (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so), HSE will consider a range of actions ranging from providing specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices, including prohibition notices.”
This position has been strengthened by the inclusion of COVID-19 in The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations. (RIDDOR)
RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19
You must make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when:
an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus.
Remember that failure to report an incident, outlined in RIDDOR, is a breach of the regulations, and potentially a cause for HSE action.
Construction Leadership Council Construction Sector - Site Operating Procedures- SOP v3 (15/04/20)
I think if you comply with this and ensure that any PC that you work for does so that your workers and sub-contractors are protected, this will be the best approach.
Going back to the HSE position, if you have a case of COVID-19, and it could be attributed to the work activity, and you have failed to follow the Public Health England guidance, upon which the SOP is based, you will be in breach, from a criminal a civil perspective.
In summary, I advise that you apply the SOP as this is Industry guidance and appears to have support from the government, the HSE (and the TUC and CBI for what that is worth), and ensure that control measures are reflected throughout RAMS, Inductions, TBT etc.