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  • Clark Hunter

Working through 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.

Essential and non-essential work

Keep your business open. With the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, the government are not asking any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.

Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home.

Where it is not possible to work from home you can still travel for work purposes, provided you are not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating.

Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able, where possible, to follow Public Health England guidelines on social distancing (including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others), and hygiene (washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds).

In-work activity

All workers are encouraged to keep working and should be working from home if they can and only travel to work when you absolutely cannot work from home.

If you are travelling to your workplace you will still need to observe the social distancing guidance whilst you are travelling, as far as is practical.

Social distancing means staying 2 metres (6ft) apart from other people, which equally applies in your workplace where you need to observe, where possible, the social distancing guidance.

Social Distancing

The Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP. Secretary of State. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has issued letters to several sectors, which cannot generally work from home, offering clarification on ‘social distancing’.

There is a list of tailored advice for different scenarios as an example of how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade.

Consideration checklist

  • Self-Isolation – have a clear process and ensure that staff are encouraged and not penalised for self-isolation. Anyone who meets one of the following criteria should not be permitted in the workplace:

  • Has a high temperature or a new persistent cough - follow the guidance on self-isolation

  • Is a vulnerable person (by virtue of their age, underlying health condition, clinical condition or are pregnant)

  • Is living with someone in self-isolation or a vulnerable person.

  • What is the procedure if someone falls Ill?

  • Avoiding close working – if working closer than 2m is likely consider alternatives and possibly suspend that task.

  • First Aid cover - some requalification criteria have been relaxed during the pandemic.

  • Travel to the site – if staff car share, or you have 2 person deliveries, 2m separation may be impossible.

  • Access to and from the workplace – phase start times to avoid queues at kettles or clocking in.

  • Toilet facilities – again phasing may avoid queues, at break times.

  • Install additional handwashing stations - maybe sanitisers but ideally soap and warm water.

  • Canteens and eating arrangements – increased cleaning – phased breaks?

  • Cleaning duties and arrangements. – what products, by who, and how often?

  • Waste collection and storage – we may create more waste due to extra precautions, increased bins and collections?

  • Additional PPE requirements?

  • Site visitors, customer collections – are these necessary, could we use alternative methods.

  • Contact with surfaces, shared telephones, door handles and MHE, such as fork trucks, could all be used by multiple workers - how can we minimise potential COVID-19 transmission in these areas?

  • Deliveries, if you continue a delivery service, can physical contact be avoided, such as signatures?

If you need support further information in any of these areas, please contact

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