HSE spot checks for COVID compliance

Posted 24th November 2020.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are performing spot inspections on businesses across Great Britain. They are checking that all businesses are working right and are COVID-secure. In October they inspected Schools across Scotland. For the remainder of this year the HSE are inspecting the Transport and Logistics sector. On the 3rd of December they will announce what sector they will be inspecting during January 2021, so do visit back to see our next update on which sector is being inspected. Intense local area inspections are taking place on all sectors in high risk areas such as Liverpool, Bolton and London. The HSE still recomends that where you can work from home then do so and only travel if necessary.

These checks are to ensure businesses are aware of the Safer Workplace guidance and advising where necessary on improvements needed. They are being carried out by a mixture of phone checks and site visits, with the phone checks also obtaining visual evidence such as photos and video footage that business have to provide via their smart phones or other digital surveillance to support their responses. These inspections are being carried out by sub-contracted businesses that work with the HSE, HSE in Wales and HSE Scotland. As training needs have reduced we have been be able to release a number of staff to support business and the HSE inspections.

Some of the common issues being found in recent weeks include:

  • provide arrangements for monitoring, supervising and maintaining social distancing;
  • introduce an adequate cleaning regime, particularly at busy times of the day; and
  • provide access to welfare facilities to allow employees to frequently wash their hands.

Employers have a legal duty to provide welfare facilities to visiting drivers to their premises, McDonalds UK were recently given words of advice by the HSE when they failed to meet this obligation to visiting delivery and collection drivers as reported by the BBC…

HSE – Drivers welfare at delivery sites during the pandemic.

Where it is found that employers are not managing the risk, the HSE will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and, where businesses fail to comply, possible prosecution.

Extra resources

In recent years, funding cuts have been blamed for a reduction in HSE inspections. However, in May this year, the Government made an additional £14m available for the HSE to respond to the increased number of concerns from workers and the public.

According 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. 

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.

In Wales Public Health Inspectors alongside HSE inspectors and the Police visited 8858 businesses between March & July 2020, with 682 waring letters being sent, 49 fixed penalty notices issued, 26 prohibition notices being served and 76 business being closed down due to failing to comply with a penalty notice or prohibition order during that period.

As recently as the 19th of November a leading national Department store was fined by Enforcement Officers from Middleborough Council for continuing to sell directly to the public during the current English lockdown ending 2nd December 2020. The HSE are also investigating this national employer to see if any workplace regulations were breeched as to worker welfare across their UK network of stores during the lockdown period and work from home advice.

What you need to do to be COVID-secure

To be COVID-secure means you need to put in place workplace adjustments, keep up-to-date with the latest guidance and put measures in place to manage the risk and protect workers and others.

There are practical steps that you can take to do that:

  • Step 1: carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment;
  • Step 2: develop increased cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures;
  • Step 3: maintain 2m social distancing where possible;
  • Step 4: where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.

General information on COVID- 19

During this pandemic, the legalisation is changing at times daily in keeping everyone safe and secure. Employers have a legal duty as outlined above as do each employee in remaining within the law. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for employers or employees. Employers can communicate to their workforce via worker forums, information posters, digital technology to send alerts of any changes for example. In October an employee was fined for failing to isolate after receiving a positive test result and continuing to work in Warrington putting lives at risk.

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