The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has provided a series of updates today arising in relation to Covid-19, including its expectations from duty holders and its plans for maintaining regulatory oversight.
Social distancing, keeping businesses open and in-work activities
HSE has confirmed it does not expect businesses to close unless they are required to do so under legislation. However, it stresses that employers should take every possible step to enable employees to work from home. Employees are permitted to travel for work provided they are not showing symptoms and neither they nor anyone in their household is self-isolating.
Where working from home is not possible, employers should ensure that employees are able where possible to follow Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on social distancing and hygiene (including hand-washing). HSE has confirmed that where it identifies employers who are not acting to comply with PHE guidance on social distancing or self-isolation, it will consider taking action including issuing enforcement notices.
Maintaining regulatory oversight
HSE has confirmed it will continue its regulatory oversight of how duty holders are meeting their responsibilities in the context of the current public health risk, taking a "flexible and proportionate account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic".
In order to achieve this, HSE has suspended targeted inspection activity of high-risk industries that are not part of the major hazard sectors, including construction and manufacturing. Regulation of major hazard industries will continue remotely.
HSE has also carried out a short pause on its offshore oil and gas and onshore chemical, explosives and microbiological industry inspection activities to give duty holders time to overcome immediate challenges. When it resumes, HSE's regulatory work will prioritise critical areas and activities.
HSE aims to undertake regulatory activities which do not require site visits as normally as possible. This includes continuing to investigate work related deaths and the most serious major injuries and dangerous occurrences. However, HSE will still mobilise to site, including offshore, where necessary.
First aid cover and qualifications
HSE has stressed the importance of maintaining adequate first aid cover and updating first aid needs assessments. If fewer people are coming into the workplace, it is possible that less first aid cover will be required. HSE has also suggested reducing or halting higher risk activities, or sharing first aid cover with neighbouring businesses. A 3-month extension has also been granted for certain expired certificates on or after 16 March 2020 and where the certificate holder cannot access requalification training because of coronavirus.
If your business requires assistance in responding to the coronavirus outbreak Addleshaw Goddard LLP are able to advise on how to respond and prepare a business response plan in relation to coronavirus. Our Coronavirus insights and briefing can be found here.