An inspector calls: HSE drops by to check workplaces are COVID-secure

The Health and Safety Executive is contacting businesses in Greater Manchester to ensure workplaces are COVID-secure. Employers found to fall short of the expected level of risk management may face action and even prosecution.

HSE has been using various ways to gather intelligence including physical site visits, phone calls, photography and video footage. When an inspector calls, duty holders can expect to be put on the spot and asked to provide evidence of the measures they have put in place to deal with the risks posed by COVID-19.

Jane Carroll, HSE's regulatory inspector in the North West, said: “The number of confirmed cases of the disease is currently high in the area. We are talking to local businesses and inspecting sites in and around Greater Manchester to understand how they are managing risks in line with their specific business activity.

“Becoming COVID-secure needs to be the priority for all businesses in Greater Manchester to tackle the rise in the number of cases. It is a legal duty for employers to protect their workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus. This means making workplace adjustments to become COVID-secure. We advise employers to work with their employees when implementing changes, to help increase confidence with workers, customers and the local community.”

Along with local authority inspectors, the HSE has uncovered some common issues across a range of sectors including: failing to provide arrangements for monitoring, supervising and maintaining social distancing, failing to introduce an adequate cleaning regime – particularly at busy times of the day – and providing access to welfare facilities to allow employees to frequently wash their hands with warm water and soap.

Phil Strickland, principal inspector of construction for Greater Manchester, said: “All businesses are in scope for inspections that means any size business in any sector can receive an unannounced inspection to ensure they are COVID-secure. By making sure that businesses have measures in place to manage the risks, we can benefit the health of the local community as well as support the UK economy.”

COVID-secure: Five steps (Source: HSE)

Being COVID-secure means that businesses need to put in place workplace adjustments to manage the risk and protect workers and others from coronavirus. Businesses can do this by following five practical steps:

Step 1. carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

Step 2. develop increased cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures

Step 3. take all reasonable steps to help people work from home

Step 4. maintain 2m social distancing where possible

Step 5. where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.

Businesses with a story to tell on what they are doing to manage workplace risks and to ensure their organisation is COVID-secure, may share their examples of best practice with the HSE campaigns team at:

As Sally Roff, partner and head of regulatory at international law firm DAC Beachcroft writes in the current issue of CIR Magazine, employers should not assume that a recent relaxation of rules is a sign that the Health & Safety Executive plans to take a light touch on enforcement, or that the risk of prosecution is any lower. Read this feature.

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