Action on distancing failures

9 April 2020

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has said that it could shut down sites that are not effectively implementing social distancing.

But it is not clear how it will know, since the HSE has suspended routine inspections, preferring to keep its inspectors safe.

The HSE said: “Firms that can safely stay open and support livelihoods should not be forced to close by misunderstandings about government guidance. But 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.

The HSE joined with both the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC, representing ‘workers’) to issue what they described as an ‘unprecedented joint call’ for employers to ensure safe working conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.

The three organisations are presenting a united front on the need for companies that remain open to take practical steps to minimise the threat of workers being exposed to the virus wherever possible – including enabling social distancing.  

Further LCS can support you in control measures – procedures and risk assessment etc – for physical/social distancing).  Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly on 0151 363 5577 or by email and we can talk you through how we can help.

The HSE’s statement warns that if employers do not comply with the latest Public Health England guidance they face being hit with enforcement notices and potential closure.

The joint appeal also encourages workers to raise any concerns about working conditions first with their employer or trade union, if they have one. And it notes that if concerns can’t be resolved locally, workers can approach the HSE or their local authority for help.

Businesses are stepping up and adapting which is wonderful to see, with the support of our in-house team in these incredibly challenging times. Keeping people safe must be our number one priority, as we also need to keep the economy flowing.

The vast majority of firms are doing the very best they can in protecting their staff and contractors where they remain open. Though the layout of some workplaces can make this incredibly difficult, but all efforts must be made to follow social distancing guidelines wherever they can.

Many employers are doing the right thing. But no-one going into work should have to endanger their own health and put their families and the wider community at risk. Those companies who refuse to follow the rules will face the threat of closure or/and prosecution. 

Since theCOVID-19 crisis began LCS has been at the forefront of supporting and ensuring that social distancing occurs in our clients workplace and for the millions of employees now working at home. In many cases it has forced leaders and business owners to radically improve their health and safety practices.

We all want businesses to get through this crisis and keep people in their jobs and our economy flowing. But this must not come at the cost of unsafe working conditions or money.  Health and safety professionals, employers and unions have a crucial role to play in stopping the spread of the virus, protecting our NHS and saving lives.

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