With higher-level local lockdown measures in force in some parts of the country, England entering a national lockdown and Wales already in a 17-day national lockdown, businesses need to check that their Covid risk assessments reflect current levels of risk and will pass external scrutiny.
- Assisting with carrying out targeted spot checks in the sectors for which local authorities have the responsibility, for example, hospitality and retail; and
- Carrying out spot checks for all types of business in all areas.
The HSE spot checks will be carried out either on the telephone or by a visit from an inspector.
Businesses will need to provide the information requested about their COVID risk management arrangements and engage with the HSE to deal with any questions asked. A failure to engage may lead to the HSE taking enforcement action for lack of co-operation.
Businesses should ensure that they keep up to date with the guidance produced by the government https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus, and review regularly whether any changes which may impact their business and their staff is reflected in their current procedures. The changes of course may mean that staff live in an area with a different level of risk to that where the business is located.
Businesses should also ensure employees, contractors, and visitors are not only aware of their COVID risk management measures, but so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure that they are being followed, normally through a combination of information (what and why); training (particularly if you are relying on behavioural changes and face masks or PPE), and audit (check and correct). If the HSE finds guidance is being ignored and attributes this to a lack of monitoring or enforcement on the business’ part, this could lead to it to taking action in one of the following ways:
- Providing specific advice (verbally or in writing).
- Issuing a Notification of Contravention (NOC).
- Issuing an improvement notice, normally providing a period of time to address specific issues.
- Issuing a prohibition notice to stop certain work practices until they are made safe; or
- Prosecute for a breach of health and safety legislation.
Businesses need to be mindful that if an HSE inspector serves a NOC this will have a financial impact beyond the cost of putting things right. The business will be charged for the HSE’s time under the Fees for Intervention Scheme. The charges (£157 per inspector per hour) will cover the time spent by the HSE from the initial visit through to the conclusion of their investigation into any breaches of health and safety legislation.
Improvement and prohibition notices can also be expensive to comply with and will form part of the criminal record of the business potentially aggravating any fine imposed at a later date for any health and safety convictions. These notices can also harm the ability of your business to tender for contracts (particularly for public sector work).
Getting your COVID risk management measures right will also limit the risk of your business being associated with COVID clusters with related adverse publicity.
Finch can assist businesses with the auditing of their current risk management measures so that you can deal with the spot checks with confidence – and can also help if you don’t get your house in order, wait for the spot check, and things don’t go so well.
During the pandemic Finch has been active in publishing material which draws on our unique combination of expertise, to help in identifying and managing COVID risks. If you search COVID on the journal page of our website you will be able to identify quickly the short features most relevant to your business needs. You will also find information on our integrated management support services aimed at helping you to become compliant before any inspection, here.
The HSE website is another useful source of information.
If you would like to have a confidential discussion about an audit of your COVID measures or any other health and safety-related issue do contact us we would be happy to assist.
Contact: Julia Thomas: [email protected]