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Employer’s Health and Safety Responsibilities during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Apr 6, 2020

Creating safe workplace conditions and ensuring policies to comply with applicable safety and health regulations is a basic responsibility of all employers. As COVID-19 evolves and develops we would hope that all companies have implemented measures to promote health and safety.  Whilst most who are able to trade will not have been able to test employees, the vast majority should have taken a number of basic steps:

  • Communicated hygiene practices and prevention measures
  • Restricted travel
  • Abandoned face to face meetings where possible
  • Put in place social distancing
  • Moved to full remote work/partial remote work

What are your responsibilities?

As an employer, you are held accountable for the health and safety of everyone involved in your business. This doesn’t just mean your staff, but anyone who is on or around your premises and anyone affected by goods or services you sell – this includes visitors, consumers and potentially other members of the public.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, every employer has a duty to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees are protected. There are many supporting regulations creating responsibilities around:

  • Suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees to which they are exposed while at work and of persons not in their employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by them.
  • Workplace responsibilities for maintenance of the workplace.
  • Employers must avoid the need for employees to undertake any manual handling operations at work which involve a risk of their being injured. A suitable risk assessment must be carried out of all manual handling. operations. The risk assessment in question must take into account the nature of the task, and the nature of the load being handled, the working environment and also the capabilities of the individual.
  • Work equipment must be suitable, maintained in an efficient state, in sufficient working order and in good repair. That proper information, instructions and training are provided to employees, and that there is protection against specified risks to health and safety.
  • Employers shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to employees who may be exposed to risk to their health and safety while at work. Such personal protective equipment that is provided must be assessed as being suitable and must be properly maintained. The employer must also take all reasonable steps to ensure that any personal protective equipment provided to employees is properly used.

Coronavirus advice for employers

Our advice is that it is essential that any new risks within or created by changed business activities are identified and addressed. The current regulatory framework supports employers in protecting its employees and looking after people. The Health and Safety Executive are working with Government and work organisations to support the response to Covid-19. Government advice is changing frequently so the need to monitor closely events and required actions has never been more critical and frankly the right thing to do.

Head to the HSE website for links to all the latest Government advice on Coronavirus.

This is not an exhaustive list but in general terms employers should consider if the nature of business has changed, such that:

  • Might affect the right insurance required such as arrangements for drivers, licence checks, change of use, review of business insurance.
  • Consider new risks for employees and update risk assessments where appropriate.
  • Have you got the appropriate numbers of staff, skills, supervision? Illness or fresh Government Guidance might change situations quickly.
  • Have you the measures required to address risks and whether they are still suitable and sufficient, or need updating?
  • Consider risks to customers, hygiene guidance, social distancing etc.
  • Are you still able to get services from others which, if not available, may have an impact on risk – eg: statutory engineering inspections of equipment.
  • Consider product safety and the impact of any change to service e.g. way in which allergens are communicated, or temperature of food is maintained.
  • Consider Licensing arrangements, guidance on age restricted sales.

Some Things to Consider

Protect Home Workers

Employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers. You should consider:

  • How will you keep in touch with them?
  • What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
  • Can it be done safely?
  • Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?

Head here for advice on how to protect home workers.

Display Screen Regulations

As an employer, you must protect your workers from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE), such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Head here for advice on how to work safely with display screen equipment

Personal Protective Equipment

Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. PPE is equipment that will protect the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment (RPE).

Head here for more information on personal protective equipment

Driver Welfare

Employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees, other road users, and anyone involved in loading and unloading vehicles.

Head here for more information on driver welfare and hours of work during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Green

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