Will HSE be able to check my business is Covid secure?
Almost every aspect of any business that requires compliance with legal duties will fall under a regulatory framework and be enforced by regulatory agencies.
The enforcement of Health and Safety is the remit of the Health and Safety Executive; or local authorities depending on the type of business that is operated.
As organisations begin to restart their businesses following the lockdown, they must do so in accordance with the Covid 19 Guidance that has been issued for their business sector, typically by preparing risk assessments and robustly implementing the measures required to control the risks arising from Covid 19 in the work place.
It is critically important that this exercise is done properly. The focus on health and safety in the workplace is at its highest level in history and there may be an increased risk of scrutiny by regulatory authorities for those who pay lip service to the guidance.
Indeed, shortly before the guidance was issued, the Prime Minister confirmed that the requirement to ensure the safety of the country’s workforce, would be enforced by ‘spot checks’ of workplaces.
The Health and Safety Executive and local authorities will have responsibility for checking compliance with the guidance. These regulators have wide powers of investigation should a report be made to them of any perceived non-compliance. It is anticipated that regulators will rely on employees and members of the public to engage in whistleblowing activity to bring such matters to their attention.
Organisations should also be aware that a spot check of its business may not be limited to checking compliance with Covid 19 guidance. The regulator will be permitted to check compliance with all aspects of health and safety across an organisation’s business and take enforcement action and recover its costs in respect of any non-compliances that are identified.
HSE and local authorities have the power to physically enter a workplace at any reasonable time without the consent of the business if they think it is necessary to do so to enforce the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 or any associated legislation. However, the likelihood is that during the pandemic there will be an increased focus on remote contact with emails and telephone calls being the starting point of investigations, with follow up visits if the regulator deems it necessary.
Businesses should be ready to engage with regulators if contact is made but should consider seeking urgent advice from a regulatory solicitor to consider how to handle the regulator’s enquiries.
Our Regulatory Partner, James Lowe, is offering a free 1 hour consultation for any business contacted by the HSE or local authorities in respect of compliance issues relating to Covid 19. James can be contacted on 07833 240400.