Regulator receives 4,500 workplace health and safety concerns about Covid-19

More than 4,500 coronavirus-related workplace concerns have been raised with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) since March.

The workplace safety regulator said it was now working through the reports, received between March 9 and May 3, with “a range of actions”.

It said that employers who fail to comply with Government guidance to control public health risks could face enforcement action.

The warning comes as business minister Paul Scully said employees who feel their place of work is unsafe, or not undertaking Covid-19 distancing measures, should contact health and safety authorities.

In a statement, the HSE said employers who fail to put social distancing measures in place or do not ensure workers with severe underlying health problems can self-isolate could face action.

“These actions include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements with the Government guidance”, an HSE spokesman said.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Labour frontbencher Andy McDonald asked an urgent question about providing reassurance for workers that their workplaces would be safe.

He said: “My ask of the minister is that the Government now brings forward guidelines requiring specific Covid-19 risk assessments for most businesses, that assessments are made public and registered with the Health and Safety Executive.”

Responding, Mr Scully told MPs: “This is not a finished process at the moment, what we need to do is get into the technical detail to make sure that everybody has confidence.

“In the same way that employees need to have confidence. They should be able to discuss with their employers the steps they might take to make their workplace safer themselves, especially when we start to lift restrictions.

“Where workers still feel unsafe though, they can contact the Health and Safety Executive or their local authority and where (poor health and safety is uncovered) they can take action.”

Tory MP Lucy Allan (Telford) urged the Government to not be “overly prescriptive” in introducing rules allowing businesses to reopen.

Ms Allan said: “Will the minister do all he can to ensure that Government guidance focuses on general principles of social distancing and hygiene and avoids being overly prescriptive so that as many businesses as possible can reopen safely?”

Mr Scully replied: “I think it is really important to reiterate the fact that there are many, many companies still operating now and we do need to make sure that our economy stays open and working so that we can bounce back as (soon as) possible – and those companies are already offering best practice.”

Labour’s Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) raised concerns about resourcing of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local government to “ensure safe working practices”.

Mr Scully said “any support that we need to give… will continue to be under review”.