British Safety Council Calls on HSE to Upgrade Covid-19 Class
The British Safety Council have requested that the HSE upgrade Covid-19 infection from “significant” to “serious” to reflect risk.
The British Safety Council have called on the HSE to review the classification of Covid-19 infection risk from “significant” to “serious”. Their view is that the current classification limits the severity of the HSE’s sanctions, leading to a lack of action, which is a topic making headlines recently. It is also acknowledged that there has been under-funding of the HSE for some time, compounding the problem.
Whilst it is admirable to take a balanced approach to allow employers to work with the HSE to resolve issues, the current classification does not fully reflect the severity of the effects of Covid-19, in The British Safety Council’s view.
A spokesperson from The British Safety Council said, “The nub of the issue is the definition of risk. A ‘significant’ risk is one that causes non-permanent or reversible health effects, whereas a ‘serious’ risk is one that causes a permanent, progressive or irreversible condition. Given we are amid an unprecedented global pandemic that has resulted in thousands of workplace deaths, the infection of multiple employees through work-related activities with a potentially fatal disease seems instinctively to be a ‘serious’ health risk.
Lawrence Waterman OBE, chairman at the British Safety Council, said, “The number of workplace Covid deaths is saddening. Whilst it is difficult to definitively attribute Covid-19 infection and transmission to a workplace activity rather than general societal risk, in those cases where this has been reported and confirmed as a workplace outbreak, it is hard to understand that such instances are categorised as ‘significant’ rather than ‘serious’.
Under current RIDDOR reporting for Covid-19, there are 3 instances when a RIDDOR report should be made:
an accident or incident at work has, or could have, led to the release or escape of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence
a person at work (a worker) has been diagnosed as having COVID-19 attributed to an occupational exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a case of disease